He was born in 1966 in Berlin. He studied geophysics and philosophy in Berlin, Kiel and in Hawaii and then worked on his Ph.D. thesis in Amsterdam and Berlin. He has received his Ph.D. in cultural studies on the basis of his thesis entitled What is an earthquake? He developed the issue of Art as scientific research in order to broaden scientific ways of expression. He combines his artistic activity with research on tectonic processes and other natural phenomena. He creates his projects in different media, such as sound installation, artistic book, virtual environment, concert. He has written many scientific articles and essays and is an active participant of scientific conferences and a lecturer in art schools and at universities (such as Zentrum für Kunst und Medientechnologie Karlsruhe, Bundeskunsthalle Bonn, Art Center Los Angeles, ATR Kioto). Since 2003 he has been the head of the Y Institute of Interdisciplinary Studies. He is the chairman of the scientific council of the Art University in Bern. He has taken part in many collective exhibitions and presented his works on a couple of individual exhibitions, including Terra Antwort in the Galerie Rachel Haferkamp in Kiel (2003) and What are the Places of Danger? In Imperimerie in Basil (2007). He lives and works in Kiel and Bern.
In his works, Florian Dombois, tries to examine natural phenomena, especially earthquakes. In his transmedia projects, such as Auditory Seismology, the artist combines data obtained from seismographs with graphic charts and sound created by shuddering of the earth. Another important element of Dombois’s projects is the issue of perception; reception and behaviour of art audiences towards his scientific and artistic experiments.
In his statements and numerous lectures accompanying his artistic projects the artist asks questions concerning relations between art and scientific research. He examines, explores and develops the ambition of many artists for art and the creative process to be closely connected to science, which accompanied European art from early Renaissance until the great avant-garde of early modernism. In this context, art itself becomes a kind of scientific research and research is provided with an artistic dimension.
Dombois often works with a specific, personally chosen place. Results of such work include maps, topography descriptions, which remind one of conceptual and land art results of works by Robert Smithson. Just like in the case of the constantly discovered classic of conceptualism and Land art, Dombois keeps asking questions about the place’s history, both universal and private, intimate.
Works by the artist dedicated to places are exactly what the ArtBoom Festival, dedicated to a specific city, wants to promote. It is true especially in the case of the festival’s third edition, whose watchwords include new technologies in art, utopia and the concept of game and absurd. Dombois’s works include both the latest scientific achievements as well as – in their absurd utopian character of combination of science and art – remain an artistic play, both with conceptual and avant-garde art, and the history of a place and the audience.
Szkieletor and Błękitek
Every city, apart from its official and written “high” history, the one that interests professionals, also has its “lower” vernacular history, more a verbal than a written history. This dodgy, often unreasonable vision of history often takes the form of urban legends.
One of the oldest and most widespread urban legends, whose genesis is lost in the mists of the Middle Ages, is the history of the two towers. Krakow, like any other medieval European city, whose main church has two uneven towers, has its own version of the story.
The story begins in the 13th century, with the beginning of construction works on two towers complementing the already existing body of St Mary’s Church. Two brothers whom we may, but do not have to call Cain and Abel, undertook to build the towers. The older brother was constructing the northern tower and the younger – the southern. Brotherly harmony and cooperation ended when the tower of the younger brother, Abel, outgrew Cain’s tower. The elder brother killed the younger and the southern tower, initially higher, is now unfinished and lower. The famous bugle call sounds daily from the higher tower, which was finished after the murder and paid for with the brother’s blood. The knife with which the younger brother was slain hangs over one of the gates in the Sukiennice; however, we do not know where the arrowhead which killed the bugle call player is.
But Krakow is not only the Old Town - a modern, twentieth-century version of the medieval story, which at the same time is a parable about inequality, takes place a bit further out from the centre; it has its own towers and its own biblical characters.
The modern urban legend of the Two Towers, which inspired Florian Dombois’s work, concerns two office blocks: the unfinished “Szkieletor” and “Błękitek” whose construction was finished after a long time. It is a legend of bad, vain communists, who in the 1970s threw down the gauntlet to old Krakow – they wanted to construct a new centre of a modern city with new, much higher towers reaching to the sky and end the primacy of the royal and bourgeois historic heart of the city. But it is only a part of a bigger, legendary urban history. The communists, bad and stupid in their arrogance, tried to destroy Krakow once before, by building Nowa Huta and the smelting plant – they wanted its fumes to pollute the air in old Krakow and destroy the centuries-old monuments. They also tried to achieve this later, by constructing the big Forum Hotel by the Vistula river, for it to be an affront to Skałka and the Wawel castle with its location and form. These attempts were not successful; the hotel, after a short period of prosperity, was abandoned, and the Naczelna Organizacja Techniczna’s office block was never finished and stands as a ruin, affectionately called the “Szkieletor” (Skeleton).
Florian Dombois’s work, consisted in lasers and measuring devices placed on the “Błękitek’s” roof and on the top of the higher “Szkieletor,” as well as computer-generated visualization of deviations and movements of both buildings in the real time. It encompassed not only the buildings, interesting in the context of the two towers legend, but also the whole space between them, an urban axis outlined by al. Powstania Warszawskiego. On one hand it is an attempt at making the space and the permanent ruin, the “Szkieletor,” more familiar. On the other hand, despite its huge scale, the project’s relation with the two towers was very intimate, the artist treated them as live organisms, which move and are alive and, thanks to the marriage of art, geodesy, physics and IT, “talk” with each other before our eyes.
The voice given back to the tower in ruins directed our attention to one more mythical story-legend. The story of the Tower of Babel and the unfinished – just like the Tower of Babel and the “Szkieletor” – utopian project of the new city at the foot of the Wawel-Babel.
Curators: Philippe Pirotte, Wojciech Szymański
Pictures: Weronika Szmuc
16/06/2011 - 19/06/2011
21:00 Szkieletor and Błękitek