The third installment of Berliner Luft features a new sculptural work by Julian Charrière titled Empire (2020). The piece was influenced by his 2019 investigations of the icy landscapes of Greenland for his latest film Towards No Earthly Pole and his 2016 expedition to the nuclear testing grounds of the Marshall Islands for his work on the Pacific Fiction series. Empire, sunk into the concrete floor of the viewing room, confronts issues that pose a menace to humanity, threatening the extermination of civilizations.
In Empire, coconuts that Charrière collected in the Marshall Islands are individually encased in lead. This material coating smothers, suppresses, signifying a colonial imposition, while also “containing” the danger posed by the radiation present within. The contaminated coconuts stand as witnesses to the nuclear weapons tests carried out by the Americans in the 1950s and demonstrate the trauma inflicted on this region by the nuclear project at the dawn of a new era. Stacked as ammunition, the weaponized coconuts evoke the form of an ancient pyramid, with reference to the persistence of culture as well as an architecture of death.
The weighted coconuts now rest on a traditional Inuit sledge that Charrière brought back from Greenland, the climatic opposite to their tropical island origins. In this pairing, the work is conceptually completed. Sinking from its ballast into the melting ice and rising sea level, the work Empire tells of the destructive power of humanity, whose impact extend from the Bikini Atoll to arctic glacial landscapes. The sledge pulled by dogs, a means of transport created by humans themselves, threatens to perish, and with its demise, suggests an extinction or effacement of culture.
Following his solo show at MASI Lugano, Switzerland, Charrière is currently preparing institutional shows to feature an expanded body of works from Towards No Earthly Pole at Aargauer Kunsthaus, Aarau, Switzerland, and the Dallas Museum of Art, Texas, United States, both to open in September 2020.