BMW Art Journey winner Zac Langdon-Pole presents new artwork and celebrates book premiere at Soho House Art Talk

Assimilation Study, 2017 by Zac Langdon-Pole Photography: Dirk Pauwels
Assimilation Study, 2017 by Zac Langdon-Pole Photography: Dirk Pauwels

From December 5 to 8, 2019, the Art Basel show in Miami Beach will present a wide range of artistic oeuvres by emerging and established artists represented by 269 leading international galleries presenting modern and contemporary art. The BMW Art Journey, a joint initiative between Art Basel and BMW, will present new work from last year’s recipient Zac Langdon-Pole at the BMW Lounge, located in the Collectors Lounge area. Langdon-Pole´s publication documenting his journey will be launched during an exclusive Soho House & BMW i Art Talk on December 3, 2019. As a long-term global partner of the show, BMW will again offer the VIP shuttle service. Street artist Spencer “MAR“ Guilburt will embark on the BMW 8 Series Mural Tourthroughout the city of Miami, documented digitally @bmwgroupculture.

Installation view of Zac Langdon-Pole at ‘Ars-Viva-2018’, in Ghent Photography: Dirk Pauwels
Installation view of Zac Langdon-Pole at ‘Ars-Viva-2018’, in Ghent Photography: Dirk Pauwels

BMW Art Journey “Sutures of the Sky” by Zac Langdon-Pole
Last year’s BMW Art Journey recipient Zac Langdon-Pole (represented by Michael Lett, Auckland) will be in Miami Beach presenting new artwork and the publication “Constellations” on his BMW Art Journey. The trajectory of Zac Langdon-Pole’s BMW Art Journey, titled “Sutures of the Sky”, took him back in time by exploring how people have mapped the stars throughout history. Long before the compass and the sextant, it was skillful observation of migratory birds and following the stars which allowed Polynesian voyagers to navigate great distances all across the Pacific Ocean. With his focus on celestial mapping, from Europe to the Pacific Islands, Langdon-Pole sought to trace how Western forms of mapping have interacted with perspectives from the Pacific region.

“The BMW Art Journey allowed me to research the idea of time and navigation as well as how humans have tried to map their place in the universe over the millennia. I was compelled by the idea that something as lofty and laden with awe as the stars could be a useful lens through which to explore more human and planetary truths. An important realization for me on this journey has been to see multiple forms of mapping in relation to one another. This is how richer, more complex stories and relationships to a place can be formed”, states Zac Langdon-Pole reflecting on his travels.

Weaving through Western Europe, and the Pacific islands of Hawai’i, the Marshall Islands, Samoa and New Zealand from December 2018 to March 2019, his BMW Art Journey sought to understand how culture intersects with the science of celestial mapping, and consequently how it transcends into larger existential inquiries about our identities and our location in this increasingly globalized world.

From London, Amsterdam, Rotterdam, Dordrecht to Paris, Montignac, and Marseille the first leg of Langdon-Pole’s journey provided a site for preliminary research on early printed star charts and representations of celestial mapping between different regions. In London, the artist visited the Royal Academy’s “Oceania” exhibition, including works by indigenous artists and craftsmen spanning 500 years that demonstrate the astounding mobility of people in the Pacific Islands throughout history. In France Langdon-Pole viewed a prehistoric map of the night sky situated within the Lascaux caves near Montignac. It dates back at least 16,500 years, depicting star constellations that were believed to keep track of astronomical events. The research and travel during this leg of the BMW Art Journey examined how the star systems of the Southern Hemisphere were imagined from a European perspective across various historical periods.

The second leg of the artist’s journey kicked off in Hawai’i, where the artist visited Mauna Kea and Honolulu. The Mauna Kea Observatories, located at the summit of Mauna Kea on the Big Island of Hawai’i, offered Langdon-Pole the opportunity to explore the presence and mediated dominance of Western astronomy as a starting point in the Pacific Ocean. While these observatories represent the pinnacle of scientific and technological engagement with the stars, the artist explored how their presence is entwined with fraught opposition by indigenous Hawaiians.

Residuals (a)’, 2018, by Zac Langdon-Pole 2018, aluminium tool case, Greater Bird of Paradise taxidermy re-prepared with legs removed, two o-cut pieces of Muonionalusta meteorite (ne octahedrite, from Sweden), three o-cut pieces of Nantan meteorite (coarse octahedrite, from Peoples Republic of China)
Residuals (a)’, 2018, by Zac Langdon-Pole 2018, aluminium tool case, Greater Bird of Paradise taxidermy re-prepared with legs removed, two o-cut pieces of Muonionalusta meteorite (ne octahedrite, from Sweden), three o-cut pieces of Nantan meteorite (coarse octahedrite, from Peoples Republic of China)

Furthermore, Langdon-Pole traveled to the Marshall Islands to meet with Alson Kelen of the organization Waan Aelõñ in Majel (Canoes of the Marshall Islands) (WAM) on the atoll of Majuro. In doing so the artist aimed to learn how connections to these past traditions can tie to the future of these islands in the context of rising sea levels. Amongst delving into star navigation methods of the region, the artist also researched the Mattang, Meddo and Rebbelib ‘stick charts’ that map the wave currents and ocean swells throughout the 34 islands and atolls of the Marshall Islands archipelago.

