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Val d’Arcadia is a fictional region of about 4’000km2 situated in the middle of the Swiss Alps. This area is embedded in a hypothetical future where infrastructure and tourists have melted the ice topography level of this region in an unusual way.
Scientists reported that, over the last ten years, Swiss glaciers have lost 20% of their ice volume. As an artistic reinterpretation of this phenomenon, this printed map was created out of the recorded data inside the installation “Artificial Arcadia: measured and adjustable (?) landscapes”, an artwork created by Fragmentin in collaboration with KOSMOS architects. It was commissioned by the Swiss Arts Council Pro Helvetia as their headline exhibit at the Prague Quadriennale of Performance Design and Space 2019.
“Artificial Arcadia” calls us to consider how contemporary landscape entangles natural, artificial and digital realms. Every 5 minutes, a new 1km2 area of the Alps was randomly selected and translated into the 4x4m kinetic surface of the artwork to create new icy-looking landscapes. Visitors – or tourists – were then invited to enter the space. Their body temperature and movements were recorded and had a direct impact on the shape of the scaled landscape.
The artwork is inspired by the aesthetic of Swiss man-made infrastructure – for example “bauprofile” markers, political devices indicating the intended location of a future building or white blankets placed over the Rhône glacier to help slow down its melting. They illustrate how technology is used throughout Switzerland to help maintain its famed and heavily romanticised alpine landscape.
Extending “Artificial Arcadia” with this printed object is one way to continue this research on the topic. It represents inferred ice and snow level in the Alps and highlights the 752 km2 areas melted due to the heat generated by visitors walking through the installation during the ten days of the Quadriennale. Out of these 752 interesting and various organic shapes sorted in a grid, 8 of them were selected as a visual case study.
As a symbolic antidote to global warming and glaciers melting, at least one tree will be planted at each sale of this object. To illustrate this action, a pen plotter machine will draw a pictogram of your trees as an additional layer on the map.
However, both the installation and the map do not stop at only considering how technology impacts nature. An understanding of how computational and digital technologies are used throughout the world to monitor, describe and visualise natural and non-natural phenomena is also key to Fragmentin’s vision. Highlighting specific aspects of Swiss landscape introduces theoretical questions about climate change, technology and nature applicable to the entire planet.
How will the topography of glaciers look like in 100 years ? Which balance should we find between human, infrastructure and our natural landscape ?
Artistic concept, content & research : Fragmentin
Graphic design: Giliane Cachin