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Fountain of Spring

Painted aluminum, LED screen, digital animation



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Text by Meng Xianhui

Translated by Fiona He

The Norwegian architect Christian Norberg-Schulz argues in his book The Spirit of Place: Towards a Phenomenology of Architecture that the concept embodied in a work of art is the "concretization" of people's living conditions and that the meaning of "place" lies in the experiences of lived situations, and all artistic practices, including architecture, should "preserve" and convey this meaning.

Nabuqi unveils her first public art project, Fountain of Spring, at Beijing Fusion Center on the Northern Third Ring Road. This 7.5-meter installation is stacked with irregular geometric structures, intentionally connecting various components with inclined surfaces. The pieces look like giant boulders in the natural environment, stably poised with precarity. The red, yellow, green, and blue colors are interspersed with metallic colors, extending the artist's style presented at the West Bund Art Museum "Everything Goes Back to Square One." The only difference is that Nabuqi inserts LED screens in the Fountain of Spring for the first time, presenting images of natural springs flowing or falling in a seemingly still installation. At the same time, the corresponding colors invade the screen in artificial block form, rendering a dazzling and illusory world of mountains and seas. What sips in silently belongs to the electronic dreams of the present and the future, a poetic urban space that can be viewed and traveled.

Unlike works of art commonly placed in cultural and artistic institutions, where the spectators are invited to view, public art installed in public spaces is, from its inception, a way to bring art to the public. To a certain extent, the unfiltered public's reception of the artworks represents the value of the work because the public sphere is supposed to provide a space for equal subjective engagement and rational discussions in search of the truth. For artists, especially sculptors who specialize in creating works in a spatial context, it becomes even more essential to communicate their creative ideas better, offering more people the opportunity to transcend the confines of their thinking and to learn more about what art is. In Nabuqi’s own words, "What a great opportunity to offer good art to a wider audience, to let people know that art is imaginative, well-intentioned, reflective and even critical."

The notion of "project" was to differentiate from the traditional concept of public sculpture in the context of site-specific and commissioned productions. In Nabuqi's first public sculpture, Fountain of Spring, Nabuqi tries to find a balance; for her, "What matters the most is its meaning for a sculptor and the field of public sculpture, even without making a splash, it's nevertheless a type of beginning." Therefore, this work, originally titled Waterfall@, becomes more accessible and familiar to the public with the title Fountain of Spring, as it provides references to viewers with art historical knowledge to reference well-known artworks such as Duchamp's Fountain and Ingre's La Source, as well as provoking thoughts in front of the installation. The new artistic atmosphere introduced by this work allows public sculpture to engender possibilities beyond its decorative nature.

The imagery of the "fountain of spring" has appeared in Nabuqi's works previously. In 2019, she presented her first "fountain" work at Sandwich Space in Romania, where the capital city of Bucharest retains many elements of socialist architecture remnants from the Soviet era, including a giant fountain in the middle of the city square. Nabuqi was impressed by the combination of various types of fountains and incorporated them into her work. In people's minds, the "fountain" and its meaning are often associated with the public. It is worth mentioning that in Western classical gardens and modern landscapes, the "fountain" is not static. Over time, this reference has undergone functional and symbolic transformations, from the Sumerian's and Egyptians' early design to supplement irrigation to the ancient Greeks and Romans to supply the public with more artificial drinking water sources. As urbanization flourished, paying increasing attention to its decorative demands, an urban planning program was placed in the road intersection in the 18th Century, shifting to the present-day return to public service and symbolizing civic consciousness due to power renewals. This artificial product has evolved in tandem with the city and public space, resonating with Nabuqi's ongoing interest in the entanglement of ready-made objects, industrial materials, and abstract sculpture in physical space and everyday life.

In Fountain of Spring, Nabuqi stages a natural spring in a natural environment, in line with its various iterations in eastern culture. It fundamentally presents "water", which can be dynamic and static, incessantly in ebbs and flows. Guo Xi commented in the "The Lofty Record of Forest and Streams", "Water, living things, its shape desires depth add quietude, smoothness, towards the ocean, in circulation, fertile land, thin mists, in shooting sprays, multiple springs, flowing afar, waterfalls from the sky, splash into the ground, leisurely fishing, where grass and trees thrive, carried by mists and clouds with magnificence, and shine in the valley with glory, this water is a living body." This precisely embodies water’s aesthetics of quietude and fluidity. On the other hand, the imagery projects one's a temporary escape from reality in which they live in pursuit of an idealized situation in the spiritual realm.

The development of public installation art offers a perception of a centralized manifestation of the urban ecosystem, which is extremely important for the demand for social and humanistic spirit in urban renewal, the space of future media aspiration, and the public's call for urban memories. Nabuqi's Fountain of Spring turns on daily at a random time, an uncertainty that invokes surprise and anticipation in the viewer; while the work of art transcends ordinary objects, its freedom attributes the same quality to other objects. As still and flat as a mirror, the water reflects the surrounding sceneries, while the dynamic water gives life to the environment. In a bustling urban space, Nabuqi's creation is like a "fountain of spring" in the urban forest, as a great recluse in the city. The artist comments in a down-to-earth tone on her work, "The concept is straightforward; it suffices to integrate, comfort and brings novelty. All superficial changes would not depart from their origin; the crowd matters the most."