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Roller Coaster 1998 – A study of the portrait
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A major preoccupation in art is the attempt to represent the human figure. In this work the idea is to perceive through expressions, gestures and attitudes the manifestation of the two opposed forces that underpin our life-concerns: on the one hand the quest for happiness, pleasure and joy and on the other, fear anxiety, distress and panic. One of these two antagonistic states normally exists to the exclusion of the other.Nevertheless, we have perversely created some situations in which we inscribe ourselves, as witnesses as well as actors, simultaneously to both pleasure and fear: fairy tales, dark novels, horror films, lions and tigers taming, flying trapezes, tight rope, etc.), and extreme sports (bungee jumping, mountain climbing, cars races, Russian roulette…). Perhaps the best illustration of this can be found at a funfair, where the ‘ghost train’ butts again the ‘big dipper’, offering individuals, friends and families the opportunity to abandon themselves, totally submerged into an inner conflict, in the playful pleasure of a ‘flirt with death’.
The main component of the piece is a roller coaster incorporating a very steep downward slope. Independent of its structure, a built element is grafted onto it creating a large suspended room. A segment of the descending track penetrates this space which cars and their passengers are running across for a very brief moment.
The architecture evokes a museum room or an art gallery. Perfectly white and brightly lit, it is absolutely empty with the exception of the integrated part of the roller coaster and a barrier to protect the public from the moving element itself. The interior’s total stillness is suddenly and violently exploded by screams, laughter, disorganized gestures, and the deafening noise of the cars which, in a second, plunge vertically across the space and disappear immediately, returning the space to its previous silence until the arrival of the next set of cars.Sentiments normally hidden are suddenly exposed by the extremeness of the situation. The speed of the move, the stillness of the viewer, the piece also speaks about time in its implacable brevity. It’s an image of life itself that is given to the viewer: apparition, manifestation, disappearance, and the mystery of what exists before and what comes after.
Later, the viewer may take place in one of the cars and visit the other side of the experience, witnessed by new spectators, becoming in his turn the portrait.