Be­tween Civil­i­sa­tion and Chaos

Un­set­tling, mov­ing, and thought-pro­vok­ing: Amer­i­can artist Lars Jan cre­ates a dy­namic com­mis­sion at Art Basel Mi­ami Beach 2017, writes Marga Man­lapig

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When peo­ple think of Mi­ami, Florida, they usu­ally have its sunny cli­mate, great beaches, and vi­brant nightlife in mind. But not many are aware that this beach­front city is also a great hub for cul­ture and the arts as it plays host to the Amer­i­can side of the famed Art Basel. Since 2002, Art Basel Mi­ami Beach has shown an eclec­tic mix of pieces by mod­ern mas­ters and the work of a new gen­er­a­tion of cre­ative stars. It also holds a string of talks where artists and cu­ra­tors dis­cuss global is­sues and their im­pact on the worlds of art and de­sign. At its most re­cent edi­tion in De­cem­ber 2017, over 250 lead­ing gal­leries from around the world par­tic­i­pated. One of the most thought­pro­vok­ing pan­els was ti­tled Nat­u­ral Dis­as­ters—whose Cri­sis Is It? Fo­cused on the sub­ject of cli­mate change and how the cur­rent sit­u­a­tion is be­ing han­dled and de­picted by artists through­out the globe, one of the main fo­cal points for the dis­cus­sion cen­tred on wa­ter.

For one of the artists on the panel, this meant channelling the im­pact of storms and floods on coastal com­mu­ni­ties into his work. Los An­ge­les-based artist, so­cial ac­tivist, and di­rec­tor Lars Jan grabbed the at­ten­tion of the vis­it­ing pub­lic with an ar­rest­ing in­stal­la­tion ti­tled Slow Mov­ing Lu­mi­nar­ies: a highly im­mer­sive, mech­a­nised in­stal­la­tion that de­picts a mov­ing en­counter— in­deed, a mon­u­men­tal clash—be­tween man-made struc­tures that, al­legedly, are built to last and the el­e­men­tal forces of na­ture at their strong­est.

Com­mis­sioned by Swiss lux­ury watch­maker Aude­mars Piguet, a global part­ner of the pres­ti­gious Art Basel shows, Slow Mov­ing Lu­mi­nar­ies was built within a two-level pavil­ion on Mi­ami Beach’s iconic water­front and com­bined the use of wa­ter with dy­namic mo­tion.

Ac­cord­ing to Jan, the con­cepts of pre­ci­sion and com­plex­ity—two key val­ues of the watch­maker’s art—are dom­i­nant themes in his in­stal­la­tion. Prior to cre­at­ing the com­mis­sion, he vis­ited the Aude­mars Piguet head­quar­ters in Switzer­land where he was en­thralled by its ar­ti­sans’ ded­i­ca­tion to both tra­di­tion and fine crafts­man­ship. Im­pressed by the man­u­fac­ture’s re­mote lo­ca­tion as well as the at­ten­tion to de­tail and per­fec­tion in­volved in the cre­ation of a fine time­piece, Jan es­sen­tially cre­ated a world in minia­ture that was, in and of it­self, sub­ject to the im­pact of the el­e­ments and the ac­tions of those ex­pe­ri­enc­ing it first-hand.

A maze sur­rounded by mod-style struc­tures oc­cu­pied the first level of the pavil­ion; the struc­tures them­selves were

sus­pended through­out the space and can dis­ap­pear into the floor or the ceil­ing to re­flect the rapidly shift­ing na­ture of an ur­ban sky­line. On the sec­ond level, a re­flect­ing pool with sim­i­lar float­ing struc­tures served as a vis­ual coun­ter­point to the shore­front and ocean par­tic­u­larly when aug­mented by strate­gi­cally-placed LED light­ing at night.

But the serene ap­pear­ance of these slow-mov­ing struc­tures be­lies a grim truth. Viewed from high above the wa­ter, white path­ways spelled out the let­ters SOS and a pair of mar­itime sig­nal flags echo that age-old cry for help. In the con­text of Jan’s work, it is like the ocean it­self is call­ing for its sal­va­tion from the dam­age mankind has wrought upon it. Like­wise, two win­dows showed an end­less loop of footage fea­tur­ing build­ings up against crash­ing waves—the in­domitable power of na­ture pre­vail­ing over man’s folly.

In­spired by the pris­tine sur­round­ings of Aude­mars Piguet’s Swiss home, the man­u­fac­ture’s drive for pre­ci­sion, and a need to show the hu­man race the dan­gers we face if we do not take care of the world, Lars Jan’s amaz­ing in­stal­la­tion at the re­cent Art Basel Mi­ami Beach 2017 drove home an ur­gent mes­sage into the hearts and minds of all who were drawn to it.

Los An­ge­les-based Artist, so­cial Ac­tivist, And di­rec­tor Lars JAN grabbed the At­ten­tion of the vis­it­ing pub­lic with An Ar­rest­ing in­stal­la­tion ti­tled slow Mov­ing Lu­mi­nar­ies

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