0.01 NO SUCH THINGS GROW HERE
Over a period of four weeks (21/7 – 21/8/2017), multimedia installations will be growing on three city squares: Odeonsplatz, Max-Joseph-Platz and Lenbachplatz. In this urban exhibition concept, tropical plants, sculptural works and intelligent materials are arranged in hybrid formations, an amalgam that forms an unfamiliar and at the same time experiential biosphere. What happens when you mix different elements together? The complex steps of Gelb’s process resemble an elaborate root system that has no linear narrative and no hierarchies. Rather, this network consists of many cross-references that are grounded in a number of different areas of expertise, knowledge and research. The mysterious title NO SUCH THINGS GROW HERE is an invitation to explore Susi Gelb’s world of research and its boundless possibilities.
In the middle of the circular drive at the city square Max-Joseph-Platz grows a tropical installation by Susi Gelb, with an oversized LED screen, sunbathing platforms and exotic plants. A film made specifically for the project is at the heart of this urban intervention. Played as a loop on the LED screen, the film carries us off to Susi Gelb’s world of research. The video acts like a window, a means of hyper vision. Time becomes space. Based on Susi Gelb’s artistic exploration, the video brings together her profound ideas, thoughts and research of the past years: Panta rhei ~ all things are in flux in this time-based medium ~ a shimmering drop of water on the head of an eagle that lifts off and flies through a jungle-like woods to a stream ~ gurgling water in slow motion ~ the oscillating, perpetually changing colours and patterns of the Belousov-Zhabotinsky reaction ~ a snake swimming in clear turquoise water ~ crystallization processes ~ a lizard runs across a keyboard ~ reaction diffusion ~ patterns on the reptile skin. The soundtrack was created by NOUVELLE and FondaMentalism.
The concrete loungers are inlaid with thermochromic tiles. The changing colour spectrum echoes the heat of visitors and the sun. This visual response is created from a liquid-crystal layer embedded between the tiles’ layers of glazing. Dependent on the temperature different liquid-crystalline phases develop inside the tile, each with a selective reflection of certain wavelengths. Susi Gelb‘s environment also features petrified organisms of prickly pear cast in bronze. The inside of these cacti is made up of delicate, fibrous networks. In the process of casting the organic plant material, the bare surface of the fleshy cactus skin, which is partially covered with fine hair, crystallized in some places.
1.02 SMART MATERIALS
Susi Gelb’s environments conceptualize nature as a medium and question the existing categories of “natural” and “artificial”. The artist creates a living setting which has, to a certain extent, an independent existence: Smart materials change their properties of their own accord and adapt to the changing surrounding conditions. In the process, the intelligent materials come to form a second natural cosmos. The processes and energy conversions at work in the material begin to communicate to the plants, animals and human beings around them. The artist’s choice of materials is timeless and tension is deliberately created through unusual combinations of material.
„The regions close to the equator have always been a place of longing: the virgin forest where everything grows, the equinoctial regions, where the days and nights are always the same length. This is a place that fascinates me, where I would like to live. Many of the stories I read and am inspired by are set in the tropics, for example stories by J. G. Ballard. In the tropics you come across places that have something loony about them, that give birth to things, places of rampant growth. Everything is possible there.“ (Susi Gelb)
2.01 GROW HERE
The lopsided palm tree with its fan-shaped leaves in front of Feldherrenhalle is real. It’s alive and comes from a southern biosphere. Like a dandelion, the palm tree struggles through asphalt and paving stones. Washingtonia robusta is native to the oases of the desert. Palms that grow at an angle are usually found on the side of waterholes, where they have adapted to their uncertain surroundings. The root bale of a palm tree is relatively small and compact, allowing it to connect to its urban environment in a very small space.
The situation of Lenbachplatz might be called archaeological. Like a petrified relic from a different or bygone world in which the flora was larger and strange, a peculiar concrete sculpture lies on the traffic island. It’s surrounded by banana plants that shine all the fresher and greener by contrast. Towering above like a monumental archway is a huge billboard, showing a mysterious material in close-up. The biological structure is strangely fluid and thus assumes a scientific appearance: It is reminiscent of macro shots of chemical reactions and of crystal structures.