Fire, Fog, Light & Electricity. REPORT OF THE ONLINE CLUB

Sculpture doesn’t have to be for eternity. Elo Liiv (EE) and Judith Mann (DE) show the potential of ephemeral materials for creating sculpture.

On Monday, 10th May 2021, a discussion with interdisciplinary artists Elo Liiv and Judith Mann, moderated by Sculpture Network Coordinator Anne Berk, took place via Zoom. They were invited to discuss their work and the possibility of creating sculpture with ephemeral media like fire and light. Both artists combine science and art and challenge the definition of sculpture by introducing new ways of thinking about its boundaries. In using innovative concepts and techniques, they open up a new realm of artistic creation.

About Elo Liiv

Elo Liiv is an interdisciplinary artist from Estonia working at the intersection of light, sculpture and installation. As the ‘light ambassador’ of Estonia, she has created many site-specific light installations and has organised light festivals. Her interest lies in the ephemeral properties of light as well as its influence on other media. Therefore, she has presented site-specific installations where she closely observes the behaviour of light on physical works like in Ports (2016) and Title Pattern (2017; 2019).

Elo Liiv, Title Pattern, Saue, 2021, Photo: courtesy of the artist


On the other hand, she uses light as an art medium in itself, playing with its versatile properties in light mappings and interactive installations like What’s here is there (2019) and the Study of Sight (2015-now). On a second level, having a background in anthropology, her work aims to address and bring about awareness on social issues.

One of her most impressive interactive installations is The Study of Sight (2015—now), which was presented in Tallinn Art Hall in 2017. The installation invited blind people to interact with it and bring the topic of ‘social blindness’ to the forefront. As a central element in the installation, an illuminated human head was almost too blinding to face directly for the seeing audience. The questions that arose are: Do we need eyes to see? Can a seeing person see better than a blind person? At the core of the concept lies the critical assumption that one doesn’t need eyes to be socially ‘woke’.

Elo Liiv, I Feel Good Enough, exh. view The Study of Sight, 2015, Photo: © Aron Urb

Another line of work that touches upon light as a medium is the fire sculptures like The Falling Sun (2016) and Opening Up (2016). In these, Liiv captures the power of the moment of igniting a wooden installation that has taken lots of effort to create in the first place. Liiv sees the process of burning as an act of redemption or catharsis after the long ritual of constructing the sculpture.



Elo Liiv, Phoenix, Tallinn 2020, Photo: © Ksenija Kurs


About Judith Mann

Judith Mann is a researcher and multidisciplinary artist from Germany whose work focuses on electricity and artificial fog. Her interest lies in natural phenomena and how art can play a role in interpreting and understanding them.

Having reconstructed a Tesla Coil (i.e. a machine that produces electricity through strong electromagnetic fields), Mann creates immersive light experiences that play at the limits of science and art. She likes to test the potentials of light by applying it to the most creative performances, like in the case of Stavanger Symphony Orchestra in Norway (2014) where the electricity from the coil was used to light up a Star Wars-inspired light saber on stage. She has exhibited electricity installations in various science centers like in Wolfsburg (2015) and Heilbronn (2019). 

Judith Mann, Salix Nebel, Hilden, Germany 2012, Photo: © Mandy Göhler

In her fog works, Mann is interested in the way fog changes our perspective of spatiality and temporality. In her public interventions, she creates foggy landscapes that interact with their surroundings, opening a new perception of a phenomenon which one would normally only see in nature.

In her outdoor works Salix Nebel (2012) and Salix Alba (2013), the artist constructed a corridor of tree branches on an open plain and integrated mechanisms that produce artificial fog. Here, the focus lies on observing the synergy between nature with art and cause the growth of the trees despite the artificial setting.

In her indoor works like Raum aus Luft (2017), Mann is interested in observing the influence of the human factor, by inviting people to cross the church interior and be immersed into the fog that spreads downwards from the ceiling.

Judith Mann, Raum Aus Luft, Bochum, Germany, 2017, Photo: © Mandy Göhler


Both artists present fascinating approaches to creativity by pushing the boundaries of art. Whether indoors or outdoors, they create ephemeral art that engages all senses and invites people to participate and learn from it.

Author: Vanessa Souli


Vanessa Souli is a Berlin-based curator, writer and artist consultant. Since 2017, she has been curating exhibitions in Berlin and internationally, while writing for established art magazines. She recently developed the A-to-Z Coaching Programme, a complete career training programme exclusively for visual artists. Her current curatorial interests include the age of the 'Anthropocene' and the impact of humans on the environment.

Cover picture: Judith Mann, TESLA, Nachts im Labor, Science Center Heilbronn, 2019


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