Lars Jan’s “Slow-Moving Luminaries” for the Third Audemars Piguet Art Commission

Bridging the Miami skyline and ocean, a large-scale kinetic installation that commands attention

No piece featured at Art Basel Miami Beach embraces its surroundings quite like Lars Jan‘s “Slow-Moving Luminaries.” The third annual Audemars Piguet Art Commission, Jan’s sculptural work carries tremendous complexity as it toys with the ideas of crisis and contemplation. In the form of a dual-level pavilion situated on the sand, the piece invites guests to traverse maze-work as model buildings rise and fall between floor, ceiling and beyond. A reflecting pool on the roof level greets the miniature buildings, as they extend skyward. It’s all on a cycle, this act of binding the skyline to the ocean in the distance.

Jan (who lives and works in LA) has a substantial body of performance art work, coupled with video, media and sculptural art. Here, in many ways, visitors are the performance. “I think of this installation as a series of situations that evolve over time, as the viewer navigates it,” he explains to CH. “But also viewers, who are at different stages of the project, or in different positions in the labyrinth or on the roof, they complete the work, not only in their own receiving of it but as silhouettes and figures. They create pictures that make the work alive.” Audemars Piguet guest curator Kathleen Forde invited proposals over a year ago on precision and complexity. Jan’s installation delivers this, and more.

“Knowing the site was one of the very first steps,” Jan says regarding the project’s development and even its inspiration. “It’s a provocative location, not only because of the built environment, but also because it’s at the edge of the ocean—and even because of coastal Florida and the realities of climate change.” The artist sought as much information as possible to allow for a scope and scale that matched the surroundings and granted a view of the water, lapping away nearby. This included the height of the buildings and even the palm trees; “It became necessary to work at an epic scale to match the scale of the canvas,” he adds.

Jan’s work functions on many levels: from a purely interactive and experiential sculpture one can enjoy on two floors to embracing the work’s meaning and messaging around climate change and finding supportive elements along the way. “The impulse came from a variety of places, but one seminal moment was having a conversation when I visited Le Brassus [Switzerland, Audemars Piguet’s home] about snow—about how it snows less than it used to,” he continues. “There’s this idea of water receding and diminishing in the mountains, in this remote Swiss valley, and then this site, where the work would be and the idea of the rising seas. Immediately that oscillation became pivotal to the work.”

Perhaps the most fascinating element of “Slow-Moving Luminaries” is the artist’s careful consideration of viewing the work from different angles, and at different times of day. Last year Jan visited the previous Audemars Piguet piece on site. “I got to see how the public would approach the place, how people saw the work from Collins Avenue and how people entered it,” he observes. “I thought about the work being viewed from the nearby hotels and their upper floors. I thought about the work being viewed by people flying in helicopters or planes, whether that’s the coast guard or tourists.” Most people will never get to see the work from this angle, but those who do can read the giant SOS underneath the reflective pool water on the roof. From day to night, the work also changes, with illumination lending the piece great dimension. In the darkness, as the piece provides a rich and structured glow, it acts as a beacon calling out to the surrounding structures.

Depending on one’s perspective, the emotional experience within also varies wildly. “There’s something about beauty and self-reflection that’s hopeful,” says Jan. This can be derived from a video work that, in some ways, acts as a punctuation mark to the overall work. “That particular shot,” he concludes “it’s one shot of many, and it’s the last one we took that day, unedited and looped. It’s the cleanest encapsulation of all the many elements of the project distilled—into one impulse.” Here, a wave knocks over a building and subsumes the camera perspective and then it all loops and the camera comes out of the wave and the building is standing again. Jan provides a cycle of emergence and destruction, in a slow moving fashion that addresses coping with adjusted time. It can be perceived as a statement on fortitude, or looming awareness and the repetition of tragedy.

“Slow-Moving Luminaries” is visible on the sand at Miami Beach Oceanfront between 21st and 22nd Street.

Images courtesy of Audemars Piguet