Tensegrity – Spriegumintegritāte
This years’ fire sculpture by Jordi NN refers directly to the leading theme of the Ethno-Festival SVIESTS – iron. Many of its elements include iron and will form permanent objects, only the centre of the sculpture will be burned in several levels.
The sculpture will use the principle of tensegrity. Its different ornamental elements and also the several levels of the central piece will be connected without direct physical contact, but through metal ropes that will form a tensioned structure thus creating an impression of light elements floating in the air.
As always, Jordi NN uses in his sculpture local ornaments and symbols – this year he draws inspiration from Latvian traditional woven belt ornaments. Symbolically they intertwine without touching each other but forming a strong, tense connection between the earth and heaven, or this world and the other world.
Tensegrity is a physical principle that can be found in many places in nature, also in the human body. It is being used in construction and even in space research. An interesting fact is that in Contemporary Arts one of the first artists to use tensegrity in his works is a Latvian artist from Cēsis – Kārlis Johansons, who in the 1920ies created works that are nowadays in the centre of global Avant-garde Art. His tensegrity constructions are globally recognised as innovative inventions.
Kārlis Johansons was born on 4th January 1892 in Cēsis. In Arts School he befriended other future Latvian artists Konrāds Ubāns, Voldemārs Tone, Aleksandrs Drēviņš. At the beginning of World War I in 1915 the students of the Riga Arts School went to study in the Arts School un Penza, Russia. Unlike his friends Ubāns and Tone Johansons did not return to Latvia in 1918. Together with Gustavs Klucis, Kārlis Veidemanis and Voldemārs Andersons he stayed in Moscow. There he developed a different view on arts, denying the emotional, figurative, picturesque. Kārlis Johansons participated in an artist group that was searching for new artistic tasks in post-revolutionary Russia. The group called themselves Constructivists and it showed its approach in 1921 in a large-scale exhibition in Moscow that took place under the Union of Young Artists. The nine three-dimensional structures displayed by Johansons represented the principle of tensegrity – these were functional constructive systems that were supposed to become the basis for the creation of a new way of production structures. In 1929 Johansons fell ill and died not knowing about the impact of his ideas. In the same year pictures of Johansons’ work were published in the study book of the most influential Design School of the 20th century – Bauhaus in Germany. Johansons’ work became an example in a student’s task and later the same was taught by Bauhaus professors in the US. Buckminster Fuller gave the tensioned structures by Johansons the name – tensegrity strucures, and their research is being conducted by many in the whole world. NASA is researching the possible use of these structures in space. The works of Johansons helped to revolutionise the human perception of the structure of things. Nowadays the importance of tension is being recognised in many structures. This new perception is illustrated by a sentence by Buckminster Fuller: “We live in an ocean of tension with small islands of compression.”
The basic idea of all Johansons’ work is connected to one question – how to create stability when the material is connected with simple connections without merging or glueing the elements or chemical reactions. Johansons called the simple connection a “cold connection” as opposed to the hot riveting or welding. “All cold connections are crosses”, Johansons declared, all his works explore the crossing of material.
The Cēsis History and Arts Museum holds a number of painting, sketches and other works by Kārlis Johansons, however the originals of his tensegrity sculptures have not been preserved.
Jordi Navarro Navarette (1985) was born in Valencia, Spain. He studied multimedia arts in different arts schools – design, photography, video, conceptual art as well as classical arts – sculpture, painting and drawing. In Valencia there is a very strong tradition of large-scale fire sculptures, that are built during the Fallas festival on central squares in the cities and then burned. This tradition is part of the UNESCO intangible cultural heritage.
Since 2010 Jordi NN participates in international exhibitions and also in interdisciplinary arts projects in Greece, Latvia, Germany, Lithuania, Mexico, the Netherlands, Norway, Taiwan and the US. In the last years he has particularly turned to developing and building fire sculptures in diferent festivals in Lithuania. In Latvia he is co-operating for a number of years with the Culture Management Centre “Lauska”, realising different projects in photography and video-art (2015- visuals and photograhy for the project „Joikas un dainas”; 2016 – video projections for the multi-media performance „Lāčuvīrs”, 2017 – fire sculpture „Uguns saule” and 2018 fire sculpture “Sviesta ķērne” in the Ethno Festival „Sviests”). In 2017 he received a month long residence grant at Guandu International Nature Art Festival in Taipei, Taiwan, where he created a land art sculpture from local nature material – ropes of bamboo and rice fibre in the nature park – “With Paths Crisscrossing” . In 2019 for the Ethno Festival “Sviests” in Latvia he built a kinetic fire sculpture “Astrolab” that rotated during the process of burning around several axis. The accompanying sound design was created by DJ Monsta. About this event and its video recording there are still enthusiastic reviews. In autumn 2019 Jordi NN built in Catalonia for the lights festival Lluernia the fire sculpture “Volcano”, that was accompanied by contemporary dancers and a special musical partiture. Jordi NN spent the turn of 2019/2020 in the artist residency in Iceland in the Biennale FRESH WINDS, where he created the sculpture “Edge of the World”.
Chicago born musician and graphic artist, now based in Cēsis, Latvia, whose interests include interactive sculptures, audio looping, urbanism and ink drawing. As part of the organization Burners without Borders he has been exploring unorthodox disaster relief technologies. Kārlis studied Political Sciences and Arts at Chicago University and wrote his dissertation about the influence of political caricature on machine politics of New York in the 19th Century. For a while he worked casting and molding dinosaur fossils under paleontologist Dr. Paul Sereno. He has worked in arts galleries in Chicago, New York and Los Angeles, and ran a hybrid media space in Chicagos storied Flat Iron Arts building called “Pen, Ink & Song” before he moved to Cēsis in 2019 to take the role of director at the Global Center for Latvian Art.
For several years Kārlis has been actively participating in the American non-profit Burning Man Project that sponsors fire sculptures and interactive arts worldwide. For this project he uses a modified acoustic guitar to generate percussions, loops and surrounding sounds, to accompany the planned immolation of the artwork. The music is improvised and reacts directly to the burning processes. In coordination with the artist Jordi NN, who will use a mallet and a microphone to capture sounds of the artwork, they will create a soundscape consisting of the sounds of the sculpture itself. At the end of the burning process only ashes and sparks will remain, as well as sonic traces of the sculpture, which will float gently like burning embers up into the night sky.