Moment: Pont des Arts - Installation Proposal

View towards the Intitut de France

Overhead view


The Pont des Arts is a pedestrian bridge traversing the Seine in central Paris, linking the Louvre to the North and the Institut de France to the South. The Institut is the seat of several "académies," including the Académie Française, the guardian of the French language. The Louvre requires no introduction.

“Moment: Pont des Arts,” as in all “Moment” works, utilises the inherently random phenomena of background radiation. Here, it is used to explore its reception in a location rich both visually and historically.

The project consists of 112 lamps embedded in the wooden planks of the Pont des Arts as shown in the views above. Each lamp is connected to a radiation detector and produces a bright brief flash each time a particle is detected. On average, each lamp will be triggered 15 - 25 times per minute, thus 40 flashes per second along the entire walkway. Invisible in full daylight, the flashes emerge progressively towards the end of the afternoon, the piece gradually revealing itself as the sky darkens. They maintain their intensity until the fade in the increasing daylight, disappearing completely about an hour after dawn. The work is totally silent.

“Moment" is founded on the contemplation of real-world randomness, accessed through the detection of background radiation so that each flash is itself a manifestation of a physical event. As demonstrated by quantum physics, this radiation is inherently random.

And to be clear, “Moment" introduces no radiation into the environment. This radiation is omnipresent and eternal, and is overwhelmingly from natural sources: cosmic events, the radioactive decomposition of natural elements and certain weather events. It poses no threat to our health at these natural levels.

Why the Pont des Arts?

This project is proposed specifically for the Pont des Arts for four main reasons:

1. It links two historically significant buildings: the Louvre and the Institute de France, both illuminated in a remarkable fashion. The visual dynamics of "Moment’s" random flashes are in strong contrast with the architectural illumination of the buildings and the changing lights of the boats on the Seine and the traffic on the arteries on each side of the bridge.

2. The bridge is flat. The entire piece will be visibile from a single viewpoint.

3. The bridge is linear, so that the viewer’s experience evolves with his/her passage along the bridge.

4. The wooden planks make the installation easy, rapid and inexpensive.

But beyond the purely visual aspect, the site itself is of primary importance. Here, physical forces outside culture and without metaphor, establish a contrast between nature, inherently uncontrolled and unpredictable, and the intense historicization of the French culture and by extension, of all Western culture. Here, France’s most important museum (and former seat of the monarchy) is physically linked to the various cultural and scientific académies, including the physical manifestation of the French language. 

In traversing the bridge, the visitor finds him/herself in a natural world outside human-scale time, culture and history. The work is conceived to provoke reflection on multiple dichotomies: chaos and order, the real and the symbolic, the physical and the cultural, the universal and the national, a single moment and historical time. Rendering tangible these dualities is an important objective of the piece; the site makes this possible.

View the video below for a sense of the work's visual dynamics and for more information on its implementation.

Project Description (no sound)

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