We Must Ask You to Leave, Canyonlands (Vertical Viewpoint)
With their fifth cooperation to date, the artists Julian Charrière and Julius von Bismarck continue their artistic research on the perception and construction of nature.
They take the way we see natural monuments as the starting point for their latest work. Whether verified as World Heritage by UNESCO or designated as national parks, some parts of nature are considered more beautiful and precious than others. Such allocations of meaning are not objective but tied to culture-related constructions of value, as evidenced by the different ways in which nature is treated all around the globe.
Charrière’s and von Bismarck’s latest piece asks: What happens when one of these value-laden symbols is deliberately, arbitrarily destroyed? The general image of nature as an essential, positive entity still pervades, because such a brutal act of nature-vandalism seems hard to imagine. In a staged terroristic act, the two artists blow up an arched rock formation. A blurry video taken with a mobile phone shows the masked 'perpetrators' running away to safety. It is a successful illusion: both the arch’s typical reddish-brown rock strata and the surrounding scenery make us believe that the video was filmed in the Arches National Park, Utah. The presentation of the explosion does the rest.
In reality it is a different story. The actual explosion of the arch does not occur in Utah but in Mexico, with an artificial counterpart. In a very detail-oriented process, the arch is re-created with coloured concrete. The explosion is staged in a controlled manner with the assistance of a local production team.
The way everything is set up inevitably calls to mind ISIS propaganda videos – especially the blasting in Palmyra – or the destruction of the Buddha statues in Bamiyan by the Taliban. Countless symbols of built heritage have already been wilfully destroyed. In this case particularly, a part of nature is targeted as a substitute for the man-made monuments of rulers, gods or cultural objects but to the same extent it is an attack on civilisation. This significance will be highlighted in the expected media coverage.
The revelation of the video as fake news and the fact that the blown-up arch was not an actual natural monument do not make the action any less explosive. The way we construct and value nature becomes obvious. The destruction of this one, merely visual, signifier, perceived only by humans as symbolic and multivalent, stands against the rapid progression of the global destruction of the environment.
In a staged terrorist act, the two artists Julian Charrière and Julius von Bismarck blow up a vaulted rock formation. A video recorded with a mobile phone shows the masked "perpetrators" on the run to safety. The actual explosion of the arch, however, does not take place in Utah as faked, but in Mexico, with an artificial counterpart. In a very detail-oriented process, the arch is reproduced with colored concrete. The explosion is staged in a controlled manner with the help of a local production team.
Text by Nadim Samman
I Am Afraid, I Must Ask You to Leave, 2018, Film Still
We Must Ask You to Leave, Canyonlands (Panoramic Viewpoint)