This is the first post in a new series about the journey of artists who have received financial support for their art through the Burning Man Global Art Grants program. One of the core missions of the program is to support emerging artists and encourage them to take chances, push their boundaries and hone their skills while creating immersive, interactive art in their communities around the world.
In the Danish town of Holstebro sits Kulturdivisionen Slagteriet, a former slaughterhouse turned DIY arts venue. And for over a month this summer, inside Kulturdivisionen Slagteriet, visitors could encounter “Koncertsal”, a collaborative art project by Ad Hoc Collective. “Koncertsal” was a recipient of a 2017 Burning Man Global Art Grant for $9,000. One of the interesting qualities of this project was that it was completed by a collective, which brings with it a unique set of challenges and successes. We want to share the journey and the process of bringing this art to life.
“Koncertsal” was a multi-sensorial experience, inviting visitors to explore the interactive environment featuring a hanging forest of kites, a three-person hammock, and a 20-meter sound reactive kaleidoscope that loomed over the room, creating hypnotic shapes and colors which reacted to kinetic sound sculptures featuring haunting vocal loops by Anne Hollænder, a robotic orchestra, reconstructed accordions, a robotic guitar, and any sounds created by participants who wandered in the installation. The architectural housing of the project was created with found materials from the former slaughterhouse.
In achieving their goals, they transformed a former slaughterhouse space into an exploded music box, housing a cathedral of sound and visual effects.
Koncertsal. Artwork by Ad Hoc Collective, video courtesy of Ranjit Bhatnagar.
The Process of Creating an Art Installation
In 2013, almost half of the artists who created “Koncertsal” worked on “Concert Hall”, a kinetic sound installation in Paris, France. They went on to form Ad Hoc Collective, a group of international artists from the U.S., the U.K., Belgium, France and Denmark who came together ad hoc (hence the name!) to create “Koncertsal”. Ad Hoc Collective’s intention was to create an experience, rather than a tangible object. The idea started with the vision of participants walking into a space and swiftly becoming overwhelmed by a cohesive musical, architectural and visual environment.
The initial planning started a year and a half earlier when curators Georgia Muenster and Jean Barberis began applying for funding and researching possible locations for their idea, They were awarded art grants for the construction of the project, as well as a travel grant from the Danish Arts Council which allowed them to meet with the administrators for Kulturdivisionen Slagteriet to secure the space for the installation of ‘Konsertsal.’ For three months, the Ad Hoc Collective artists held regular design and planning meetings until they all gathered in Holstebro in May 2017 to begin the intensive build-out of the space.
Ad Hoc Collective worked with the Holstebro Theatre Festival to exhibit “Koncertsal” during the same time period as the largely free, and open to the public festival. They held a grand opening on June10, 2017 and the installation was open every day until early June (sadly, they were supposed to run until July 16, but someone broke into the space and stole all the tech for the project, forcing the artists to close the exhibition a week early). “Koncertsal” was deinstalled July 16–17, 2017, and because the Holstebro Theatre Festival brought thousands of visitors to the small town of Holstebro, almost 4,500 local, national and international visitors participated in Ad Hoc Collective’s art installation.
Creating Interactive, Community-based Art as a Collective
Many artists in Ad Hoc Collective had worked with fellow members in the past: Curators Georgia Muenster and Jean Barberis started working together on collaborative projects in 2008, and the lead administrators, Jens Ardal and Morten Kromann, have been working together since their time in art school.
Georgia and Jean have a practice of always working collaboratively with other artists. They enjoy approaching challenges as a group effort rather than fixing things individually. The process of collaboration puts emphasis on group interpretations rather than individual creativity.
Jean says, “This way of working plays to the strength of each artist involved. There’s something exciting about walking into a space with a concept for an exhibition and [to] partake in a process that will result in something completely unexpected. No single individual controls the vision. The end result is always surprising and surpasses expectations, despite the challenges of working as a group.”
Challenges of Creating Collaborative Art
Speaking of the challenges of working as a group, Jean suggests that letting go of expectations and embracing the collaborative and participatory process is a good way of overcoming, or avoiding, conflict.
When asked if he personally has experienced the feeling of failure as part of an artist collective, he replied that the only time he really felt that something had failed was when the artist group started off with set expectations on what to create, and then they weren’t able to let go of those expectations when they should have.
Jean’s multi-tiered advice for new artist groups who are beginning their work together is to, “Take the time to eat together and play together, listen more than you speak, let go of your ego, and work within your means.” He also advises, “Don’t work with people you wouldn’t be friends with.”
While collaborative, participatory art can be a complex process, Ad Hoc Collective was successful in creating not only a remarkable installation, they were also successful in creating memorable relationships with fellow artists.
They and their colleagues at the host venue were also wise enough to know how and when to relax. Georgia remembers, “…the Kulturdivisionen Slagteriet administrators lounging in our three-person hammock below the video projection during the opening, finally able to take in the piece after weeks of mad work. It was like an oasis of calm in a sea of theater craziness!”
Emerging Artists, Collaborative Art and the Burning Man Global Art Grant Program
Ad Hoc Collective’s “Koncertsal”, a collaborative installation by a group of international artists and the community of Holstebro, is a great example of an art project that embodies the mission of the Burning Man Global Art Grant program. Our program is driven by a willingness to take risks, to give grants to new and emerging artists, and to support artists and projects that focus on interactivity and community-driven processes whose effects reach far beyond the artwork itself. We’re thrilled to have supported Ad Hoc Collective in their creation of “Koncertsal” and look forward to following their careers as artists and innovators.
This new series of Burning Man Journal posts will follow current and alumni recipients of Global Art Grants to share their learnings, processes and stories. Subscribe to the Burning Man Journal and follow along!
To learn more about other Burning Man Global Art grantees, and how to apply for a 2018 Global Art Grant this Fall, please visit Burning Man Global Art Grants.