Swissgrid, Aarau, Switzerland

Opening: September 14. 2018
Art and Architecture Project at the new headquarter building of Swissgrid, Aarau, Switzerland
Project Manager and Curator: Friederike Schmid
Planning architect for art part: Andrea Liberni

Where Does the Rainbow End?

And where does it start? The artistic rainbow that symbolically runs through Swissgrid’s headquarters first took shape in April 2015. The project submitted by the Swiss-New York artist Katja Loher was then selected for realization.

There’s something magical about rainbows. This is also true of Loher’s rainbow, on which ants move through the elements water, earth, air and fire and on into a dream world. On seven sections of the ‘Videoline’ they traverse the colour spectrum of the rainbow. Beginning with red for the element of fire through to violet for the realm of dreams, and the subsequent transformation at the end of the rainbow, the end of the ants’ journey. As a symbol of the contrast between nature and culture, the environment changed by man, the ants metamorphose into electrons, the particles that flash through our power grid so that we can lead a life with all modern comforts.

In the videos of the line of ants and the Bubbles, up to 80 layers merge into fantasy worlds. Rainforest of the Amazon. Coastal bays of the Caribbean Ocean. Rice fields of Nepal. The mysterious vapours arising from Peru’s boiling-hot Mayantuyacu River. Paso del Angel, a mountain ridge trail in Colombia.
And electricity pylons in the Swiss mountains, which, seen through the artist’s eyes, are transformed into an abstract net pattern. Through her projects and the travel they involved to places far off the well-trodden tourist paths, Loher comes into contact with indigenous people, shamans and other creators of art. The viewer is invited on a journey through her fantastic miniverses that adds inspiration and a different frequency into everyday life.

While at Swissgrid the ‘real world’ of electricity is set at 50 Hertz, Loher’s ants run at a different frequency. The artist engages with the ecological concerns of our planet in her works, treating themes such endangered flora and fauna, climate change and the fundamentally unsustainable relationship between man and nature. With her work, Loher seeks to sensitize viewers to the beauty but also the vulnerability of nature. The video compositions created for Swissgrid use their magic to highlight modern concerns relating to energy, digital worlds, society and sustainability.

The ‘Videoline’, which appears as an artistic element in Loher’s works for the first time, was inspired by the architectural concept and the grid, which is depicted in multiple elements. It welcomes visitors under the overhang at the front, and flows through the entrance and market hall to the auditorium. It crosses the entire ground floor in a staccato rhythm. Ants march like flowing current, ultimately metamorphosing into electrons, symbolizing the fluidity of the medium of electricity.

Viewers are confronted with enigmatic, philosophical questions that draw them back to the magic of the work on a poetic level
in four languages. Ants choreographed by the artist and filmed from above form a video alphabet. The danced letter shapes then form words and these in turn become questions.

Loher’s choreography, which embeds these text layers in complex scenarios, found its inspiration in the ant colonies: vast networks, good organisation and division of labour. Each individual is assigned certain tasks. The contribution of the individual boosts the reliability of the system as a whole. “Many individuals” guarantee the security of the system and the efficiency of the work through the division of labour and tasks. The information they exchange enables the ant colony to regulate its collecting activity. The memory of previously visited locations is preserved and makes it possible to choose between locations of varying yield.

“Where does the rainbow end?” is a metaphor for the active interaction of people, born of
a synthesis of choreography, dance, costumes and poetry. For Swissgrid, this work of art, closely interwoven as it is with the architecture, is the artistic antithesis to the world of work.

Photos: Grazia Branco