Before heading back to New Zealand to conduct further research and consolidate his work, Langdon-Pole visited the island of Upolu and Apia in Samoa. He travelled together with Samoan-New Zealand artist and composer Michael Lee to learn about the traditions of celestial navigation songs.

Zac Langdon-Pole at Art Basel in Miami Beach 2019
Zac Langdon-Pole will be on the ground at Art Basel in Miami Beach to present new artwork at the BMW Lounge. The presentation will debut a new body of work that stems directly from his research on the BMW Art Journey. Throughout his travels Langdon-Pole collected small samples of sand from specified locations. Then, using an analogue photographic method in a darkroom, he utilized these samples to make photograms of sand from each specified location. Sand is a material with deeply metaphorical associations—from being an analogy for time, as with an hour-glass, to the infinite, as in Jorge Luis Borges’s short story “The Book of Sand”, to loss and entropy, as in Paul Celan’s poetry collection, “The Sand from the Urns”.

In a wider context, Langdon-Pole considers these works as lyrical documents of sites threatened by the prevailing forces of climate breakdown: the erosion of shorelines and the desertification of landscapes. Resembling a view of a starry night-sky, complete with data on the date and place each sand sample was collected, Langdon-Pole’s sand photograms extend the aphorism ‘as above so below’ towards speculative futures of our planet’s changing climate.

‘Passport’, 2018, by Zac Langdon-Pole Photography: Nick Ash
‘Passport’, 2018, by Zac Langdon-Pole Photography: Nick Ash

Also presented will be a piece by Langdon-Pole entitled “Orbits” (2019). Consisting of a pair of human anatomical (orbital) eye models, Langdon-Pole has replaced the eyeball component of each model with carved and polished spheres of varying materials. In one is a sphere of jasper embedded with numerous fossilized Turritella shells (approximately 250 million years old), juxtaposed with a sphere of rainbow obsidian. Rainbow obsidian is rock formed from volcanic lava that has cooled rapidly. Obsidian is extremely opaque, and rainbow or sheen obsidian— as it is also known—contains naturally forming nanorod crystals that reveal iridescent rings of color when struck by light. With their paired juxtapositions, Langdon-Pole’s “Orbits” convey varying orders of time, suggesting an elapsed duration or perhaps the unending flows and transformations of earthly matter.

Soho House & BMW i Art Talk “Stargazing – a conversation about art and space” on December 3, 2019 at 7.30 PM with Zac Langdon-Pole, Sanford Biggers and Terry Virts
As part of an ongoing collaboration, Soho House and BMW i have co-created an international program of events and experiences throughout Soho House locations in Europe and North America with panelists including Chris Dercon, Christian Marclay, Abigail Reynolds, Jon Rafman, and David Adjaye.

The iteration of the series during Art Basel in Miami Beach will focus on artistic narratives around constellations in space and cosmos. Panelists are Zac Langdon-Pole, last year´s BMW Art Journey recipient, visual artist Sanford Biggers and Terry Virts, former NASA astronaut and ISS commander, moderated by András Szántó. The event will feature the launch of the Hatje Cantz-published book, “Constellations”, which documents Langdon-Pole’s BMW Art Journey.  The panel discussion will be followed by a cocktail reception.

BMW 8 Series Mural Tour with Alexandre Arrechea and Spencer “MAR“ Guilburt
Paying homage to Miami as a hub for street art, BMW partnered up with street artist Spencer “MAR” Guilburt and visual artist Alexandre Arrechea. The two atists will go on a tour with the all-new BMW 8 Series, to visit murals in the city of Miami – partly created by Guilburt – as well as artworks of Arrechea exhibited at Nara Roesler Gallery’s booth at Art Basel in Miami Beach. Their unfolding conversation will explore intersections and respective inspirations of their practices. The murals are located across Miami, from Wynwood Art District to South Beach and the Midtown Design District. The BMW 8 Series Mural Tour will be shared on the social media channels of the artists (@this_means, @alexandrearrechea) and via BMW Group Cultural Engagement (@bmwgroupculture).

BMW is a global partner of Art Basel and has supported Art Basel’s three shows in Basel, Miami Beach and Hong Kong for many years.

The BMW Art Journey by Langdon-Pole will be on exhibition at Art Basel in June 2019. For more information visit the Michael Lett website and the BMW Art Journey website

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