Neon Parallax, a singular and ambitious public art project, took shape from 2006 to 2012 under the care of the Fund for Contemporary Art of the City of Geneva (FMAC) and the Canton of Geneva (FCAC).
Between the Rade, Geneva’s prestigious lakefront district, and the popular plain of Plainpalais, the parallax here is based on the similarity of the two diamond-shaped lake and land areas, and the transposition of the advertising slogans lighting the former to artists’ light installations on the roofs of buildings overlooking the latter.
Designed specifically for the Plainpalais plain in Geneva, Neon Parallax is made up of nine installations by artists from Switzerland and abroad: Sylvie Fleury (CH), Jérôme Leuba (CH), Christian Jankowski (D), Dominique Gonzalez-Foerster (F), Sislej Xhafa (Kosovo), Nic Hess (CH), Ann Veronica Janssens (B), Pierre Bismuth (F) and Christian Robert-Tissot (CH).
Stakes of the project
The challenge of the artists invited to take part in this contest of international significance was to transpose the advertising stakes of the commercial signs of the harbour in artistic messages. The works have been placed on the roofs at the rate of two original creations per year (2007, 2008 and 2009). The inauguration of the three works that complete the actual ensemble will take place in 2012. Thanks to the generosity of the owners of the buildings, each roof is left at the disposal of the Funds to accommodate a creation for a period limited to ten years.
Luminous works on the roofs
Neon Parallax realizes several objectives of the Contemporary Art Funds of the City and Canton. On the one hand it aims at trying different temporality using artistic creations placed in public space for a limited period (10 years). On the other hand the occupation of the roofs round the Plaine allows a new context for the integration of the works to be explored, without occupying a space on the ground already overloaded and, in the particular case of the Plaine, already largely invested. The collective form of this global realisation made up of several individual works makes it possible to connect artists of the local scene with international creators. This step also makes it possible to regard the urban environment as a common space that can be questioned and upgraded by a new look.
A public-private partnership
This project has been allocated a total budget of 950'000 Swiss francs, for the production of eight artistic creations (125'000 francs average per artwork). It is spread over four periods : 2006-2007, 2007-2008, 2008-2009 and 2011-2012. Each Art Fund will have given 475'000 swiss francs to the global realisation of the project, including all the expenses for the organization of the contest, including the fees of the jury, the artists and the architects and the realisation of the works and their promotion. The ninth work of art is a direct order to an artist from private banker Pierre Darier for the roof of Lombard Odier Bank. It will also be inaugurated in 2012
YES TO ALL
|Ann Veronica Janssens
L'ODRRE N'A PAS D'IPMROTNCAE
Axis of Silence
What I Still Have To Take Care Of
Fly A Dragon Kite
The use of slogans is a recurring practice in Sylvie Fleury’s work. They are often borrowed, such as ready-made phrases, to the world of fashion and design ; the transposition of their context renews and enriches the interpretation we make of them. The concept suggested here by the artist, YES TO ALL, already exists in her work in different versions: exhibition title, installations made out of crystals on mirrors or neon, etc.
The work integrates easily with the building by the judicious choice of the typography and the liveliness of the colour; the project is appealing thanks to the optimism and universality transmitted by its message.
Sylvie Fleury, CH, *1961, lives and works in Geneva.
Breath is a 24 meters length single luminous tube which diffuses a uniform halo of white light (by definition, the sum of all the colors) and which looks to be suspended in space. The formal purity of the project refers to the modernistic structure of the building of which it underlines the originality, but without artifice.
With Breath, the artist plays with the flux of light whose intensity decreases until it becomes almost invisible, then increases again until it reaches again its maximum intensity again. The light in impulse appears in perpetual movement, like breathing, and thus seems to give life to the building.
Jérôme Leuba, CH, *1970, lives and works in Geneva.
This project is inspired by the "memoranda" that the artist writes and which include questions he must ask his gallerist, his assistants, his students, and even his accountant. These lists pile up, multiply on his desk and turn into a kind of newspaper of personal, chaotic, sometimes humorous notes that divert him from the artistic work on which he should concentrate. Thus he had the idea to use this material as a support for an artistic project. For Neon Parallax, the artist presents a sentence, a question, resulting from these numerous lists. The question: Soll ich noch Geld ausgeben? functions as social response to the many signs with commercial goal which are placed on the roads. The relevance and the universality of the message give a personal, daily and social question at the heart of the advertising and consumerist world. In spite of the language used by the artist (Christian Jankowski is German), the manual penmanship of the neon reinforces its accessibility. Beyond the plastic qualities of the proposal, one also recognizes the generosity and the empathy which characterise the work of the artist.
