About the artists:
The Danish-Argentinean artist couple destabilize European cultural history by setting building and monuments on fire. Thyra Hilden (1972) and Pio Diaz (1973) have for many years excelled in the production of large scale video work, projected on monuments and buildings. January 2007 the people of Aarhus looked on as their new art museum, ARoS, the largest museum of contemporary art in Scandinavia, was consumed by flames. Many called the fire brigade. But what they were witnessing was in fact an art piece; a video illusion on a scale of 1:1. With their virtuoso, virtual fire the young artists demonstrated both the fragility of the actual building, and also the ever-present danger of the cultural amnesia that follows the destruction of a cultural landmark. In the case of ARoS, the piece centered on visual memory via the many treasures in the history of art which exist under constant threat of fading away. The artists have also set Vor Frue Kirke (the cathedral: Church of Our Lady) in Copenhagen and important sites in the Ukraine and Germany on fire. Technically demanding, this work requires the help of many collaborators and epic logistics.
The artists are now engaged in their most challenging video projection to date which, in size and visual poignancy, can be compared to Christo and Jeanne Claude’s colossal works in the public space, it reflects on subjects that are essential to our culture and understanding of the same. And it draws on various aspects of our common cultural awareness and inheritance. . Over the course of the last four years, the artists have been working with the city of Rome to realise this project, and following intense negotiations the pieces have finally fallen into place and now, the ultimate site for this project, Coliseum will burn !
City On Fire - burning the roots of western culture
The duo set the monuments of western cultural history on fire in their joint and ongoing video project “City on Fire.” City on Fire is ‘site specific’ monumental art installations. With their seductive and spectacular artistic gesture, they reveal the fragile and transitory nature of these man-made constructions, and thereby destabilize prevailing order. The old monuments serve as weighty expressions for western culture and identity, and have to a certain extent functioned as templates for later constructions in cultural history. As such they constitute a physical foundation for western self-understanding, which the two artists unpack and recast in their edgy work.
City on Fire first came into being in 2005 when artists Thyra Hilden and Pio Diaz created their first installations in Rome. From the outset, it was the artists´ intention to re-create the installation at other venues of great symbolic significance in the Western world. Still, the symbolic value of Rome, "the cradle of culture", was particularly important to Hilden and Diaz.
A force of transformation.
The subtitle of the project is ‘Burning the Roots of Western Culture’ and even if City on Fire is not a political instrument – rather it is an aesthetic manifest – the very substance of the work holds the desire to highlight the roots of Western culture and the strong opposing forces connected with it. Our culture is like fire, a force of transformation.
The installation has been created specifically in such a way that it involves its audience in a very powerful emotional sense. All movements, actions and sounds in and around the building in question remain un-changed, unaffected, creating a strong contrast with the installation’s visual drama. This contrast will create a surreal dialogue between fire/installation/audience, which will encourage and provoke reflection. The fictive fire ignites the burning question: Shall I walk through fire? A question that reminds us that all people, even in their own pronounced and quiet privacy, have fires to cross. We also ask ourselves if we actually see the fire burning? And consequently if we see the fires burning in the world that surrounds us, or if war and destruction have become merely volatile images, that burn away on the retina as soon as we turn off the television or the computer? The great question posed by the fictive fire is if humans are truly strong, heroic creatures, capable of creating and recreating all that other forces destroy? Or if we ourselves represent destruction – and therefore are unable to rebuild?
The artistic strength of the project lies in this double nature: it is an aesthetic work of art that is not by itself a political manifest. But because of the aesthetic work of art’s inherent qualities it forces its audience to take a stand in the face of the essential questions that arise from the composition of the work, stands of a personal and political character. Shedding new light on ‘old’ surroundings the project inspires us to think about the world we live in. We all have a fire to walk through.
Art into public space
Hilden & Diaz wants to create a project that allows art to reach beyond itself and into reality to leave a mark in (art)history. This is achieved by letting the installations take place in public space rather than inside a museum allowing the aesthetic expression to reflect the great questions and agonies of reality. The vision of CoF is to use the aesthetic expression to create a focus on our destructive actions towards others, rather than the destructive actions done against us – the latter are more often than not the ones that a highlighted the most in politics and in the news.
It is the pronounced wish of the artists to make an art work that will inspire its audience to reflect on the world we live in and the choices we make: what should be ?
To know more about the artists, please visit:
Profile: Thyra Hilden
Born 1972 in Denmark, graduated from the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts, Copenhagen in 2002. Since 1994 Hilden has exhibited her photographic works and video installations in many museums and galleries. Thyra Hilden’s work explores double-sided natures, researching the splits and links between emotion, thought and action. Her art is often based on the hidden and darker sides of the human nature, producing doubts and fear. Her works a balancing act of ambiguous dynamics, vibrating between reality/illusion, inside/outside, fragility/power, insignificant/monumental, tenderness/aggression, and destruction/creation. In the artist’s own words: "Mental challenges and expansion of the mind are created by the friction between inner and outer reality. Exactly these two aspects are always present in the media of photography and video! It is as if the media themselves want to solve the paradox of reality and inner perception." Hilden’s works of art have been exhibited extensively around Europe in museums, galleries, and major biennials. In 2005, at the Danish Institute in Rome, Hilden carried out the first symbolic burning under the headline City on Fire - burning the roots of western culture together with Pio Diaz. To know more about Thyra Hilden please go to: www.thyrahilden.dk
Profile: Pio Diaz
Born 1974 in Argentina, Pio Diaz is curator, artist, conceptual producer and founder of the New Exhibition Space in Gothersgade in Copenhagen 2003-2004. The focus of his work is on political and social art that interacts with everyday life in public space. His artworks often challenge authorities and as artworks they are never easy to categorize; in one an ice cream with relaxing herbs to calm the question of integration was produced, while the ice cream sales financed information for immigrants to access the local Arabic business market. Another work was the sales of defaulted Argentinean bonds after the total economic collapse in Argentina 2001. Diaz has exhibited at several galleries and museums around the world, recently in Argentina, Switzerland, London and USA. In 2005, at the Danish Institute in Rome, he carried out the first symbolic burning under the headline City on Fire - burning the roots of western culture together with Thyra Hilden. To know more about Pio Diaz please go to: www.piodiaz.dk