14.02.2014 — 06.04.2014, Helmhaus Zürich, CH, curated by Daniel Morgenthaler
The exhibition [...] reveal(s) unanticipated world spaces and life spaces. In a new installation, Christian Waldvogel transports us to a still young planet, to the earth three million years ago. A primordial broth covers the entire floor of a large gallery at the Helmhaus. In the course of the exhibition, [...] cyanobacteria will begin growing there. These extremely tough organisms convert carbon dioxide into oxygen, which contributes to making the atmosphere of a planet habitable. Visitors will move about in a glass-encased room in order to prevent contaminating the experiment. They will perceive the process of growth through the increasing intensity of colours in the nutrient pool: a floor painting, weekly renewed by cyanobacteria. Excerpt from exhibition text by Daniel Morgenthaler
(The Actual Content of Quantum Theoretical Kinematics and Mechanics. / The Cradle of Time)
Christian Waldvogel begins his history of worlds by reformulating Werner Heisenberg’s text about the actual content of quantum theoretical kinematics and mechanics, published in 1927. Starting with a spiral, he has randomly printed all of the letters and formulas in the text on a pane of glass. This work is seen on the wall in the Helmhaus foyer. The physicist Heisenberg is known for defining the uncertainty principle, according to which the state and location of a particle cannot be conclusively measured since the measuring itself changes those parameters. This uncertainty principle comes into play shortly after the Big Bang: because the quantum effects, that is the physical effects of these particles, were decisive, and these effects cannot be measured according to Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle, the situation shortly after the origin of the universe remains – and will always be – undefinable. That explains the “unknown” in the title Waldvogel chose for his exhibition.
Waldvogel now causes us to reformulate and apply the uncertainty principle to a work of art. By looking at a work, we change it through our pre-knowledge and opinions. In this case something happens to the work literally as well: the traditionally framed wall-mounted picture is actually a light box with two different states whose changes can never be anticipated, because they follow a randomized algorithm. On one hand, the artist is simulating our view of the universe after the Big Bang, who certainly will forever elude us because of the uncertainty principle. On the other hand, science is being introduced within the framework of art, a strategy that Waldvogel pursues undeterred, and which turns this first work into an introduction into his own story of the worlds. (dm)
Two-phase LED lightbox, UV-print on glass, LEDs, aluminium, dibond, electronics, random generator, control software, power supply, 2014, 1156 × 1156 × 28 mm
On the basis of a Random Positioning Machine (RPM) devised to simulate zero gravity, Christian Waldvogel has developed an RPPM, a Random Planet Production Machine: operated by engines similar to those that work very well in Mars rovers, the random steering of their movements creates spherical models of planets out of drippings from candles made by the artist himself in a very complicated process. While the work in the foyer refers to a theory by Heisenberg, Waldvogel is now referring to Giordano Bruno, the Italian philosopher and astronomer, who was burned in the year 1600 because he believed that there were untold worlds like the Earth. Waldvogel uses artistic means to support this thesis. The random movements of his Planet Production Machine are able to produce perfectly round bodies – new worlds. Instead of a Big Bang, we hear only the low-key coming of the high- tech engines. The result – spherical heavenly bodies – is the same. However, the artist’s machine would have to run a great deal longer than it can in the Helmhaus in order to produce as many worlds as believed by astrophysicists to be out there. There are 10 billion planets that could potentially be to the same conditions that apply to planet Earth – in other words, 10 billion earths, more than one for every person on our planet. (dm)
Aluminium, carbon, motors, custom-designed control electronics, power supply, copper, insulation, custom-made candles, tools, 2013, 2105 × 850 × 850 mm
In the large gallery of the Helmhaus, Christian Waldvogel changes the narrative perspective of his world history from the macrolevel of entire planets to the microlevel of miniscule living matter on the surface of a still young planet (for example, the Earth three billion years ago): the entire gallery floor is covered with a primal soup consisting of nutrient broth, like that used in experiments at the Institute of Plant Biology at the University of Zurich. During the exhibition, algae-like cyanobacteria will be growing there. They are extremely resistant organisms that can survive the impact of meteorites. Because they convert carbon dioxide into oxygen, they also ensure that the atmosphere of a planet is viable for organisms like ours. In this respect, they are actually our very first forefathers – our “Antecedents”.
Visitors will move about in a glass-encased room in order to prevent contaminating the experiment. They will perceive the process of growth through the increasing intensity of colours in the nutrient pool. In the beginning, the concentration of cyanobacteria is still limited, and the liquid correspondingly colourless. In time, the proliferation of the organisms will turn the pool a bluish green – a floor painting, weekly renewed by cyanobacteria. (dm)
Cyanobacteria (Microcystis p.a.), microbacterial medium, de-ionized water, sarnafil, wood, aluminum, steel, glass, rubber, laboratory equipment, de-ionizing cartouche, piping, protective suit, breathing mask, 2014, 23310 × 7100 × 4500 mm, 4000 liters
Christian Waldvogel, who has already narrated his way through space, time and outer space at a number of exhibitions at home and abroad, once again changes perspective for the conclusion of his history of worlds in the third gallery. The focus moves away from the global view of the surface of a single planet to embrace the entire universe: a monumental planetarium in which the planets generated in the first room will be placed in orbit as they materialize. Like the primordial broth in the large gallery, this chapter of Waldvogel’s story will have progressed, but will be far from finished by the time the exhibition closes. (dm)
Aluminum, Silver steel, Carbon, Paraffin planets made in the RPPM, Ø 4180 mm, 2013