Christian Jankowski, DE, *1968, lives and works between Berlin and New York.
The neon installation Expodrome spells out the title in LED letters whose typography allows for four possibilities of individual or fragmentary lighting, i.e., orange, white, pink or simply unlit. The complete word appears every hour for one minute. The rest of the time the sign seems to dysfonction; it goes through all kinds of disorders until it becomes completely illegible: it will show parts of the word, like "rom", or a letter "x" or abstract signs. The rhythm of the dysfunctions can be used as a reference mark: for example, "x" will always appear at the same time. This work operates like a secret clock, but it is also in total opposition to the "supposed perfection" of the advertising signs that surround the edge of Geneva lakefront. Expodrome is the title of the exhibition of the artist opened in 2007 at the ARC (Paris) and which will travel under the same name all over the world. This word refers to the exhibition but also suggests the existence of a place, in the City, devoted to the concept of the exhibition.
One of the main attractions of the project resides in its various degrees of reading: the secret clock, the ludic side of the signs from the letter itself to the fragment of word and the abstracted sign, the cheerfulness of the colours, the reference to the site of the exhibition, etc.
Dominique Gonzalez-Foerster, FR, *1965, lives between Paris and Rio de Janeiro.
The artist's proposal consists of the installation of two large eyes, drawn on a white thermo painted metal sheet, on the flat roof of the building. The linear design will be clearly visible by day, and by night it will be complemented by a halo of black neon lighting. The topic was chosen for its universality and because the eyes are the part of the body through which we best communicate. The simplified, yet subtle design will allow the general public to clearly identify the installation. This will be the first figurative element installed on a roof on the Plaine de Plainpalais, and the first production of this technique. The whole work conveys a stimulating breakdown in scale and an intriguing dreamlike appearance.
Sislej Xhafa, Kosovo, *1970, lives and works in New York.
The installation designed by Nic Hess for Neon Parallax juxtaposes diamond-shaped light boxes and forming the silhouette of a kite. The diamond-shapes are inspired by the shape of the Plaine de Plainpalais. The luminous caissons will be illuminated by LEDs, with the colours varying according to a weekly rhythm, 52 times a year. As well as being representative, decorative and abstract, the artist's proposal is characterised by its playfulness, its apparent simplicity and dynamism.
Nic Hess, CH, *1968, lives and works between Zurich and London.
The Belgian artist, known in particular for her lighting installations in which coloured fogs dissolve shapes and contours, explores the limits of perception, extending the physical and mental experience of the spectator. For Neon Parallax, she takes up a fragment of text that she found on a small poster on the very site of Plainpalais. This portrayed a scientific analysis carried out by Cambridge University, according to which the order of letters in a word is not vital to its readability provided that the first and last letters are in the right place. The text featured here in white capitals, L'ODRRE N'A PAS D'IPMROTNCAE, gives rise to a perception in several dimensions, triggering a reflex in reading that leads, through the automatic ordering of letters, to overall comprehension; the work elicits reflection that goes beyond the first look, raises questions on its different possible senses, from the concrete visual to the epistemological, from the artistic to the political.
Ann Veronica Janssens, BE, *1956, lives and works in Brussels.
The French artist juxtaposes and blends the senses proper to various fields of social activity - commercial, entertainment, political, artistic – revealing and questioning their frontiers through successive shifts. The lighting installation proposed for Plainpalais comprises the text Coming Soon! in blue neon. This text takes up the standard line used for trailers of upcoming films; these tasty invitations are often more convincing than the films themselves, as their elusive and fragmented character allows one to clothe them with one’s own desires and imagination. Abandoning the context of the cinema to confront the public arena, the planned work plays on the desire and expectation of the spectator in an even more open and indefinite manner, denouncing perhaps the hollow promises of advertising, but at the same time leaving to each and everyone the choice of his own object of desire; it embodies this ideal space for projection and the individual freedom of imagination.
Pierre Bismuth, FR, *1963, lives and works in Brussels.
Language is Christian Robert-Tissot’s work material of choice. The Swiss based artist is known for his diverted texts and catchphrases. He has been working on various supports for numbers of years: billboards, neon signs, canvas. Whether independent volumes or fixed on a wall, these works interpellate and question those who look at them. His statements appear as a sort of interface, connecting their significance, size, form, their font and the environment for which they’re conceived. These «picture/words» therefore find themselves in a close relation with their environment, whether architectural or cultural.
For Neon Parallax, the artist offers to place the word DIMANCHE («dimanche» is the french word for «Sunday») in capital letters on the roof of the sponsoring bank. Since it is written in capital letters, the word appears as an invitation to resting or taking a day off and also as a blank space in an agenda, free of any activity. This while remaining in complete shift regarding the concept of catchphrase and advertising.
