350 x 100 x 100 cm
Steel, industrial cables, optic fibres
Collection Museum Haus Konstruktiv
Donated by the artist
Large Burst I
Cables, waste oil, and asphalt are all typical elements used by the artist Vanessa Billy (born 1978 in Geneva, Switzerland). Her conceptual art is characterized by materials that are often deliberately overlooked in everyday life. Billy studied at the Chelsea College of Art in London from 1998 to 2001, was awarded an artist grant by the Canton of Zurich in 2012 and received the Swiss Art Award in 2014. When she was living in London, her studio was in an area with many derelict buildings and raw construction materials. Her impression of this urban landscape is reflected in her artistic practice. While her works also revolve around such themes as technology and energy, her focus always remains on people. She transforms various industrial materials into expressive objects that transcend their intended function, bringing us face-to-face with the world we created and inspiring us to think about our responsibility toward our planet.
Billy’s titles often provide clues to understanding her works. One example is “Clear as Mud” from 2013, which illustrates this paradoxical saying (which means something is difficult to understand or unclear) with a lightbulb suspended above a kind of glass vase filled with murky sludge, shining light onto it. The works “Large Burst I” and “Large Burst II” function in a similar manner – they truly look like eruptions. On closer inspection, however, the sculptures resembling palm trees turn out to be bundles of fiber optic and industrial power cables mounted on steel. The base of the cables is firmly bound, but the top seems to explode in all directions. These cables, which we rely on every day, form an invisible, subterranean infrastructure beneath the surface of the world around us. Here, they appear almost organic, alienated from their functional context. Billy explains how these works can change our perspective: “We have been enjoying ‘composing’ – changing oil into plastic, for example – and we need to learn to decompose. Nothing disappears, it might change state but it remains, we live in a closed circuit.”Billy’s works “Large Burst I & II” were included in the group exhibition “Concrete Contemporary –
Now is always also a little of yesterday and tomorrow” at Museum Haus Konstruktiv in 2019, which reflected the museum’s mission of presenting the continued influence of Constructivist, Concrete and Conceptual Art on Contemporary Art. What better way to express the zeitgeist of our day and age than Billy’s formally precise, lucidly designed works concerned with the environment and our dependence on technology?
Ruth C. Kistler