Google Earth + Art, Paris
Since it was launched, Google Earth has courted criticism. Civil liberties groups have claimed that it infringes upon individual privacy rights, while governments have said that it poses a threat to national security as it gives information on military areas. However, now the art world is using it as an innovative way to showcase new works.
Last week the Musée Quai Branly in Paris inaugurated a huge installation on the roof terrace of its media library by the contemporary Aboriginal artist Lena Nyadbi. The 700m2 piece, created using 172 stencils, is an expanded extract of her painting entitled Dayiwul Lirlmim, Ecailles de barramundi. The installation of this monumental work is part of the Quai Branly’s policy of presenting contemporary arts from Australia, initiated at the opening of the museum in 2006.
Yet visitors will not actually be able to see the work from inside museum itself. Instead it will only be visible to users of Google Earth or from the Eiffel Tower, located just one hundred meters away. From this vantage point the some 7 million annual visitors will have the opportunity to look down upon the impressive work decorating the Quai Branly’s roof below.
Jean Nouvel, the world renowned French architect who designed the Musée Quai Branly, stipulated after winning the competition for the design that he wanted the museum to have works of art that would be on permanent display day and night. He also wanted contemporary Aboriginal art to have a central place in the design of the museum.
At the inauguration ceremony of this particular installation Nouvel spoke of the similarities between architectural concepts of space and size and Aboriginal art. Nouvel is an architect who dedicates a special place in his designs to what he calls the fifth facade, or the ceilings of a building.
A number of other works by contemporary Aboriginal artists have been integrated into the design of the building, particularly the ceilings. He also stated that for a building to live, it must continue to evolve and that the installation of Lena Nyadbi’s work was a testament to this evolution.
The initial idea to place a reproduction of Dayiwul Lirlmim on the ceiling was that of the Museé Quai Branly’s President, Stéphane Martin. At the opening, he spoke of the Museum’s desire to continue to innovate and use new technologies to allow the Museum’s work to be seen by a maximum number of people.
77 year old Lena Nyadi looked overwhelmed at the end of the inauguration ceremony when the first live view of her work from the Eiffel Tower was shown on the screen in the Theatre Claude Lévi-Strauss at the Museum. She put her head in her hands as she was told that the 7 million visitors to the Eiffel Tower would now see it each year, not counting the number who could access it via Google Earth.
by Anne Ivers