Art Basel 2015: Robin Meier’s Synchronicity

Fireflies, computers and red lights make up this stunning experience

Part of the fun of Art Basel is discovering the artworks dotted all around the Swiss city, outside the main hub of Messeplatz. This year, luxury Swiss watchmaker Audemars Piguet presented artist Robin Meier’s piece “Synchronocity” in the beautiful Volkshaus venue. Like the “Strandbeest” exhibition at Miami Art Week last year (also presented by Piguet), Meier’s work blends the mechanical and fantastical. Using both biological entities (fireflies and crickets) and technological objects (pendulums, oscilloscopes, computers), Meier created a dreamlike environment: a seemingly abandoned laboratory, filled with fireflies blinking in synchronization with rhythmic LED lights, chirping crickets and metronome beats.

Both an artist and a composer, Meier is known for his work with insects and has previously created installations with bees and mosquitoes. For “Synchronicity,” he imported fireflies from Japan, making sure the environment was as similar to that of their natural habitat as possible, to explore the concept of synchronization. “The idea of synchronicity came from my work with computers and technology,” Meier says. “I always felt a distance working with computers to make music, since for me, making music is something very intuitive and natural. When you’re programming it on a computer it becomes very deterministic, and it loses some of its spontaneity. That’s how I got interested in making machines a bit more surprising; machines that can evolve. I also saw computer programs trying to imitate nature, and thought of trying to combine the two.”

The result is fascinating: like walking around in some long-deserted scientific outpost in a rainforest, in which the machines and the insects have become one. Meier says the process of the work is constantly evolving, and he continues to adjust the pattern of the LEDs to perfect the synchronisation. It’s easy to see what it was about “Synchronicity” that appealed to the watch brand—the steady, rhythmic movements of the machines and the beauty of the fireflies’ synchronized flashing combined to create an exhibition that is, as Meier says, timeless.

Images courtesy of Michel Giesbrecht