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Read a conversation between Jeppe Hein and Ines Goldbach here.
Some artworks might encourage you to walk or even run. Jeppe Hein’s works do just the opposite. They pause and invite you to look closely, marvel, and experience. Born in Copenhagen in 1974, the Berlin-based artist has been surprising the public for many years. Although his sculptural settings can seem familiar at first—almost commonplace given their shape, texture, and presumed origins—they are anything but ordinary. Among them, we can find a rolling sphere, a mirror formation, a park bench, vertical, evenly spaced brush strokes on the wall—and even a sculpture made of water. But things are not as simple as they may appear at first glance.
Jeppe Hein’s sculptures, installations, and spatial settings are both invitations and obstacles. Their dimensions never lose touch with the human scale, and that is why the works always act as a gateway to interlocutors. But it should be said that Jeppe Hein’s interlocutors are not only addressed as being part of an art-savvy audience—quite the opposite, in fact. His works are meant to embrace all generations. Whether young or old, familiar with art or not, his works attract the interest of many precisely because, at first glance, they appear to emerge from the everyday world of things. The fact that many of his works can be experienced in public spaces also reinforces their generous accessibility: no museum doors have to be pushed open, no admission fee has to be paid. Perhaps that is why they do not provoke that much talked-about feeling when it is only by reading or listening to the accompanying text that we can start to understand the work.
During the next few months, Jeppe Hein’s water pavilion Appearing Rooms will be open to anyone and everyone at Freilager-Platz, on the Dreispitz in Basel—for several hours each day, Monday to Sunday, irrespective of the weather. This liquid sculpture, as Jeppe Hein refers to his work, changes form. It raises and lowers its walls made of water, granting or denying access. It invites you to cross from one water space into the next or just to stand and look through its water walls—at the surrounding square, the architecture, the people, the sky. It is a sculpture that lives not only from the way it is looked at from the outside, but also from the inside out; it can be experienced up close and from afar, in its inner and outer worlds.
It is difficult to fully fathom the programmed concept behind the rhythm or sequence followed by the changing water jets and walls. The important thing is to let yourself be surprised. Not to search for the plan, but to open yourself to the possibility of experience. As well as allowing this experience to be shared. To laugh, to talk, to look—and to come back. It is precisely this fine pendulum movement—between visual contemplation, utility, and the possibility of undergoing a personal and shared experience—that makes Jeppe Hein’s works truly special each time.
PUBLIC ART@FREILAGER-PLATZ is an initiative by the FHNW Academy of Art and Design Basel (HGK; Claudia Perren, Director), House of Electronic Arts Basel (HEK; Sabine Himmelsbach, Director), Kunsthaus Baselland (KHBL; Ines Goldbach, Director), and Interessengemeinschaft Freilagerplatz (IG, Chairman Peter Driessen). It pursues the shared aim of enlivening Freilagerplatz with alternating, publicly accessible art in order to sustainably increase its visitor appeal and strengthen the neighborhood. The plan is to present different outstanding artistic works each year, whose impact will be felt in the Basel-City and Basel-Country cantons as well as far beyond. The internationally renowned and socially committed artist Jeppe Hein will kick things off with his water feature Appearing Rooms. This project will mark the first time that a fountain sculpture has been installed on the Freilager-Platz, offering residents in particular an invitation to stop by and enjoy their time.
#1 is the responsibility of Ines Goldbach, Kunsthaus Baselland. It is the first cross-institutional project of this kind and marks the imminent move of the new Kunsthaus Baselland to the Dreispitz, scheduled for completion by the end of 2023.