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Alliance, Cardiff (Wales)

Jean-Bernard Métais, Alliance, St David's 2 - The Hayes, Cardiff (Wales)

Jean-Bernard Métais' proposal (March 2008) :

Energy, Sense of Place

A long time ago, 1000 or 2000 years back, the sea came up as far as The Hayes. Historically, this was where the city began. As the sea pulled back, it left behind an alluvial delta. A canal was then cut towards the Bay, which was to play a major role in the city’s economic destiny. A bridge crossed the canal near The Hayes, and a little further Cardiff’s first fortifications were built, lines of defence and protection against invasions. This history, linked to the presence of water which has today receded, is a fundamental part of the historic and magnetic quality of the St David’s site. For us it constitutes an important reference.

The new city library, currently under construction and situated at one end of The Hayes, functions as the sculpture's principal visual anchor as well as a thematic link. Surrounded by numerous shops, cafes and bars, this new public facility will give the site a cultural dimension, offsetting the prevailing consumer culture of contemporary urban society. At the same time, the presence of a work of art enables us to reinforce and widen the city’s cultural appeal.


From Object to Conceptual Space

The sculpture is composed of two elements that seem to balance in the air: a circular form of vast dimensions planted in the ground at a slight angle, and a column, a monumental landmark like a huge "gnomon". The overall structure is deliberately lightweight, open and transparent, so as not to clutter an already dense urban area. Instead, it serves to unify and integrate the diverse architectural elements that surround it and the area's urban complexity.

A device within the circle envelops a visible liquid that moves continuously with the ebb and flow of the tide. This perpetual movement, a symbolic link, located as it is between the new city centre and the gateway leading to the city’s economic past, acts here like an organic clock, creating a poetic connection with the rhythm of nature, cosmic time and the origins of the place.


Texts and Layers

The technical concept of the work gives priority to an expression of ideas. Texts and words take centre stage and take on both plastic and conceptual qualities. The work integrates two types of texts, which differ according to the medium of communication.

The first category comprises letters or numbers engraved in the ground, solid and immobile, fixed and perennial. They are carved or engraved into the floor slabs themselves. LED lights could reinforce and underline these forms. Within these large letters and numbers are smaller, short texts and words. They work as topographical references, evoking the layers of Cardiff’s urban history at this spot.
 
The second category of texts is intended to encourage a new reading of the place, and to project the artwork into the future. This installation emits light beams that project texts onto the ground and surrounding area. Though graphically similar to the first type, these texts offer the possibility of being altered or completely changed over time.

Light projection will allow passers by to “grab hold” of the words and texts by using their hands or bodies as screens. The projected texts will thereby integrate movement and become interactive. The dynamic advantages of the latest technology available will be put to use wherever possible.

The texts link present reality and the changes underway in the city of Cardiff. They evoke a world of poetry, playing with metaphors, embedded images and multiple meanings. In the same vein, references will be made to works of Welsh literature by means of excerpts and quotations. An online database of texts will be created, featuring excerpts from literary works that refer to symbolic places in Cardiff. These will also be linked to the projection system.

Stainless steel – Enamelled metal – Polycarbonate – Liquid fluids – Light.
Height 25m, Diameter 17m


The Alliance connects the place with the people. While retaining a strong link to the site’s origins, its multiple facets allow it to be in harmony with the present, and open to the future.

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