Meriem Bennani creating her sculpture.
Muhammad Yusuf, Features Writer
Moroccan artist Meriem Bennani’s first public sculpture, Windy, has been unveiled in New York. Active in the region, she was a participant in Campus Art Dubai and at the 2017 edition of the fair, was commissioned to create her interactive installation, Ghariba/Stranger.
Windy — Bennani’s kinetic sculpture — opened June 23 on the High Line, New York, as part of High Line Art’s 2022-2023 commissions. Co-commissioned by High Line Art and Audemars Piguet Contemporary, Windy is on view to the public till May, 2023.
The launch heralded the summer season of High Line Art’s programme. Windy represents the shift in the artist’s career into the realm of abstraction, as it attempts to capture the frenzied and intoxicating energy of NYC, in its shape and movement.
The sculpture also celebrates the end of the pandemic lockdowns, as the city regains the vibrancy and liveliness it is famous for.
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High Line Art and Audemars Piguet Contemporary have partnered to create a platform for artists to experiment and further develop their practices, reflected in this new material phase in Bennani’s practice.
It is Bennani’s first public sculpture and is on show on the High Line at 24th Street. Bennani’s project also marks the first time High Line Art and Audemars Piguet Contemporary are co-curating and commissioning a public sculpture.
The curators from High Line Art and Audemars Piguet Contemporary worked closely together with Bennani and the High Line Art’s expert team of fabricators, to bring the ambitious artwork to life.
The artwork translates the artist’s command of film and animation into a kinetic 3-D sculpture, that alludes to movement represented in her video work.
Breaking norms of traditional static sculpture, it is a motorised spinning tornado that will rotate at varying speeds for a full year.
Standing at just over nine feet tall, the sculpture is made from approximately 200 stacked foam disks. Electrical bike motors comprise its spine, connecting to each section of foam layers.
The engines are programmed by the artist; all sections spin at varying speeds and sequences, creating loops that never repeat.
In this way, Windy reflects Bennani’s video practice: the time sequences of a multi-channel video installation propels each screen on its own, unsynchronised loop.
Windy is built to withstand all four seasons of New York. The disks are made of lightweight UV-proof and waterproof foam that enables the sculpture to spin in rain or shine. The foam was also managed and designed to cut excess waste during the fabrication process.
Born in Morocco and based in New York City, Bennani is best known for her video work that tell stories of human behaviour and our experiences both on and offline.
Her works blend references from reality TV, cartoons, documentary film and social media, often with a humorous and absurdist touch.
Windy is more abstract than her previous works. The commission enabled her to explore a new direction in her practice, while drawing on several areas of inspiration.
The frenetic movement of the sculpture captures the experience of walking through New York City’s crowded streets and the frequency of movement on the High Line, one of the city’s most visited public parks.
As the metropolis continues to return to life following the pandemic lockdowns, Windy is a poignant visual of New York City’s frenzied and intoxicating energy.
Says Bennani: “The project is at once inspired by moving images and in many ways reminds me of the process of animation, while at the same time presents something quite different and even opposite to my video practice. Windy is much more abstract than my other works and open to many different interpretations.” Cecilia Alemani, Donald R. Mullen, Jr. Director & Chief Curator, High Line Art, says: “It’s an exciting moment to see Meriem expand her practice to new forms and master quite an engineering feat with this kinetic work.” Audrey Teichmann, curator at Audemars Piguet Contemporary, says: “It has been a pleasure to accompany Meriem on this journey of exploring her relationship to sculpture and pushing the boundaries of what a sculpture can be.” Bennani (b. 1988, Rabat, Morocco) is an artist based in New York. In 2022, in addition to Windy, she will present solo exhibitions at the Renaissance Society, Chicago, Illinois (2022) and Nottingham Contemporary, Nottingham, England (2022).
Founded in 2009, High Line Art commissions and produces a wide array of artwork, including site-specific commissions, exhibitions, performances, video programmes, and a series of billboard interventions.
Led by Alemani and presented by the High Line, the art programme invites artists to think of creative ways to engage with the unique architecture, history and design of the park, and to foster a dialogue with the surrounding neighbourhood and urban landscape.
The High Line is both a nonprofit organisation and a public park on the West Side of Manhattan. It is devoted to reimagining public spaces to create connected, healthy neighbourhoods and cities. Visitors can experience a performance, enjoy food or beverage, or connect with friends and neighbours — all while enjoying a unique perspective of New York City. The High Line is owned by the City of New York and operates under a licence agreement with NYC Parks.
Audemars Piguet Contemporary commissions international artists to create contemporary artworks, striving to foster a global community of creators.
Audemars Piguet is the oldest fine watchmaking manufacturer still in the hands of its founding families (Audemars and Piguet). It is based in Le Brassus, Switzerland, since 1875.
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