Harold Guérin’s Practice: Where Speed, Technology and Nature Collide

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These new technologies try to make virtual reality more powerful than actual reality, which is the true accident. The day when virtual reality becomes more powerful than reality will be the day of the big accident. Mankind never experienced such an extraordinary accident.” (Virilio 1997a: 43)

Not everyone experiences or values landscape the same way. While changes occur repeatedly due to both natural and human disasters, we strive to make nature and our environment in our own likeness. Las Vegas and Dubai were built out of nothing and yet have significantly changed the natural scenery. These alterations greatly demonstrate the limitless greed of humankind as well as our endeavor to change the biological fabric of the Earth. Yet, without the advent of technology and all the inventions that followed, there would be no high-speed trains, no cars, and no airplanes: the world would not be as connected as it is now. Distance has changed the way we value time and space. Needless to say that the world has become a gigantic database: everything is measurable and everything is reachable. For instance, Google Earth or even a simple GPS tracker plays a significant role in opening new ways of looking at the world although they are mere simplifications of reality. This is exactly what French artist Harold Guerin wants to represent. This is with subtlety and precision that he brings the impact of progress into the viewer’s eyes. Harold Guerin, whose body of work investigates landscape, technology and urban planning, wants us to grasp what we are often inattentive to. His method is rooted in the extraction of natural elements and in their confrontation with human creations. The visual generosity of Harold is reminiscent of that of Giuseppe Penone, an emblematic figure of the Arte Povera. Both artists share the same enthusiasm for rethinking nature and stimulating the viewer visually while establishing a relationship between man and nature.

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In his latest work “Focus”, he combines various substances, extracted from the soil, that were shaped beforehand in a lens. The work reminisces a geological core freshly extracted, though, larger. While a zoom is used for increasing the size of an object, the geological core is of considerable dimension and represents an enlarged version of both the lens and the components that make up the Earth. In one of his previous works, Harold arranged numerous tripods holding rock fragments as to reproduce a landslide. This installation bears the name “Landslide”, but yet the artwork is motionless and illustrates the capture of an unpredictable phenomenon rarely seen by human’s eyes. Here, the rock stones find stability onto the tripod, which is generally used to stabilize an image.

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Positioned at the interface of conceptual and land art, Harold’s approach does not only tackle the perception and transformation of landscape but his work centers also upon the formidableness of nature. With “Gulf Stream”, Harold exposes both nature’s power and vulnerability. The Gulf Stream here is made of thin blown glass connected to the heating’s pipes. The water that runs through it will inevitably break the fragile tube. The artist raises concerns about our overconsumption of energy and associates it with the Gulf Stream. The latter is a powerful current, which regulates temperature, will sooner or later disappear and the consequences might be catastrophic.

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While in Prague for his residency at MeetFactory, Harold will drive around the Czech republic using human-made infrastructures with several layers of earth on the roof of his car. His aim is to understand how the transformation of landscape comes about. Rain, sun and tiny insects along with the power of speed will collide with the earth giving it a distinctive form.

Text and photos by Julie Diebold for MeetFactory in Prague

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