WindArt project: Joana Vasconcelos and Vhils apply themselves to the elements
Two weeks after Portugal made global news for running solely off renewables for a remarkable 107 hours, the country unveils a ‘tribute to renewable energy’ – vying for the status of tallest contemporary art project in the world.
In a gesture of national pride, two of the country’s most internationally visible artists, Joana Vasconcelos and Vhils, were commissioned to take on a pair of 100m-high wind turbines. In the midst of the Douro Sul wind farm in the mountainous Moimenta da Beira region now stand two contemporary totem poles, with wild wolves and a handful of local villagers the artworks’ primary audience.
Hatched as an optimistic flight of fancy barely a year ago, Âncora Wind’s privately-funded project sees the two artists adapt their signature motifs to the challenge, and canvas, of technological infrastructure.
In a rare transposition of his practice from an urban to rural context, street artist Vhils – renowned for carving city walls into monumental portraits of anonymous figures – wraps his turbine in a graphic extrapolation of nature’s textures and a surveying human eye.
Vasconcelos’ Gone With the Wind offers a celebratory mélange of folk-inspired iconography, whose central heart faces the small nearby community. 'It’s so different from all the scales you are used to,' explains Vasconcelos, previously the subject of a 2012 exhibition in the rather different context of Versailles. 'I went there last week and thought, "What is this?!" But it’s so energising when you do something that you’re not expecting to see happen.'
As Portugal plots its path towards a sustainable future, the one-off WindArt project offers a cultural point of punctuation; a decoration, and declaration, of ecological and economic ambition.