François-Henry Bennahmias, CEO of Audemars Piguet, welcomed guests to the event saying: ‘Art has always been an important source of inspiration for Audemars Piguet and collaborating with someone like Robin who is so accessible and who makes you travel to the heart of nature is such a different and poetic experience. We want to thank him and Marc-Olivier for producing such a great project.” François also thanked Art Basel for the successful and ongoing partnership with Audemars Piguet.
Guests were welcomed to last night’s event to celebrate Audemars Piguet’s activities at Art Basel’s show in Basel, 2015. With artist Robin Meier and curator, Marc-Olivier Wahler in attendance, the reception was held in the Volkshaus, where “Synchronicity” was unveiled. After the speeches, guests had the opportunity to visit the mysterious installation in small groups with the artist, and there was a heightened sense of anticipation among the audience.
Meier’s large-scale installation focuses on the principles of order in nature. “Synchronicity” explores the natural phenomena of how fireflies found in remote parts of the world flash bioluminescent light in unison, and how crickets chorus together in a single regulated pulse. Meier’s work, exhibited in a specially equipped air-locked tent, takes the form of an abandoned greenhouse overflowing with nature. Once inside, the viewer is greeted by audial and visual pulses flooding the space in a rhythmic beat. The sounds of cricket chirps, metronome beats, water pumps and various other electronic materials seem to harmonise with light emitted by hundreds of fireflies flying freely and flashing in unison. Various species of plants cascading water containers, and tiny glowing lights are integrated within the installation. Machines and monitors turn on and off intermittently, displaying scientific laboratory footage of fireflies and crickets.
The fireflies’ synchronised flashes have created a puzzle for researchers for many years. Supported and facilitated by the Audemars Piguet Art Commission, Robin Meier and his team have collaborated with entomological laboratories in Japan, Thailand, France, and the UK to research this extraordinary natural phenomenon and to create the necessary conditions for bringing these insects to Europe. Audemars Piguet forged connections with research scientists and organisations, such as the Swiss-based Papiliorama Foundation, which raises awareness about tropical forests and biodiversity. Meier has worked alongside the Papiliorama Foundation as well as a group of specialised scientific collaborators drawn from the fields of genetic engineering, computer science, firefly breeding, cricket chorusing, bioacoustics, and cognitive science to guide his efforts in developing the new commission.
In the course of his research, the artist has learned that by distributing light sources, specifically LED lights, throughout the swarm of fireflies, it is possible to guide their flashes. The light sources in Meier’s work blink in rhythm with ticking metronomes grouped in the middle of the installation. The metronomes likewise move in unison, synchronised by the vibrations they create and transmit through the floor. These metronomes echo the sounds produced by computers installed in the space. In addition, crickets chirp in tandem with the metronomes and the firefly flashes. Together, these varied components of the installation function as a single organism–a kind of self-regulated orchestra that generates its own dynamics.
Meier’s interest in temporal patterns echoes the harmonious conformity manifested in the intricate mechanics of Audemars Piguet’s timepieces. Working in collaboration with the internationally renowned curator, Marc-Olivier Wahler, Audemars Piguet invited Meier to the brand’s home in Le Brassus, Switzerland, at the start of the commission process. There, the artist learned about Audemars Piguet’s 140-year tradition of precision, expert craftsmanship, and innovation. He was selected by an international advisory council from a shortlist of three finalists proposed by the guest curator. In addition to making a contribution to an important strain of discourse in contemporary art practice involving physical and biological systems, his groundbreaking work presents a strong connection to the craftsmanship, forward thinking, and technical excellence inherent to Audemars Piguet’s historic legacy of watchmaking.
In addition, Audemars Piguet, in partnership with The Art Newspaper, will host a talk to consider the themes raised by Robin Meier’s work, “Synchronicity”. The panel, titled “It’s No Coincidence” will be chaired by Anna Somers Cocks (Founder editor and CEO of The Art Newspaper) and will feature experts in their respective fields–Robin Meier (artist), Michael Greenfield (Professor in Neurosciences) and Michael Friedman (Audemars Piguet Historian). The panel will discuss and analyse the installation, which lies at the cross section of art, science, and nature.