Villa Massimo at Neuhardenberg Castle, Presentation of the 2019/2020 German Academy Rome residency winners
During the baroque period and absolutism, landscaped gardens and parks served the showcasing of rulership and wealth; today, they belong to the cultural landscape and are accessible to the public. What looks so natural is actually the result of a meticulously curated cultivation, involving especially the construction of artificial ponds, riverbeds and bridges, of paths and sight lines as well as the integration of architecture and monuments. A central element of the Neuhardenberg castle park is the picturesque man-made pond that features an island with an old willow tree. However, when the park was designed, a fountain was intentionally not included, despite the fact that it would have met the desire for prestigiousness. Fountains now often serve as places to meet, day trip destinations or landmarks.
The light sculpture The Fountain, installed in the middle of the pond, embodies a fountain. The material alone already creates a stark contrast to the naturalness of the environment and the classicist monuments in the park. The sculpture has been fashioned from yellow acrylic glass, and is illuminated by LEDs. The shape and colours form a copy of the McDonald’s logo, with arches that cross at a 90 degree angle. The McDonald’s logo is one of the world’s most widely known symbols. The brand’s business model stands for uniformity, the fast pace of our times, consumerism and globalisation. There is hardly another image that could be in starker contrast to a historic landscaped park.
Yet the sculpture nevertheless blends in well with the castle complex. When viewed from several viewpoints along the banks of the pond, the golden arches look like a fountain. At the same time, they follow the shape of the willow. The work picks up on the idea of an artificial structure that blends into nature and also references the tense relationship between high and pop culture, between product aesthetics and nature experiences, through the abstraction of the brand logo. A design element that introduces the present in a radical yet also aesthetic way is added to the landscaped park, which could be considered to represent an alternative parallel world to our modern, mundane urban lives.
Photos: Sebastian Bolesch,