Julian

Artist: xavier veilhan Tags: permanent art Permanent konst

A bright yellow, four meter tall man in slight counterpoise looks out on the runways at Ronneby Airport. Universal, objective, and without details, the style eludes interpretation and becomes the archetypal hero figure. The sculpture Julian was created by the French artist Xavier Veilhan for the emergency building at the F17 Ronneby AirWing, which handles the airfield’s rescue and clearing services. Here, the military staff are equipped to act in the event of major accidents at the airport or nearby.Veilhan is internationally renowned for his multifaceted artistic oeuvre, which reveals his fascination for mechanics, time and technology in a variety of artistic disciplines. A recurring theme concerns perception: What do we actually see, and how? At the Ronneby Air Wing, Julian accentuates issues of being visible or hidden, of being a hero or an ordinary human being, and how we, in this individualistic and independent era, still want to be able to rely on an efficient collective in critical situations.The pixellated features of Julian resemble the military camouflage patterns intended to let soldiers blend in with the surroundings. Unlike camouflage textiles, however, the sculpture stands out, with its sharp, artificial colour. On his back is a zig-zag pattern that evokes the hidden powers of heroes such as Superman or Harry Potter. He embodies the dream of a rescuing hero, of the kind found in adventure stories and in books, films and computer games. From having mainly worked in metal, which enhances the high-tech expression, Veilhan chose to make Julian in fibreglass-enforced plastic. The surface looks rough, and the ideal image is complemented by associations to the cellulite of ageing skin. The idealised identity is dissolved by the sculpture’s appearance in the same way that daylight dissolves the edges of the sculpture when it is reflected in the shiny material and moves across the surface of its facets.The posture of Julian conjures up the position called “stand at ease”, a military state of command showing how alert the soldier is to receiving a message. The highest state of command is “attention”; “stand at ease” is the next degree down. Discipline and team spirit are essential in the military, and especially here at the rescue and clearing service station. In the event of a disaster, the staff should be in their vehicles outside the building within 20 seconds and on their way to the wreck. It should take no more than 90 seconds from the alarm for the task force to reach either end of runways. Every individual in the rescue team has to know exactly what to do, and obey orders. In such situations, there is no time for questioning or discussion. Julian activates the many-sided debate that has been pursued in the West in the past century by scholars such as Judith Butler, Michel Foucault and Max Weber, problematising the individual vis-à-vis society, relations of power between people, and self-inflicted control. In a democratic society, it is especially interesting why certain individuals accept social control, discipline, superiority and subordination. Is this due to fear, threat, reward, or is it a selfless striving for the benefit of the collective? This question is hard to answer and often ambiguous. Julian for the rescue service building at Kallinge breathes new life and complexity into this discussion in the heart of the body of society.

Xavier Veilhan was born 1963 and works and lives in Paris, France.

Lotta Mossum, curator

WORK IN PROCESS

FRANCE 26 August 2014. The Sculpture Julian, 2014 is being transported from France to Sweden and Blekinge Flygflottilj, F 17 Kallinge.