Ice Bubbles, 2004. Bubble wrap, steel, wood, chains, and locks, 5 elements, up to 210 cm. diameter. Work installed at WKP Kennedy Public Art Gallery, North Bay.

Ernest Daetwyler: Bubbles and Bombs

For one busy week in August 2008, the Swiss/Canadian artist Ernest Daetwyler collected used furniture from all over Darmstadt, a German city famous for its Art Deco Buildings and the impressive Beuys Block. Darmstadt is also home to Ute Ritschel, a very active curator who organizes many community projects, among them “Vogelfrei,” international exhibitions in private gardens, and the biennial symposium “Waldkunstpfad” (Forest Art Path). For “Cycles and Systems,” the 2008 Forest Art Path, Daetwyler—one of 16 invited artists from Africa, Argentina, Canada, the U.K., Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Portugal, Scotland, and the U.S.—decided to recycle discarded wood furniture into a 3.7-meter sphere titled Time Bomb.

Opposite the lunch area (where Ritschel, the artists and their helpers, and technical director Peter Fischer ate every day, discussing good news, problems, and schedules) was a rather chaotic assembly of tables, chairs, closets, and cupboards—it looked as if a bomb had exploded in a junk shop. You could hear the construction site from afar—a generator hummed loudly through the forest to provide power for a large number of tools—and in the middle of the confusion, you would find Daetwyler (always last to come for lunch and first to start working) in the process of directing as many as 10 helpers, sawing, drilling, and hammering.

Time Bomb’s final form could not have been envisaged by any of us during the three-week construction process. It looked so interesting in the various stages of its evolution that I imagined being able to flip through the different layers of time like the pages of a book; whenever I came to the wooded site, there was something worth studying. The primary materials were pieces of solid wood furniture, thus giving back to the forest what had been taken from it.