The Verbier 3-D Foundation invited London-based artists Haroon Mirza and Helga Dorothea Fannon for a research-led residency in Verbier to become immersed in the local alpine environment whilst responding to current debates referencing environmental topics of WATER and ENERGY inspired by the materials, technologies and ecological knowledge sourced from the surrounding landscape.
The result is a multifaceted dialogue between the flowing cinematographic work of Helga Dorothea Fannon and the solar sculptural investigations of Haroon Mirza, representing the apex of their residency where their distinct practices converged in creating immersive experiences that highlight the interconnectedness of these elemental forces.
The residency begun in May 2023 initiating their research and exploring the immediate natural environment of Verbier with local Nature Guides. From hiking and discovering the fruiting bodies of various mushrooms and their network of mycelium fungal threads to the mystical intricate forms of borer bugs in the trunks of the local Norwegian Spruce, the artists begun to immerse in the environmental aesthetics of the encompassing alpine landscape.
Their residency continued engaging with local Geobiologist Joël Hiroz. An expert in the study of the Earth's living systems and its energy dynamics, Joël provided a scientific framework and deep understanding of energy flows within natural environments. Drawing from his knowledge of geothermal energy, electromagnetic fields, and bioenergetics, the geobiologist guided the artists towards the untapped sources of energy present in the Verbier 3-D Foundation Sculpture Park and surrounding area. During this investigation, the artists were exposed to divining methods by utlising tools such as dowsing rods and divination pendulums.
Divining, also known as dowsing, is a practice that involves using tools or innate abilities to search for hidden or unknown information, such as water sources, minerals, or energy flows. It is believed to be a way of tapping into intuitive or metaphysical energies to gain insight or guidance.
Through this research, the artists gained fresh insights into the natural world and its intricate interconnectedness. This expanded understanding has the ability to source new artistic concepts, themes, and approaches, transcend disciplinary boundaries and inspire new creative possibilities.
Their research delved further into the Bagnes valley, where they explored the intricacies of the Mauvoisin Dam and Switzerland's hydroelectricity systems. The 250m high concrete giant makes it the highest arch dam in Europe. Built between 1951 and 1958 in the heart of Switzerland’s second-largest nature reserve, it literally overlooks the Val de Bagnes and generates 1,000 GWh of electricity per year. The impounded water behind the dam forms the 4.9-kilometre Lac de Mauvoisin, which has a capacity of 211.5 million m3 and a full surface area of 208 hectares. The dam’s primary purpose is hydroelectric power generation.
Water from the dam is fed to two hydroelectric power stations with a combined capacity of 363 megawatts. Mauvoisin Dam also serves for flood prevention and sediment control. The dam helps protect the Bagnes and Rhône river valleys from glacial lake outburst floods such as ones that occurred in 1595 and 1818. During the 1960s and 1970s, Giétro Glacier adjacent to Lac de Mauvoisin threatened to produce icefalls, which could have overtopped the dam.
The artists embarked on underground hikes, traversing through dim and damp tunnels that serve as the lifeblood of electricity for not only a substantial portion of Switzerland but also extend their influence far beyond its borders. This juxtaposition of man-made engineering against the backdrop of nature's grandeur sparked profound insights around power, progress, soundscapes, structural aesthetics and the ephemeral nature of industry.
Other notable aspects of the residency encompassed experiences such as immersive sonic sound baths facilitated by local sound healers, explorations of nearby rock formations and quarries, as well as the unhurried and humble rhythm imposed by the Alpine environment on one's way of life.
The work developed from this residency by Haroon Mirza and Helga Dorothea Fannon succeeds in engaging viewers on multiple sensory levels, inviting us to reconsider our perceptions, question our assumptions, and foster a deeper connection with the profound forces that shape our world.
These artists encourage us to cultivate an expanded understanding of the natural environment and to reflect on the delicate balance between water and energy. This intimate perceptive recognition is essential for addressing environmental challenges, promoting sustainability, and shaping a future where humans coexist harmoniously with nature.
The Visual Poetry Walk will be on view from 5 August - 22 October 2023.
Haroon Mirza’s solar sculpture will be on view from 5 August (for at least a period of two years.)