Art Basel Cities Buenos Aires isn’t the only show in town. The Argentinian artist Leandro Erlich has created an interactive installation on a gigantic scale for the Youth Olympics, which opens in Buenos Aires next week.
The conceptual artist, who has been known in recent years for his optical illusion Swimming Pool installation in Japan, has created Ball Game, a project designed to turn spectators into participants during the Olympic Forum and the Youth Olympic Games, which are hosted by Argentina this year.
“The Olympic Games are an exercise in unity as people from all over the world come together in a universal spirit of respect, friendship and excellence,” Erlich explains to artnet News. “I was interested in the playing ball as an object that everyone can relate to and that has the power to give us a common purpose and motivation.”
Commissioned by the International Olympic Committee, the temporary installation will consist of five enormous balls—a soccer ball, basketball, tennis ball, volleyball, and golf ball—that the public must work together to roll around. First displayed from October 5 outside the city’s convention center during the Olympism in Action Forum, the giant balls will be unleashed into public space on October 7. Spectators will be invited to collaborate in a performative action to move them into the city’s Parque Tres de Febrero at the Planetarium Galileo Galilei, where they will remain until October 18.
“There is a playful invitation here for spectators to move beyond the everyday and into an imaginary realm,” Erlich says, “and to experience that sense of common purpose as they try to roll the monumental objects into a single direction, just as we hope to move forward as a society or as a global community.”
The commission is part of the Olympic Art Project, a new and long-term program of artist commissions to reinterpret the links between sports and culture and encourage new conversation about Olympic values.
“We were intrigued by Mr. Erlich’s concept of a work that offers a platform for interaction,” Francis Gabet, the director of the Olympic Foundation for culture and heritage explains in a statement. “His installation reflects the Olympic ideal of humanity in movement in celebration of sporting achievement, and also as the Olympic Movement unites to address important issues relevant to the future of sport and society during the Olympism in Action Forum.”
“In Buenos Aires, sports and art are passionately lived and are an essential part of our identity,” says Enrique Avogadro, Buenos Aires’ culture minister in a statement. “This is the opportunity for all of us to be inspired by Olympic values and to share this celebration with the world.”
It’s also a welcome diversion in a country beset by severe economic woes. Earlier this month, Argentina announced that it would merge several governmental organizations, including the Ministry of Culture and the Ministry of Education. As part of the austerity measures, the country has also begun charging admission at national museums for the first time.
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