|Hilden & Diaz
Venus of Willendorf
A reminder that fertility is not simply a given gift…
Text By Caroline Levisse
A video-installation by Thyra Hilden and Pio Diaz
Ørestad boulevard 75
DK- 2300 Copenhagen S
November 14th – December 18th, 2009
Every day from 5 pm to 10 pm (except Dec. 1st, 11th and 18th)
From November 14th to December 18th, people passing by or entering Ørestad High School will get a real surprise: a giant breast with milk progressively flowing out of the nipple is hung in the entrance hall. This immense video-installation, called Venus of Willendorf, is the last creation of the Danish-Argentinean artist duo Thyra Hilden and Pio Diaz. Since 2007, they have been celebrated around the world for their spectacular video project City on Fire - Burning the Roots of Western Culture whose purpose is to set emblematic monuments on fire.
The present installation is another attempt to address a universal concept, fertility. Their source of inspiration is not of the least importance; indeed, Hilden and Diaz reinterpret one of humanity’s first images, a true cultural icon: the Prehistoric sculpted figure of the “Venus of Willendorf” (24.000- 22.000 years BC). This reinterpretation is significant in the context of the group show “Glowing Climate” organized by Illumenarts and in link with COP15, the UN Climate Change Conference (Copenhagen, Dec. 7-18, 2009). While the politicians and officials from around the world will discuss the use of the planet’s resources, Hilden and Diaz propose a reflection on the meaning of fertility in our postindustrial society, not in a museum but in a place dedicated to the young generations, that is to say the future decision makers.
The fertile roots of humanity
The Venus of Willendorf is an archetype, a universal concept, something that we all share as human beings: nature and nature’s most prominent characteristic, fertility. Therefore, Venus of Willendorf connects us altogether and transcends our historical and cultural differences. Since the beginning of humanity, nature as a giving force has constantly been represented with large or multiple breasts, they are the symbols of its fertility and abundance. Hilden and Diaz have chosen to show only one breast, which has the shape of a globe, making explicit the link between woman’s fertility and earth’s fertile ground. But as all archetypes nature has a dual nature, it fascinates and scares us at the same time because it gives but it also takes away. Venus of Willendorf is not merely a celebration of nature’s generous resources; there is also something uncanny or uneasy about this out-of-scale single breast, which sometimes stops giving milk.
Greed as a decadent path toward sterility
Fertility is at the very core of humanity’s survival and has always been a concern for human beings. During some periods, for instance the Prehistory, it was a crucial issue, while at some other times it was pushed back in the shadow. Today, fertility has become again an important matter as it is endangered by two centuries of industrial lifestyle. Resources are becoming scarcer and sterility seems to be increasing supposedly caused by pesticides, radio-waves and other modern creations. For the sake of advancement and progress, we might have pulled nature’s giving power too hardly; we are literally sucking it dry. Of course, the purpose of Hilden and Diaz’s Venus of Willendorf is neither to accuse us individually nor to state that technological advancement is bad per se; rather, through this weird and fascinating encounter with a single immense breast, we are invited to reflect on our desires of instant satisfaction, our need to always have more, and the way in which we are using natural resources.
This is a very actual reflection if we consider that from December 7th to 18th, the world’s decision makers will gather in Copenhagen for the United Nations’ international conference on Climate Change (COP15). Their main purpose is to envisage some solutions to the problem of Co2 emissions, which are and will be the cause of dramatic changes in our life-style on earth, wherever we live. Co2 emissions come from our frenetic use of fossil resources. In front of this situation, Thyra Hilden and Pio Diaz have not chosen to create a doomsday representation; nor have they created a naïve idealization of nature; their artistic way is more subtle. They are shedding light on a thousand years old archetype, in order to remind us of the importance of the natural things, things that we usually take for granted and therefore don’t think about them. This is why their installation Venus of Willendorf is both threatening and familiar; it addresses our intimate link with the mother’s chest as a symbol of nature’s fertile resources but it also provokes some thoughts about the extreme use we have made of these resources during the last centuries.
Hilden and Diaz have recreated an new icon, completely relevant for our society, gathering the opposites in a meaningful tension and calling the past in order to envisage the future through a reflection on the present time.
Text By Caroline Levisse
COP15- UN Climate Change Conference
Copenhagen, December 7-18, 2009
For ten days, the world’s leaders and their representatives will discuss the central and urgent problem of Co2 emissions and their consequences for the environment. Their main goal is to find some concrete solutions allowing a significant decrease of greenhouse gases.
Klimaforum09- The alternative climate conference
Copenhagen, December 7-18, 2009
COP15 is officially only open to governments’ officials; but a lot of other initiatives are inviting each of us to participate. It is the case with Klimaforum09, which wishes to foster a reflection on a more social and sustainable future and which is open to every one of us!
Thyra Hilden & Pio Diaz