TED talker Janet Echelman brings her innovation to Dubai
New outdoor sculpture at Dubai Mall explained
When an earthquake hit Chile in 2010, the shock was so powerful that it sent ripples across the Pacific Ocean, shunted the tectonic plates of the earth, and shifted the earth’s position upon its axis. The earth literally spun faster, and that day – February 27, 2010 – was shortened by 1.78 microseconds, or millionths of a second.
The artist Janet Echelman is re-creating this event now at the Dubai Mall, in the form of a floating net structure that undulates over Dubai Fountain and suggests the flow of ripples westward from the coast of Chile after the earthquake hit.
As Echelman explains in a TED talk about her work, before she began making the beautiful, large-scale net sculptures, she was a failed artist. She applied to seven art schools and was rejected by each one. (Echelman might have gotten rejected by art schools, but before that, she went to Harvard.) Undaunted, she kept on painting anyway and won a Fulbright to India to put on an exhibition. Once there, she arrived, but her paints did not. Necessity is the mother of invention, and Echelman thought of what else she might create for the exhibition. She noticed, as she recalls, fishermen on the coast, and suddenly saw their nets as offering the potential for a new kind of sculpture: something that takes up space but remains soft, pliable, and porous. She began stringing the nets together to make enormous, flowing cavalcades of colour and movement. Since then her works have graced New York, London, Beijing, and a host of other places.
At the Dubai Mall, the red, orange and purple colours of the sculpture billow over the water. Though the work is inspired by the fishermen’s nets, it has been updated since then: machines took care of the 600,000 knots that bind nearly 124 kilometres of string together, and the line itself is made of a fibre fifteen times stronger than steel, which allows it to hold its shape in breezes both gentle and more blustery. The bright colours also offers a stark contrast against Dubai's clear blue sky: it's a work that, unlike the rest of us, will fare well in summer.