THE CONFERENCE OF THE BIRDS - GUANGHZOU, CHINA
15-Meter-Diameter Sphere Filled With Helium-Inflated Balloons, 30-Channel Sound Installation, LED, Automobile Chassis - Guangzhou, China, 2014
At the occasion of the Innovation Exhibition on Haixinsha Island in the heart of Guangzhou (China), Marc Hungerbuhler from the Artist Network and German car manufacturer Audi A.G. commissioned Sebastien Leon to create an installation reacting to Audi's technological innovations.
Sebastien Leon filled a spherical room fifteen meters in diameter with over a thousand silver foil balloons, some filled with air and others with helium, all reflecting a hypnotic image of the car, the room and its visitors. Floating on the ceiling, fifteen wireless speakers play an electronic symphonic dialogue of filtered industrial sounds mixed with the songs of thirty different birds.
The installation is based on Sufi poet Farid ud-Din Attar’s series of poems called “The Conference of the Birds.” Written in 1177, these poems tell the tale of thirty birds who embark on a long journey in order to elect a King. Their perilous flight takes them from Persia to China with the goal of finding the Simorgh - the Chinese Phoenix - supposed to embody the most accomplished of the birds. After painfully crossing the seven initiatic valleys of yearning, love, gnosis, detachment, unity of God, bewilderment and selflessness, they finally reach the land of the Simorgh. Upon arrival, they find only a quiet lake with no sign of the mythical bird. Approaching the lake and looking down, they see their own reflections and come to realize that God is simply within them, that they hold their own destinies in their hands.
The poems of Farid ud-Din Attar embody Audi’s constant drive forfine-tuning existing technologies and introducing radical innovations. The concept is also directed towards the Chinese audience of Guangzhou itself, which, as a manufacturing center of the world, has a strong impact on the balance between the earth and the industry.
Sebastien Leon’s installation hence acts as a meditative dialogue between Audi A.G. and the Chinese public, provoking a reflection on the balance between industrial development and the environment, as well as the role we play as individuals in this fine symbiosis.