Christian Robert-Tissot, CH, *1960, lives and works in Geneva.
Friday, October 19 - 18:30
Plaine de Plainpalais
With the inauguration of the remaining two publicly and one privately commissioned works for Neon Parallax—artwork illuminations on rooftops surrounding the Plain of Plainpalais, Geneva—the Symposium Public Space and the Artist invites us to consider what the artist may do with/to/in the townscape.
Commissioned works are far from being the only means of engaging the artist with public space. In recent years and in some cases since even earlier, creative artists have been exploring ways of bringing art into the city, and devising original interpretations of the urban landscape.
This opening up of new dimensions of public space and how they are to be interpreted raises the crucial question of the relationship between created work and its meaningful display.
Whence the timeliness of a symposium focussed on art and its appreciation by the general public, or artworks and how they may impact upon the community in which we live.
FRIDAY 19 OCTOBER, 9am – 6pm
Dr. Brigitte Franzen
Ann Veronica Janssens
SATURDAY 20 OCTOBER, 9am – 12.30pm
Attendance free of charge.
FRIDAY, OCTOBER 19TH 2012
1. Protocols. Moderator: Dario Gamboni, Professor at the University of Geneva (History of contemporary art)
Thierry Davila is curator of the Mamco, Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art in Geneva
In western history, art has always been the laboratory where society invented the forms of relationship with the world that it needed to adapt to change. However, it is curious that an institution representative of this society should accept the idea of questioning the very forms of its relationship to art by following up the suggestion of an artist to place at the forefront of contemporary cultural policy the work of art itself. Nevertheless, an institution as emblematic as the Fondation de France decided to take on this task twenty years ago, and to implement both in France and other European countries, the so-called Protocol of the New Patrons, which profoundly revitalises the working methods of artists in public spaces.
*Xavier Douroux is co-director of the art centre Le Consortium in Dijon, of which he is one of the founders, and also the director of the publishers Les presses du réel in Dijon.
François Hers is a photographer. In 1990 he conceived the idea of the Protocol of New Patrons for the Fondation de France. This was designed as an extension of his artistic activity, which reinvented the relationships between art, artists and political space and in which Xavier Douroux plays an important role. Together they wrote L’Art sans le capitalisme (Art without capitalism), Dijon, Les presses du réel, 2011.
Artangel is an organization based in London which commissions – and produces – largescale projects from major contemporary artists. In the course of the last twenty years these projects have been carried out in greatly differing contexts and innumerable forms, from film and video to sculpture and sound installations. Artangel fostered the emergence of some of the most talked-about, controversial and celebrated works of the time, including those by Francis Alÿs, Jeremy Deller, Matthew Barney, Brian Eno, and Douglas Gordon. The idea will be to present the collaborative public approach developed by Artangel in the field of the commissioning and production of works, illustrated by a selection of projects dating from the last five years.
*Rachel Anderson joined Artangel in 2007. Her role is to produce collaborative projects. These take on a multitude of different forms, ranging from film, installation and performance, to literature and public interventions.
*Brigitte Franzen is director of the Ludwig Forum für Internationale Kunst in Aachen. In 2007, she was curator of the Skulptur Projekte Münster.
2. Works. Moderator: Thierry Davila
Using several examples of his public projects which bring into play a great variety of
methods of work and entry into common space, Dennis Adams will demonstrate the
different ways in which to attack the established limits between a site, a situation and the
appearance of a work and its reception. Or how to call into question the public limits of a
*Dennis Adams is an American artist internationally renowned for his urban installations. His works form part of the public collections of the largest American museums, among them the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York. He was formerly a professor at MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) in Cambridge, Mass. where he held the position of Director of the Visual Arts Programme between 1997 and 2001. He currently teaches at Cooper Union in New York.
Presentation of Stalker’s interventions in Rome between 1995 and 2008, on the subject of
discrimination against the Roms in particular, as also the more recent work of the
Laboratory of Civic Arts carried out in Brazil, Chile and Kenya. Urban public spaces of a
different type appear recurrently in these examples: they are linked to indeterminate
*Francesco Careri is one of the founders of the joint action Stalker/Nomadic Observatory which brings together plasticians, architects and sociologists with the aim of exploring the future of present-day urban situations. Since 2005 he has been working as a researcher in the Department of Urban Studies at the University of Rome 3 where he directs the Masters programme in Arts, Architecture and Urban Studies.
