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Swiss artist Not Vital is an intriguing example of how the gap between art and architecture is narrowing. The artist, who is renowned for his unorthodox architectural structures around the world, here describes how his projects derive from moments in his own life.

“The winters are very long, so our favourite colour is white.” Vital grew up in a place where mountains and snow dominated the landscape and where school was only seven months a year, leaving five months of vacation, which was spent building tree houses. He explains his journey to Niger in 1999 with the fact that he was drawn to “the mountains in sand” of the Sahara, and soon after his arrival he bought a piece of land and began working on his new house. The building was a challenge, but this is what spurs Vital as an artist who makes architecture: “It’s in a way much more intriguing and much more interesting. It’s an adventure to do that, and since I’m not an architect I need that – I want that.”

Vital’s everlasting fascination of the sunsets in Africa prompted him to build a house in which one could watch them uninterrupted. This became the astonishing ‘The House to Watch the Sunset’ (2005), which is situated in an oasis close to Agadez in Niger. The construction has three flights of exterior stairs around its tall slender central structure, which rises above the surrounding palm trees. The same original approach was implemented when Vital built the remarkable pyramid-shaped school ‘Makarenta’ (2003) in Niger, where the many pupils chiefly use the surface: “They don't go to school – they go on the school… It’s the best sculpture I’ve done – it’s a kinetic sculpture, which moves.”

Not Vital (b. 1948) is a Swiss artist, who works in diverse media across installations, paintings, drawings and sculptures, which typically integrates architecture. Vital divides his time between the U.S., Niger, Italy, China and Switzerland, and his art is centred on personal impressions and experiences from around the world. This somewhat anthropological approach is also reflected in how his career is structured into sections devoted to e.g. glass blowers in Murano or paper artists in Bhutan. Vital’s work has been featured in the 49th Venice Biennale in Italy (2001), and he has held major exhibitions at prominent venues such as the Kunsthalle Bielefeld in Germany (2005), The Arts Club of Chicago in the U.S. (2006), Ullens Center For Contemporary Art in Beijing, China (2011) and the Museo d’arte di Mendrisio in Switzerland (2014-15). For more about Not Vital see: http://notvital.com/

Not Vital was interviewed by Kasper Bech Dyg at the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art in June 2015 in connection to the exhibition ‘AFRICA – Architecture, Culture and Identity’, where pictures and a model of Not Vital’s ‘House to Watch the Sunset’ (2005) are on display.

Camera: Julie Madsen
Produced and edited by: Roxanne Bagheshirin Lærkesen
Copyright: Louisiana Channel, Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, 2015

Supported by Nordea-Fonden

 

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