One-two in the red light district

Florian Jenett’s exhibition “Lookahead” in Weißfrauenkirche, 10 – 21 May 2010, Frankfurt/ Main

Deutscher Text

The countervailing thrust of “Projections of the future and the effects they have on decisions in the here and now” is the subject matter of Florian Jenett’s installation entitled “Lookahead”, on display in Frankfurt’s Weißfrauenkirche.

A gigantic geodesic dome has been placed anachronistically plumb in the middle of the church’s nave. From a purely formal perspective, the futuristic white round cupola with its net composed of polygons is in dialog with the architectural features of the large church hall and the line pattern on the minimalist natural stone tiles on the ground as it is with the round stained church windows high up in the room. The connection of object and space is emphasized particularly in those moments when sunlight shimmers through the stained windows, its reflections immersing the dome’s white outer shell in a fleeting game of colorful projections.

Visitors step from the passageway through a pressure gate into the air-filled balloon. White on the outside yet colored on the inside, the dome’s inner skin surprises with its shimmering variety of different facets bearing details of large advertising motifs that have been artistically altered. The illusion of a single prevailing focal point has been dispensed with altogether.
The cozy refuge provided by the dome in the midst of the protective space that is the church relates the concepts of freedom and being locked away, with visitors finding themselves in a hermetically sealed interior space that is equally an imaginary place of refuge, in the midst of the everyday reality of what is a special urban hot spot in Frankfurt’s red light district.

Assuming man’s incarnation did, in fact, constitute his spatiality, the consequences would be considerable. Drawing on psychoanalysis, Gaston Bachelard has from this basic condition of human life derived his theory of “topoanalysis”, which “would be the systematic psychological study of the sites of our intimate lives”. (1) It is founded on the notion that there exists an analogy between the internal and the external and that the two remain permanently reciprocally related. The unconscious is therefore not located in some undefined site but inhabits interior spaces, which find their matching images in the outside world. The building envelopes the vision and protects the dreamer. Ever since Etienne-Louis Boulée’s (1728-1799) utopian domed structures, particularly so his “Cenotaph for Newton”, buildings have depicted an integrative force for thoughts and memories, aspirations and dreams.

Florian Jenett’s artificially created space-within-a-space is approximately 12.5 meters in diameter and has been composed by dismantling an icosahedron into geometric polygons that were again joined together, resembling a butterfly’s wings. It is mainly by way of economic recycling of perfectly cut shapes from everyday advertising tarpaulins, in conjunction with the notion of economic maxims and an interest in the continuous systemic effects of natural principles, that Florian Jenett draws on the ideas of the iconic US progressive thinker and designer Richard Buckminster Fuller (1895-1983). Among others, it was Fuller who in the 1940s decidedly shaped the concept of the geodesic dome.

Buckminster Fuller’s influence on contemporary art is, 27 years following his death, more obvious than ever: It is thanks to the thought of Buckminister Fuller that Olafur Eliasson, for example in “Blind Pavillion” (2), relies on an extensive steel and glass installation to create an experience of human perception, or that such sculptures as Pedro Reyes’ 2007 piece “Velotaxi” and equally Josiah McElheny’s abstract sculptural works are rooted in the exploration of universal geometric forms. Even Andrea Zittel’s compact futuristic “Living Units”, performance installations as exaggerated images of efficient living in the most cramped conditions, are strongly reminiscent of Buckminster Fuller’s somewhat whacky concepts of living. (3)
With his “Lookahead” dome Florian Jenett evidently finds himself among illustrious artistic company. A common feature of all geodesic domes, Jenett’s “Lookahead” dome also has good stability and a favorable material-to-volume ratio. The dome’s advantages as a habitat are its natural sound distribution and air circulation. Geodesic domes have excellent acoustic properties, too.

“The dome in Lookahead is a replica of a radar station operated on the Wasserkuppe (Rhoen) by Germany’s Federal Armed Forces during the Cold War. It is composed of a quasi random pattern of facets. (…) This pattern is made up of two strikingly opposing elements: abstract butterflies which seemingly move freely among regularly arranged pentagrams. For purely rational reasons a form took shape that with its range of interpretative possibilities transform the dome into an industrial sculpture.” Florian Jenett (4)

Florian Jenett’s “Lookahead” is a contemporary piece set within the artistic tradition of utopian habitats and relates directly to such works as Bucky Fuller’s “Dome Over Manhattan”, “Clean Air Pod” by the Ant Farm group, and “Oase Nr.7” by Haus-Rucker-Co. (5) Similarly to Thomas Saraceno’s “Air Port City”, Florian Jenett confronts with his “Lookahead” dome political, social, cultural and military boundaries.

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In a world in which the future is no longer safe, in which grim news of climate change, economic crises und geopolitical dilemmas cause dark forebodings not only among self-confessed pessimists, visions of the future are becoming increasingly more relevant again. Gerald Hintze, curator of the exhibition project, by emphasizing the special significance of Florian Jenett’s work in a location that provides homeless people with a sheltered space, allows the artist to send a signal with his installation “Lookahead”. Visually, Florian Jenett not only points the finger at cultural and social problems, but he moreover offers spectators a potential solution. In this sense, we can be curious about the future and new works by Florian Jenett. We are looking ahead mesmerized.

Zylvia Auerbach
Frankfurt/ Main, 2010

1. Gaston Bachelard “The Poetics of Space”, The Beacon Press, Boston, 1969, p. 8
2. Daniel Birnbaum “Aussen”, Olafur Eliasson, Innen-Stadt-Aussen, Verlag der Buchhandlung Walther König, Cologne, 2010. p. 25 f
3. Lisa Delgado “Symposium Spotlights Bucky’s Artistic Heirs”, Oculus, New York, 2008
4. from the press release on the exhibition, May 2010
5. Friedrich von Borries “Klimakapseln”, Edition Suhrkamp, Frankfurt/Berlin, 2010