Gem Preiz is a master of fractal art, as I’ve oft commented on in these pages. His work is always fascinating, encompassing as it does many interlinked themes and ideas – time, space, the future, the past, the rise and fall of civilisations and more, much of which is framed in terms of fractal images with a distinct architectural heritage. And while fractals are not part of his newest installation, architecture is very much its beating heart, fleshed with the use of physical space and a rich layering of time.
Arcadia presents a marvellous architectural fantasy – to use Gem’s words, what he refers to as a capriccio, a whimsy – although this actually does the installation no justice.
To encapsulate Arcadia as simply as possible might be to describe it as a neo-classical city, rich in Greco-Roman influence through the use of Renaissance Palladian architectural styles, whilst obelisks and some of the more tiered rectangular structures offer a hint of ancient Egypt within their forms.
This is a place of perfectly conceived design, where buildings, their shapes, placement and immediate surrounds have clearly been given special consideration such that while there is no deliberate mirroring of structural symmetry (e.g a Coliseum-like amphitheatre in one corner mirrored by a round building in an opposite corner) there is nevertheless a sense of symmetry in the way a line can be drawn through the city from the southern gates to the doors of the northern temple. passing through the arches of triumphal gates to cut this city neatly in two, or the east-west line that splits the city between low-lying precincts and raised palaces and temples (although this admittedly cuts through one of the raised elements).
This planned layout speaks to the ideal of cities being of a more harmonious design than we see today; places where architecture is considered to be both an art form and a reflection of a civilisation’s relationship with the natural world (as well as the familiar projection of power). Within his notes, Gem refers to Arcadia as a utopia in the form of a haven of peace and grandeur, protected from the rest of the world, to which I would add that were the concept of Elysium to ever be embodied in architectural form, that somewhere like Arcadia is very much how I would imagine it.
Somewhat extending from his Skycrapers installation, Acadia allows Gem to present an ideal, one that brings together past a future in a design of the present. By this I mean that while the overall look to the individual structures lie within classical architectural forms, the presentation of the installation – the lighting (I strongly recommend using the suggested TOR NIGHT Under a Yellow Moon windlight (or EEP setting) if you have it available / have imported it as an EEP setting) and use of orange glow give the installation a futuristic / otherworldly look.
Most of all, however, Arcadia is a marvellous celebration of architecture and geometry, both in terms of the entirely layout of the city, the individual styles of structure and building, the layout of courtyards, quads and terraces – even the very grassy elevations to the north side of the city – and the placement of trees and fountains, all form a part of the whole.
This celebration of architecture and reflection on great civilisations that spawned it can also be found within a number of the central buildings. Signified by glowing orange doors, these contain reproductions of works by some of the great masters who so often celebrated the beauty of architecture. They are: Giovanni Canal (Canaletto), Hubert Robert, Giovanni Panini (himself also an architect), and two of my personal favourites, the first being French neo-classical architect and visionary Étienne-Louis Boullée (whose proposed cenotaph for Sir Issac Newton was sadly never built, but does form one of a number of visualisation within Sansar created by John Fillwalk from the Institute for Digital Intermedia Arts at Ball State university), and Thomas Cole’s quintet of paintings known under the common title of The Course of Empire, charting the rise and fall of an imaginary city.
This latter collection could also be said to be the spiritual forebear of Arcadia (although the influence of the other artists can also be witnessed throughout the installation), with the exception that while Cole’s city eventually collapsed in destruction, Arcadia is perhaps eternal.
When visiting the instillation, due ensure you following the local instructions for the greatest visual benefit (although I would suggest a draw distance of 300 metres should more than suffice for most visitors), and keep an eye out for the balloon ride close to the landing point and the horse and carriage ride within the city (where the balloon ride will drop passengers).
Arcadia officially opens at 13:00 SLT on Friday, October 23rd with a particle show in a special arena above the installation, followed by an opening party within the installation itself.
- Arcadia (Akimitsu, rated Moderate)