2014, 5 x 6 meters, height 3 meters, plexiglass, glass, wood, chandelear, a.o.m.
A continuous art project by Rob Voerman
As an artist, these past few years I have been creating huge installations that are accessible to visitors. With the project The Fifth Season I would like to take it one step further.
From a personal viewpoint I have wanted to make a modest start with a clear engagement within my oeuvre. This project provided me with a way to naturally incorporate this engagement within my work.
The Fifth Season installation can be placed in a variety of locations, both in- and outdoors and can be executed on different scales.
In these variable areas I would like to give people the opportunity to engage in a dialog. To me it seems that people should rather talk to each other as opposed to talk about one another, especially in this age of (materialistic) value, even if people are 180 degrees apart with respect to their ideological outlook on life.
In the installations I would like to organize different 'meetings' on a modest scale. These 'meetings' can be lectures, discussions and so on, but will all have a specific underlying question in mind. I will also organize dinners, so people can start a dialog in a restaurant setting. The idea refers to the world famous Four Seasons restaurant in New York, but more about that at a later point.
On a local level, I wish to involve the people living in the neighborhood of this installation by means of workshops and such.
The project will be a continuous experiment in which the central question will be how art and engagement can co-exist. How can I as an artist, or to take it broader, how can art itself relate to the huge changes, problems and challenges which we will face the coming decennia.
It is a modest attempt to gain some insight in these processes which might grow into a stage that can contribute and play a (small) part in the bigger whole.
Aside from the context, these installations will also be very special areas made of glass, plexiglas, cardboard and wood. Installations that, even without the underlying message, will give visitors a special experience and will seduce them to reflect and contemplate.
As an artist I create, among other things, big accessible installations. Instalations the public can actually enter. And within my work I often make reference to modernistic architecture such as Le Corbusier's Unité d'Habitation or Rietveld's Rietveld-Schröderhuis.
What interests me most is the fact that modernism started out as a highly idealistic movement: by means of urbanism, architecture, art and design a brighter future would come about. Nowadays the social problems in impersonal areas of big cities, such as The Bijlmer in Amsterdam, is referred to to point out that modernism largely failed.
One of the movements within modernism is Bauhaus; this Weimar-, and later Dessau-based school was a source of creativity and ideology at the turn of the twentiest century. Architect Mies van der Rohe worked within the school for quite a long period before he departed for America. In the USA he designed a lot of iconic buildings that can be seen as the basis for modern day skyscrapers. And even though Bauhaus was known for its ideological and socialistic character, the buildings Van der Rohe designed had a strong capitalistic character. These were mostly expensive hotels intended for the upper class.
It is this discrepancy between ideology and realization that interests me and I would like to research whether the ideas and ideals of Bauhaus and modernism are still relevant in this day and age. Especially this time asks for a dialog and fresh partnerships to come up with new ideas and strategies.
The Seagram Building as inspiration
During a stay of six months in New York I studied The Seagram Building, one of the best known buildings Van der Rohe designed. Right from the start the building housed the Four Seasons restaurant, destined for the New York elite. In the fifties artist Mark Rotho was commissioned to create a series of paintings for the restaurant, however when the paintings were displayed in the restaurant he was unpleasantly surprised. The work was nothing more than a decorative element in a space where the rich enjoyed their overpriced dinners. Rothko insisted they should be removed, and presently they are on display in the Tate Modern in London, where they are known as the Seagram Murals.
This story shows this discrepancy between the initial ideals of art and what it eventually resulted in, a given that I would like to explore in my own work.
After a Fifth Season pilot in Düsseldorf (fall of 2013), I will create a second installation in January 2014. This work will refer to the Four Seasons and will be shown in the Upstream Gallery in Amsterdam. By use of several visual elements it will be reminiscent of the Seagram Building: a corroded modernistic facade behind which a jungle of cardboard and glass exists.
Ideology and engagement
Ever since I have been researching the history of modernism in my work, I have found a way to incorporate my social engagement. Ever since I was young I have felt the pull of social themes such as environment and politics. In the Fifth Season this engagement will be on the foreground.
The exhibition at the Upstream Gallery will be a living installation: people can sleep there, eat there and work there. There is room for discussion and special encounters. This way of displaying and design strongly refers to Bauhaus.
In the center of the area a huge chandelier will be placed in which images of world problems will be incorporated, besides those photo's visitors will also see common pictures of our earth. The work comments on the challenges ideologies nowadays face; the complexity of the interconnectedness of systems and with that the problems of present day. For example, one minute you might be saving the world by eating tofu, the next moment you realize rain forests are being cut down for the production of that same tofu. Worldwide problems have become so big and complex that is is almost disheartening to be idealistic still.
I would like to make an effort to explore how I might display engagement within my work as an artist, despite all the overwhelming complexities of the problems we face in this world.