Proposal for Poldra Public Sculpture Project Viseu

Site-Specific Sculpture 2021

Ferdinand Waas & Frans van Hoek

wt: ‘text me when you get home’

Description

Viseu lies at the center of numerous informational and geographic flows. It is the headquarters of international telecommunications conglomerate Visabeira, whose influence stretches across the globe. Specifically, down the west coast of Africa, with a majority stake in “providing broadcasting and internet access … cable networks in Angola and Mozambique.” These cable networks originate in Portugal and travel down Africa’s west coast, international highways of information, submarine fibre-optic cable lines, notably “The West African Cable System (WACS)” and SAT-3.

Mirroring these submarine networks almost exactly, is one of the world’s largest streams of avian migration, the East Atlantic Flyway, “the network of sites used each year by millions of birds migrating” southwards from the Arctic and Western-Europe.

Viseau lies at the center of both these global informational flows. And yet it also embodies a blindspot, one of the largest cities in Europe without a railway connection. Displaying the ambiguity of being on at once the center of infrastructure and also non-existing within a different layer of infrastructure. We hope to (a) make visible these global interfaces that pass through Viseu, and (b) give a moment of rest from these unending systems.

The work consists of four telecommunication antennae casts adjusted on the four trees surrounding the crossing. Encircled by antennas, the viewer becomes hyper-aware of the network, perhaps for the first time. This circuit of visible communications infrastructure reveals the entire network in the mind of the visitor. And yet, the visitor is protected from it. The circular arrangement, seemingly absorbing information from all sides and beaming it to a point, brings a symbolic end to this global flux of information, the way a park brings a symbolic end to the chaos of the city.

But, the work is relevant beyond human visitors. The structures provide corners and angles for migratory birds to nest, a function encouraged by netting between the support beams.

The work allows both informational and natural flows of information to come to rest, to reach a center. The visitor witnesses the invisible infrastructure of these global currents, making visible the global systems which pass through Viseu, and “initiate connections beyond the primary act of looking.”

We wish to give the experience of arriving at a place where physical (forest paths), abstract (telecommunication), and natural (migration) networks distill to a point. Moving from the urban ‘net’ of random, endless movement, to a labyrinthine center. Firstly, the site, where all roads reach a point (Viseu itself sits at the perfect center of the district). Secondly, the symbolic ‘centering’ of a flux of information. As Italian semiotician Umberto Eco points out, a ‘net’ has no beginning or end, no destination. By physically (the park within the city) and symbolically (antennae) directing the net to a point, we create a moment of closure within the flux. A space for reflection, a summit. An event which anchors, contextualizes, lends meaning to constant movement — be it of people, or data, or birds.