There’s an air of anticipation inside New York’s Pace Gallery these days, where Carsten Nicolai, a German artist whose exhibitions resemble scientific laboratories, has attached a parachute to a wind machine. Every 4 minutes, the fan cranks up and inflates the parachute for 60 seconds, then stops as the parachute deflates and settles to the floor.
And what do you do when the wind stops? You wait, unless you’re talking with a friend, at which point you resume your conversation until the wind machine again rumbles to life with, despite soundproofing, the decibel level of an oncoming subway train. Nicolai, who told Co.Design that the times were “chosen by instinct,” made no changes to the parachute prototype he received. There’s a mesh opening and eight rectangular holes in the top of the parachute, which ends up looking a bit like a bull’s-eye when viewed from the side.
But it’s the back-and-forth, stop-and-start performance that becomes the defining part of the experience. Nicolai said that this interaction serves as a metaphor for the “ambiguous and discontinuous interplay between natural elements and artificially produced objects”–like the seasons, which continue regardless of human design. But pionier I is livelier than that. It’s like a cat: interrupting, then retreating. It gets in your face and then disappears just as quickly as it came. And it demands attention every 4 minutes.
The installation is on view until October 22 at The Pace Gallery in New York.
[Photos courtesy of The Pace Gallery and Eigen+Art]