Renate Buser (CH), Nathan Carter (US), Subodh Gupta (IN), Hanspeter Hofmann (CH), Peter Kogler (AT), John Noestheden (CA), Shuvinai Ashoona (CA), Katharina Sieverding (DE), Daniel Buren (FR)
From 30 May to 14 September 2008 Basel’s sky will be partly artificial, an artists’ Stadthimmel (“Citysky") in the form of printed awnings of mesh vinyl hung between building facades. The Citysky will be above the overhead tram wires and the street lighting. The interplay of different heights and the different shapes of these sheets of celestial objects generates an atmospherically vibrant, rich world of images and emotions. Citysky creates new urban spaces and horizons in public spaces. The translucent street images will turn the firmament over Basel into an exciting world of experience that bathes inhabitants and visitors alike in brightly coloured and surprising worlds of art and artistry.
The man-made sky will link the piazza in front of the trade fair halls with the forecourt of the main railway station and, hence, the two parts of Basel on either side of the Rhine. Fabric celestial bodies, some of them transparent, will float in a blaze of lightness and colour, and artists will use them to recount – in various designs by various means – stories drawn from the inexhaustible universe of art. The result is, so to speak, a flying artistic composition whose aesthetics and form recall the tradition of painted ceilings. The confrontation between the architecture of everyday buildings and the tradition of painted ceilings will be an endless source of fascinating contrasts. Strolling under the man-made sky with its constantly changing horizons, lighting and images will become a unique artistic experience in itself.
In addition, the Citysky project has made it its duty to ensure that art in public spaces is more than just ornamental, but encourages people to think.
The workings of Citysky
Nine internationally renowned artists are being invited to present appropriate designs for different sections of the Citysky project. These works should be understood as fruitful and fertile approaches to the general topics of urban life, architecture, transport, nature, time, communication, play, sport and public spaces – and thus also as food for thought. Public spaces as such are designed and perceived individual entities. They become the public expression of history, of the traditions and the wealth of a city, but increasingly frequently also the face of a globalized urbanity whose uniformity rides roughshod over cultural distinctions and whose means of expression churn out interchangeability. The Citysky project seeks to break this mould of uniformity and alienation of public spaces: it uses artistic means to intervene in existing spaces, confronting reality with art and art with reality.
The city and the artists’ sky
The similarity between the Citysky and the art form of painted ceilings not only exaggerates its motifs as seemingly sacred; its motifs and world of images can also give public spaces a new identity. The familiar urban space underneath the artificial sky is perceived within new boundaries and transformed by the play of light and shadow into an animated invitation to new experiences waiting to be discovered. In one sense at least, the firmament above Basel will be transformed into an “art cathedral”. The colourfulness of Citysky will continue to radiate even after sunset. The motifs on mesh vinyl backlit with high-voltage floodlights will produce a cohesive, particularly enchanting night universe.
An idea with a past
Awnings have been stretched across streets since Antiquity. The Roman word for an awning is “velum”. According to contemporary writers, vela were draped not only over theatres, but also over streets, squares and courtyards and atria to protect people from the sun’s rays. This tradition of vela is still alive in, for instance, Madrid’s pedestrian precincts.
Architecture adopted the function and aesthetics of awnings in velaria. The best illustration of a modern velarium is in the Olympic stadium in Munich.
The core project, and supporting measures
The first phase of the project involves enquiries and invitations to artists to design appropriate motifs for suitable public spaces. They will draw sketches from which the motifs are transferred to the mesh vinyl. The following artists, among others, have been approached to participate in Citysky : Daniel Buren, Renate Buser, Nathan Carter, Subodh Gupta, Hanspeter Hofmann, Peter Kogler, Shuvinai Ashoona/John Noestheden, Katharina Sieverding .
A pocket-sized catalogue will guide people through the world of images in Citysky . The individual motifs will be explained in the form of picture captions. A comprehensive publication and film documentation will provide in-depth information about the project, providing not only an additional platform for the temporary art-intervention but above all a permanent record. Citysky and its history will live on in people’s and the city’s memories. Guided tours through the “cathedral in the sky” are also planned.
Art and the city
In cities, contemporary art is public art. It is created in the context of urban life and a city’s social structures, history, traditions and peculiarities. Artistically transformed public spaces enter into a fruitful dialogue with the cityscape as a whole. They generate thoughtfulness, open up new perceptions, spark discussions, provide impulses or simply embody the joy of expression and fun with art, with playful ideas and spirited creativity. Art thus becomes a city’s visiting card.
May 30, 2008 to September 14, 2008