Ice Towers, Sao Paulo Bienal 1996, text by Pierre Restany

The Ice Towers of Energy

With Ice Towers, which she exhibits at the Bienal de São Paulo, Marianne Heske retrieves the tradition of domestic nomadism. It is a tradition she inaugurated in 1980 at the Biennale de Paris, which took place at the Centre Georges Pompidou, where she had reassembled her Tafjord hut, Tafjord being a small and isolated village located on the western coast of Norway. The Tafjord hut (Project Gjerdeloa) was a real wooden hut made of wood and stones with a roof made up covered with vegetation. It served as shelter for visitors and farmers and belonged to a farmer who finally agreed to lend it to Marianne for a year. And so the hut, piece by piece, was disassembled and taken to Paris, were it was rebuilt of wooden planks according to its original design. At its sides two TV sets - witnesses - were placed; the first one to register the spectators and the second showing the hut in its original environment in the mountains. Exactly one year later Marianne transported the hut from Paris back to its native setting as she had promised the owner. To the immemorial graffiti produced in the Norwegian land the hut added Parisian graffiti deriving from a metropolitan culture.

This is how I first came in contact with the striking personality of this young Norwegian who knew how, in such an imperative way, to put technology at the service of nature; this proposal goes beyond a technology of transportation, it gives room to the reinstitution of natural phenomena. In reality, this is the real core of the issue, it is within this relationship between technology and nature that Marianne Heske's work is rooted. With her movements, her excursions, her walks, the artist does not leave behind her video camera. The camera is her third eye, the technical extension of her perceptive sensibility. I vividly remember her landscapes, impressions registered on canvases made up of enlargements of video photograph which had registered the emergence of lava in a volcanic eruption. Based on the photographic document all the development procedures, ranging from the format of the work to the choice to the colours for the printer, were carried out by computers. The flamboyance of reds and oranges of the lava thus extended the objectivity of the vision to the point of the Incandescent, in a process similar to a piece of iron warmed up by the blacksmith until it becomes white. Parallel to the fixed image, Marianne Heske developed a video dialogue which became a part of a "voyage pictures- que", this is the name given by Swiss climbers to their exploits in the late 19th century. The Norwegian artist has never given up this visual nomadism, this addiction to travelling. To speak about travel is to refer to crowds. A tangible metaphor expresses this quantitative awareness of the human context: the uniform mass, a sea made up of balls, the heads of glass dolls. For Marianne the nomenon encompasses the dual particularities. According to Arman, a head and a thousand heads are two different things, but quantitative pheaddition of indivithe relationship established between part and totality does not destroy the starting point, the initial identity. The artist is perfectly aware of this. She has often said that since 1971, in Paris, she has been obsessed by dolls heads, by their bulging eyes and rosebud mouths, to the point of making huge photographic enlargements of them which turn the galaxy from its milky way. Marianne Heske's "voyage picturesque" takes place beyond her native mountains, in the sky and, as it is to be expected, beyond the sky. It is undoubtedly the privilege of Norway's mountains to produce this promiscuity with infinity.

All Marianne Heske's travels have a common denominator which is the space of communication. If the artist tries with her work to reconstitute the essence of this addiction to travel, it is to stimulate to the utmost the space of a privileged communication. This is her way of speaking to others, to speak to men and to register their answer. The Ice Towers in São Paulo constitute the last stage of a long travel within the universe of warmth and coldness, the hinterland which took them from Atlanta, USA, to Lillehammer in Norway by way of Barcelona and Munich. The principle is simple and dean (in accordance with the authors purposes). They are constituted by two towers measuring 80x100x200cm. The left tower whose roof is covered with a red glass disk has its inner side covered by a layer of frozen snow. Inside, the panelled wails warm the room, lightened by the red rays of light coming from the roof. The second tower, the one on the right, is covered with dark wooden panels on the outside and frozen snow on the floor on the inside. The atmosphere is cold and the cold feeling is enhanced by blue light coming from the round glass disk placed over the roof. Taking into consideration the size of both Towers it is surprising that only one person at a time can get inside them. The platform on which the two huts are placed is made up of the black-and white tiles typical of the sidewalks of Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo. The mosaic pattern is equivalent to that of the dolls and the synthetic profile of the whole image recalls the numbered landscapes of the eruptions and snow slides so dearly loved by the artist. The delimited space on the ground presents itself as if it were a ghostly metaphor of humanity. The audience integrates itself in a natural manner in this world-shadow to which it belongs. He experiences the sensation of the communication of warm-cold dialectic as if it were existential rite in which he plays the part of the individual caught in the ensemble. In the conjugation of their declinations the ancient Greeks had addressed an analogue syntax situation: the accusative of relation. The ambition of Mariannne Heske's travelling is unveiled to us step by step in all its dimension. Communication becomes an existential global phenomenon that reaches beyond the egocentric terms of simple dialogue in order to project men into the void space filled up with universal energy. Her sensitivity is but a small particle of the cosmic energy but it has the intuitive power of attaining the whole starting from the part and to assume it as if it were a totality. It is then, as the carrier of energy, that man, aware of his relationship with nature, reaches the universal meaning, that is to say, reaches the peak of his freedom.

This is the basic lesson which Marianne Heske has taught us at the end of her voyage picturesque, a place where the encounter between nature and technology happens under the sign of cosmic energy. Thus we enter the sublime domain of Yves Klein's Void, this Vide Plein within which glow the two fires of alchemy: the fire which burns and the fire which glows. The Ice Towers are among the most powerful and vital contemporary manifestations. It is not by chance that Marianne Heske has at the same time embarked upon the adventure of the Oregon Houses, a homage to Wilhem Reich, the last of the great modem Prometheus's, at the great recycle of vital energy.

Pierre Restany
Paris, March 1996