A/D/O by MINI | Daan Roosegaarde's Fluorescent Futures

Journal

Installations

Daan Roosegaarde's Fluorescent Futures

In his first solo museum show, the artist and innovator asks his boldest question yet: what responsibility does each individual have towards the environment?

Luminous, tactile, immersive, and environmentally conscious are all terms used to describe the work of Dutch artist and innovator Daan Roosegaarde, yet they represent just a fraction of his far-ranging explorations. The man behind smog-purifying jewelry, Van Gogh’s Starry Night reimagined as a solar activated light path, and Windvogel (2017) – a sculpture that generates green energy, based on the work of Dutch astronaut Wubbo Ockels – Roosegaarde remains a conceptualist and idealist, sending those that encounter his work on a journey through worlds not only possible but, as climate disaster looms, entirely necessary.

With his newest project, Presence, the artist’s first solo museum show held this December at the Groningen Museum in the Netherlands, Roosegarde moves from the natural world to the gallery space, creating a dreamscape filled with ethereal works fueled by audience participation and intellectual curiosity.

Presence begins with a walk through a grid-patterned room of rectangular blocks and phosphorescent light, inspired by the works of modernist artist Piet Mondrian and the vast plains of the Dutch countryside. Upon entering, visitors experience nine “atmospheres” that play on contrasts: light and dark; soft and hard: static and highly volatile.

In one room, a blue light scans participants in imitation of a copy machine, leaving behind muted patterns on the light-sensitive floor. In another, round moonbeam particles, loose and stackable, gradually become smaller and more malleable until they dissolve into incandescent stardust. Walking through this alien landscape, visitors are encouraged to toss and play with round, jellyfish-like organisms called Lolas (named after the intern that created them) that appear briefly illuminated, and can then be rolled or used as writing devices, leaving behind a faint bioluminescent green calligraphy.

In another space meant to conjure a walk on a distant planet, visitors can imprint quickly disappearing footprints as a measure of both human mortality, and our potential to simultaneously create and destroy while on this earth. 

"You make the artwork and the artwork makes you," Roosegaarde told The Journal, explaining the hands-on appeal of this exhibition. Its installations are meant to awaken visitors to the effect each footstep, handprint, and action has on our environment. “I wanted to create a place where you feel connected. Light for me is not decoration but an activator – a direct relationship between you and the landscape, but also between you and other people."

Roosegaarde’s work also investigates the dual meaning of the Dutch term schoonheid, which translates as both “beauty” and “cleanliness”, reflected in the country's push to honor green values and revolutionize clean air, water, and energy advances through superior design. This installation attempts to break down the complex problems created by the global population – mass pollution, environmental degradation, our multiplying carbon footprints – to determine how much agency we truly possess.

Although Presence is, quite literally, the realization of Roosegaarde’s concern about the impact of our presence on earth, it's not about "solving" the crisis in any concrete way. Like much of his previous work, it is about activating the imagination and inspiring a sense of autonomy, empowering each citizen to effect change in their surroundings.

The exhibition ends with a quote from media theorist and philosopher Marshall McLuhan: "On spaceship Earth, there are no passengers, we are all crew." In Presence, under Roosegarde's direction, each visitor will have the ability to "create a dream-world that places the control into your hands." Here, if you are just an observer, "it is nice to look at. But only when you are an activator, will you get the real poetry."

Presence will launch in December 2019 in the Netherlands before embarking on a global tour, with each exhibition receiving site-specific enhancements. Roosegarde will also launch a new Smog Free Project this November in South Korea, and is bringing his water conservation project Waterlichtto Columbia University this fall. Closer to home, Roosegarde is working on a new Holocaust monument set to open in 2020 in the Netherlands, and a series of larger landscape art projects.

Text by Laura Feinstein.

Images courtesy of Daan Roosegaarde.