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
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