“The idea for the project is precision and complexity,” says Lars Jan of “Slow-Moving Luminaries,” the third annual Audemars Piguet Art Commission for Art Basel Miami Beach. “The piece is also about long-term oscillations. It’s about shifts that have been happening on a geological timescale, and it’s also about the fragility not only of the environment, but the fragility of us in our built environment. And the sensitivity of the border of land and water, and civilization which we’ve built up right to the edge of it. That’s an old story.”
Before he was selected for the art commission, Jans visited Audemars Piguet headquarters in the remote Le Brassus, Switzerland. He was struck by the family-owned company’s dedication to horological tradition. “These Swiss artisans were making tiny mechanical models of these massive moving bodies at a scale they could barely comprehend. The contemplation of time itself is at the heart of what they do, and is at the heart of the project,” says Jan.
The Los Angeles artist has designed an immersive pavilion, located on the Miami Beach Oceanside, as a space for visitors to engage with longer thoughts around topics of time. Visitors enter on the ground level of the structure, guided through the space on a pathway which winds past building-like sculptures rising and lowering on lifts into a skylight. Emerging up onto the roof, visitors encounter a water-covered reflecting pool, where the sculptures from below emerge and sink back into. Over the course of 56 minutes, the buildings synchronize so that they all rise and fall together once, with the Miami Beach skyline of hotels and condos as a backdrop. The pathway on the ground level spells out “SOS,” only visible from overhead.
“In terms of watches as philosophical objects, a lot of things I carry with me are really meant to distract me from what’s happening from the moment,” Jan says. “I literally have a hard time having long thoughts now, so I have to create situations — sometimes it’s going to art, sometimes its hiking, sometimes it’s being in the water, but I have to engineer situations to try and have longer thoughts so I can take things past steps one, two, three before I move on to another idea. This installation is trying to be a space like that.”