From landscapes of glaciers as far as the eye can see to torrential rain at the shore of a massive lake, the artist Carla Chan was confronted by nature throughout her two residencies with the Swiss skincare brand La Prairie. In all its inevitability and scale, Chan reflected on that humbling “tiny, human feeling.”
“This constant change of climate and instability has me thinking of the in-betweens — what is disappearing in nature?” she mused in a video interview. She wondered about the chunks of glaciers at the Monte Rosa Hut last year that won’t be there this time around — they’re probably in the rain and moisture that seeped into the radiant rock formations during her artistic residency at La Becquein Montreux, a prestigious art residency on lac Léman. During an unbearably hot-yet-humid day in Hong Kong, living and working between there and her hometown and Berlin, she thinks back to these encounters with Mother Nature on the other end of the world, chatting with me through a screen.
“I’m a positive person. I wanted to address the notion,” she shares. “I didn’t want to lecture people and tell them what to think. I wanted people to contemplate nature. Give space for people to think differently. I want them to understand.”
Since people are already synced to their devices, why not open up a portal there? As the culmination of her collaboration with La Prairie (debuted with the time-based Space Between the Light Glows, featuring the golden hour from The Alps), Fading Space of Dawn premiered through augmented reality at Frieze New York with Unfalling Black, where Chan took viewers into the eye of the storm — from inclement rain to snowfall then the other way around — through a phone app.
Today, Chan blends physical and digital materials and transforms Tai Kwun, Hong Kong’s most iconic cultural and arts center, into a virtual rendering of the Swiss Alps from dusk to dawn — in different weather conditions, combining the natural world with digital abstraction.
Informed by a more traditional art practice before becoming known for her video installations, interactive media, and virtual and augmented reality with time-based computational processes, Chan sought something more — “something beyond time and space.”
As she rethinks the mark that humans leave on earth, she also rethinks the legacy she leaves behind as an artist. “It’s interesting to me that digital artworks can now be seen as an asset; I had an idea that I wanted to create an artwork that would outlive the artist’s life. I wonder, what will nature look like in 100 years? I wonder, what will my artwork look like then?” she shares, thus creating Space Beyond, her and La Prairie’s first NFT project, a generative artwork in 366 editions — one for each day of the year — with a morphing landscape transformed by real-time weather data, with abstract animations changing with real-time meteorological data collected from the 31 most populated cities in the world.
With Smart Token Labs on the Ethereum blockchain, Chan controls the weather — and influences the way we think of our effects on our real-world natural systems. Part of the proceeds from the NFTs sale will be donated to ETH Zurich’s Department of Glaciology, La Prairie’s long-term partner, where they monitor glacier activity to combat climate change.
Back at home, before bed, we seize what we can control — starting with the extreme weather change’s effects on our skin. The radiance Chan witnessed in the mineral stones around Lac Léman at dawn after a night of rain inspires La Prairie’s Pure Gold Radiance Nocturnal Balm. It comes with an ergonomic massage stone that helps deposit gold particles and deep nourishment into the skin so we wake up glowing like a brand new day.
Carla Chan’s “Fading Space of Dawn” is on view at Art Basel Hong Kong La Prairie Lounge until May 29 and at the Tai Kwun Centre for Heritage and Arts until May 30.