Laurent Grasso’s SolarWind is a monumental, permanent artwork poetically transcribing cosmic flows by means of light projected onto the walls of the Calcia silos bordering Paris’s 13th district.
Opening on 25 January 2016
In a zone undergoing major transformations as the epicentre of the greatest urban renewal programme Paris has experienced since the 19th century, SolarWind will soon be visible from the Périphérique orbital highway to more than one million motorists every day, and beyond that from most of the high-rises dotting the southeastern parts of the French capital city.
40 metres high by 2x20 metres wide, Laurent Grasso’s SolarWind is set to become the most ambitious art commission within the Grand Paris urban project. It is the first permanent public artwork by Laurent Grasso, one year after his last solo show at Galerie Perrotin in Paris.
At the heart of Paris Rive Gauche, an extensive renovation zone in the capital’s 13th district, Laurent Grasso’s SolarWind is set to become a major art commission as part of the Grand Paris project, in an area where the contemporary city can be seen reinventing itself. At the instigation of the 13th district council, of Ciments Calcia and SEMAPA, Laurent Grasso was selected for an art intervention on the two concrete silos of cement manufacturer Calcia’s distribution centre, each of which is 40 metres high by 2x20 metres wide. Owing to its architectural distinctiveness, the structure, designed by VIB Architecture, has long been a key feature in this part of the 13th arrondissement, its sheer visual impact enhanced by its strategic location at the junction of the Périphérique orbital road and a future pedestrian thoroughfare linking Paris with neighbouring Ivry-sur-Seine. This unique configuration has spurred Laurent Grasso to imagine a powerfully evocative light installation.
The artist, whose work articulates concepts of science, belief, illusion and fiction, became interested in solar storms and space meteorology in order to create an ever-changing, colourful mapping of these climate phenomena. Such phenomena aroused international interest as the US authorities released in October 2015 their National Space Weather Action Plan, a study promoting on a global scale an active policy in research and development in the eld of space meteorology
To this end Laurent Grasso worked with the Space Observatory - the CNES (National Centre for Space Studies) art-science laboratory -, which helped him identify the scientific data he needed to devise an algorithm accurate enough to react in real time to data sent by scientists. The artwork, a genuine technological feat, was created with the assistance of a team of optical engineers to obtain the sort of extremely fine, powerful light required to be visible very far away from the Périphérique.
A WORK OF SCIENTIFIC AND POETIC SIGNIFICANCE
“SolarWind recalls the geomagnetic storms that caused the 1989 blackout in Canada as all electrical devices broke down. This work addresses our modern fears by establishing a tight connection between the unknown embodied by solar winds and its possible impact here on Earth.”
Thanks to the data collected by the Space Observatory from various laboratories, the fluctuations in colour and light projected onto the silos’ walls will visually translate solar activity in real time, while all cosmic objects approaching Earth, such as meteorites, will bring extra details into the mix. But while the artwork’s scientific scope is indisputable, Laurent Grasso designed it first and foremost with its role as collective and poetic driving force in mind.
“ The power of solar ares confronts us with our lack of mastery. It is both a poetic and philosophical project infinitely expanding our imagination.”
In the continuation of the “Soleil Noir” exhibition at the Hermès Foundation in Tokyo, the sun keeps playing a key role in Laurent Grasso’s work, but this time on a monumental scale and in public space. SolarWind has both scientific and metaphysical implications that call into question the viewer’s certainties and beliefs by mingling reality with fiction within our physical environment.