Chris Bell

Sovereign Powers

2012
Sovereign Powers
  • Sovereign Powers
  • Sovereign Powers
  • Sovereign Powers

Description of work

A commissioned work for LKV studios as part of the symposium "Art Nomads". 13 flags , each a diagram of the world's electrical sockets.

Catalogue Text by Margrete Abelsen:

“If a tragedy befell the earth and all organic matter disappeared (people, animals, plants), we would find the ruins of our civilization draped in the most complex web of copper threads. Copper; drawn into bands, ribbons and wires would be revealed as a massive structure – the result of a century of lacework in the service of communication, utility, and comfort. […] The electrical grids of the world might be our civilization’s ultimate structure- A massive weaving into billions of rooms and buildings.” In this way the Australian artist Chris Bell depicts how we all somehow are connected to each other through our electrical power.
Chris Bell (b. 1966) often works with installations where electricity plays an important role. In the Lademoen Park we will encounter an impressive arrangement of flags in the same tradition as the frequently depicted collection of flags outside the UN headquarters in New York. In this case, the flags are not those of UN member nations but simplified images of the different electrical sockets in the world. The number of electrical sockets has increased to 13, and Bell’s collection of flags therefore consists of 13 images that represent the different sockets belonging to these plugs.
In Europe and in most other countries the voltage is more than twice as high as in Japan and America, a fact which may cause sparks if an appliance designed for lower voltage is plugged into a socket with high voltage. If one does not bring along an adapter when travelling, it may be difficult to plug into the power grid (i.e. mobile and pc), and communication attempts are complicated in a similar manner when one encounters a foreign language and novel cultural codes. In this way, the plugs represent the difference, discovery and alienation of a new place. Languages and cultures are affected by global standardization, yet the electrical sockets seem to be less adaptive to these changes. Therefore Sovereign Power becomes a symbol of the more indelible differences, the vast physical systems that nations have built, that even McDonalds or IKEA will have difficulty changing.
Grouping the nations according to their sockets breaks up existing territorial borders and other national constellations. The collection of flags symbolizes, as do the UN flags, a union – not through sovereign states, nationalism and religious beliefs, but through the community of being a foreigner in this world.

Materials used

polyester flags, flagpoles