by Dilpreet BhullarJul 10, 2021
As our world grows more sophisticated with new discoveries every day and a form of rapid technological advancement as was never seen before, we still seem to come back to our initial agreement that nature is, by far, the most sophisticated innovator out there. For billions of years we have seen rapid evolution, smart and creative solutions, by which the natural environment has supported species and life forms on earth. It is this fascinating relationship between the abundance of nature and the rampage of technology that seems to exist at the heart of French artist Cyril Lancelin’s immersive sculpture Mix exhibited at the IOMA Art Center, Beijing. Lancelin, who is no stranger to playing with artificial landscapes, comes back this time with a piece that moves away from the realm of public art sites, to a contained space that provides an added layer of boundaries to his otherwise surreal aesthetic. The sculpture that is made of giant melons in Beijing is a surreal installation that engages all five senses of the viewer in an immersive conversation on the abundance existing within our daily lives. The first encounter is the onslaught of imagery from our day-to-day which comes together in an artificial landscape of watermelons and pumpkins.
“I was particularly interested in the evolution of our society as it linked to technology, and in particular to the proliferation of data. Our daily life turned upside down by this ever-increasing consumption of data,” says the artist. The source imagery or should one say inspiration to the work Mix, was the imagined fictional house “House Hill”, which was built using data in cubes, spheres and cylinders. While the plan of the house in itself is clearly defined, its materiality made of a parametric distribution of its three volumes – cubes, sphere and cylinders – varies the actual composition of the house. To explain this further, consider the consistently changing distribution and modification of data changes which translate into the volumes as altering the appearance of the imaginary house. It is this changing percentage breakdown that is part of the visual imagery that creates the immersive installations.
The sculptures seem increasingly primitive, lending to a constructive process that is more assemble-based than creation-based. Objects like melons, cacti and flamingos add a kitsch flamboyance to the aesthetic of the work. “I wanted to add objects that fascinate me, to enrich the aesthetic. These are small elements which end up playing a landmark role through their shape or texture. Faced with the acceleration of data consumption, these benchmarks define new scales of value and anchor points,” mentions the artist.
The melons bring a figurative dimension to the composition of the immersive sculpture, adding what can be seen as an abstract representation of life. The depiction of the fruit in the installation comes from varied visual sources, largely taken from the imagery of abundance and the pop universe, Lancelin has chosen to show it as a stylised representation of the fruit that focuses particularly on texture and colour. “I explore my creations as a universe where I merge the real and the unreal. I represent artificial landscapes built by a multiplication of data,” he says. While the eeriness of the artificial landscapes is hard to ignore, it is thought-provoking in how it evokes the state of our own lives, our own daily data-interactions and consumption. As is the case with much of our visual source material, the melons too embody a symbolic imagery, the artist associates them with the heavenly prosperity of life reflected in a digital world. Rich, rounded and plush it is representative of the over-consumption of these images in our life.
Increasingly, we have digital artists pre-occupied with the idea of the role that technology will play against the primitive, raw and sweeping aspect of nature. As our lives grow increasingly artificial, removed from our natural environments, it is impossible not to contemplate the ramifications of this distance, or of this growing separation. If it is the innovation of nature and its sophisticated and advanced measures in keeping our survival what do is it say of a world that is smitten by the wonder that is technology? Lancelin’s Mix is a contemplation of all these questions and more, asking us to truly consider the transformation that is currently undergoing on our planet. As nature and data come together in this work so is the real and the unreal or the artificial environ stitched in place.