Ann Veronica Janssens and Pierre Bismuth are the last two artists to have each designed and developed a work in the framework of Neon Parallax, a public commission for the plain of Plainpalais in Geneva which was organized and managed by the Funds for Contemporary Art of the City and Canton of Geneva. How did they approach the relationship to space in their two projects? How did they see the public dimension of their work? Did this commission change their vision of art and their way of working? So many questions which, among others, will enable us to understand the various technical, aesthetic and political issues involved in Neon Parallax.
*Ann Veronica Janssens is one of the most important Belgian artists of her generation. Her work does away with the material
consistency usually associated with works of art – she makes use of light and artificial fog – and underlines the relative
*Pierre Bismuth is one of the French artists most present on the international scene. His work is multiform, often playful, made
of films, drawings, objects, installations, and sound pieces; it revisits in questioning fashion the signs and images of our
SATURDAY, OCTOBER 20TH 2012
3. Concerning transmission. Moderator: Christian Joschke. Christian Joschke teaches the history of photography at the University of Geneva and at Lumière University in Lyon (Lyon 2).
Working in a public space implies the transmission of a particular type of knowledge. The intent is to carry out an evaluation of this knowledge based on the example of the cultural Masters projects in public space conducted by the University of Paris 1 – history, objectives, team, programme and pedagogical methods, completed projects, evaluation. It also involves examining case studies to see what artists can do in a concrete fashion in the field. This will be the focus of the critical presentation of the first five editions of the ZAT (Temporary Artistic Zones) project and some of the 120 completed works. This artistic event is organized twice yearly at Montpellier, and aims to explore the city and give it a narrative dimension in the framework of a multidisciplinary, contextualized, artistic programme about public space.
*Pascal Le Brun-Cordier is an associate professor at the University of Panthéon-Sorbonne Paris 1 where he directs the
programme of cultural Masters projects in public space which he created in 2005, together with a team of thirty university
Here is an abridged version of the instructions given each year to students following the course of environmental art at the Glasgow School of Art. These instructions will be analysed and illustrated: the context is half of the work; choosing a site which may or may not be resonant with the work; negotiate with the owners in order to be able to use it; creating the work as either a durable or a temporary piece; installing the work on the site in such a way that it can be seen and criticized by students and teachers; removing the work from the site
*David Harding is an artist and teacher. Together with Sam Ainsley he created the course of environmental art (for which he
recruited philosophers, poets, and art historians) at the Glasgow School of Art, which played a major role in the creation of
a strong local artistic scene, almost immediately achieving a high international profile (Douglas Gordon, Martin Boyce,
Just as it is the task of artists to “help see” or to “help hear”, so it is their responsibility to give a description of the great metropolitan spaces. The extensive territories of the town call for new ways of understanding common space, shared or divided space, saturated or deserted public space. Before talking about public space in the democratic sense that philosophy and political history have attached to the term, we have to re-conquer inhabited space and fix on it representations of mobility, multiple and changing forms of belonging, and the disparity between living conditions. From now on we give less consideration to art exhibited in public space than the public space as shown in art: urban description as an artistic programme and as a transformation of the public role of art.
*Jean Attali is a philosopher, and professor at the Higher National School of Architecture Paris-Malaquais (l’École nationale supérieure d’architecture Paris-Malaquais). He concentrates his research on the themes of architecture and the city and has participated in numerous projects with architects such as Rem Koolhaas (OMA / AMO, Rotterdam), Nasrine Seraji (ASAA, Paris) and Philippe Samyn (Samyn & partners, Brussels). He has published a book entitled: The plan and the detail. A philosophy of architecture and the city (Le plan et le détail. Une philosophie de l’architecture et de la ville, Nîmes, Jacqueline Chambon), and is currently working on a book entitled: The City Landscapes of the World/ An Atlas Shared (Le Paysage mondial des villes / Un Atlas partagé).
FRIDAY, OCTOBER 19TH 2012
SATURDAY, OCTOBER 20TH 2012
III. Concerning transmission
International Symposium organized by the Contemporary Arts Collection of the City and Canton of Geneva, in collaboration with the University of Geneva, and co-ordinated by Thierry Davila, Curator of MAMCO, Gallery of Modern Arts, Geneva.
Projects invited artists competitions 2006-2012
15-27 october 2012 – Forum Faubourg
Saturday, October 27 (last day): 11am-4pm
This project of artistic revalorisation could not have been realised without the support of private partners, namely the owners of the buildings.
This particular patronage puts at the disposal of the City and of the Canton, for a period of 10 years, the space for the art works on the roofs.
| Fonds municipal d'art contemporain (Fmac)
Rue des Bains 34, 1205 Genève
T +41 (0)22 418 45 30
| Fonds cantonal d'art contemporain (FCAC)
Sentier des Saules 3, 1205 Genève
T +41 (0)22 546 63 80
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