Love Dive (diet pelican froth)

SARIEV Contemporary
Oct 23, 2017 10:13PM

During Night/Plovdiv 2017, one of Bulgaria’s leading art festivals, American artist Mike Bouchet produced a site-specific sculpture titled Love Dive (diet pelican froth), which picked the curiosity of locals and guests and provoked thoughts about mass culture and the planet wide desire for a certain carbonated beverage.

Mike Bouchet, Love Dive (diet pelican froth), site-specific sculpture, Plovdiv, Bulgaria, courtesy the artist and SARIEV Contemporary, photo  Lina Krivoshieva, 2017

The Bulgarian city of Plovdiv woke up one sunny morning with a shift to its familiar center. At first glance, everything seemed as usual on the main pedestrian street. Boutique owners preparing to open, locals and tourists getting an early cup of coffee, children running around the municipal fountain with its impressive streams of water. Only it was not water gushing from the fountain that day, but diet cola. Children were crowded around, and some braver ones even tried to taste the new reality, while worried mothers hurried them away.

Mike Bouchet, the Frankfurt-based, American artist is no stranger to the city of Plovdiv. In 2015, he participated in AMERICANAESOTERICA, a group show produced by SARIEV Contemporary in its gallery space and with many elements of the exhibition also displayed throughout the city. That experience served as a starting point for Private Idano, Bouchet’s latest solo show at SARIEV gallery. The exhibition opening was on September 15th which coincided with the start of Night/Plovdiv, the city’s main annual art festival.

“Since that (first) visit, I felt that Plovdiv is an interesting place to make an exhibition, and make a public work. Artistic gestures don’t just disappear into a hole there. People pay attention to what is going on and engage with it. Interesting art scenes are not about where, but who. It’s the people that give a scene that special something, not necessarily its geographical location, or the size of its population,” says Bouchet, about working in Plovdiv. “I had kept in contact with SARIEV Contemporary, and had proposed a few ideas for artworks over the past years. I’m very happy that they were able to realize this work, it was a dream of mine for many years. The city's open attitude towards art is evident in their acceptance of this proposal, and also how large and dynamic the Night/Plovdiv art festival is.”

Mike Bouchet, Love Dive (diet pelican froth), site-specific sculpture, Plovdiv, Bulgaria, courtesy the artist and SARIEV Contemporary, photo  Lina Krivoshieva, 2017

In line with some of his previous projects centered on mainstream culture, Bouchet’s work in Plovdiv steps out of the white cube to enter the public space at one of its most iconic spots. Bulgaria’s second-largest city is no exception when it comes to resisting what is becoming an extremely common landscape in most big European cities. Both McDonald’s and Burger King occupy the ground floor of early twentieth-century buildings across from the City Hall. In between these institutions is a popular public fountain built during the communist dictatorship of the country. An ironic rendezvous accentuated even more by Bouchet’s work. The title Love Dive (diet pelican froth) is, as the artist explains, “a wordplay on “Plovdiv”, and also an accurate metaphor for our cultural relationship to this dark liquid.” The dark liquid in question being a very faithful version of what is the most popular soft drink on the planet. For three days, the beaks of the fountain’s bronze pelicans shot diet Cola, instead of water 10 meters up into the air.

The artist’s interest in the physical and symbolical qualities of the famous beverage dates back to the early 2000’s but was highly remarked upon in 2010, when he filled an entire swimming pool in California with 100,000 laters of his own diet cola. The sculpture, titled Flat Desert Diet Cola Pool, was a both an event and the basis for a film he shot there. With Love Dive (diet pelican froth) the artist offers a different reading on consumerism fantasies and American pop culture not only by shifting the project geographically but also by giving more room to the visual and olfactory experience.

Mike Bouchet, Love Dive (diet pelican froth), site-specific sculpture, Plovdiv, Bulgaria, courtesy the artist and SARIEV Contemporary, photo Vladislav Sevov, 2017

“The shift has much to do with context. The work is clearly located in a very public space in the middle of a bustling historic European city. It is also not a static artwork. The way the fountain circulates the material is very dynamic. The nature of the fountain itself is one of observation, but it is a machine that is designed to transform water into a spectacle of sorts. The material qualities of the diet cola are further expressed and exaggerated by this machine as well,” says Bouchet adding that he found the work even more engaging and interactive in a classical sense of art. “The finer physical properties of the material were heightened, as well as a closer inspection of the fountain itself. It’s far more hypnotic than the fountain normally would be.”

Mike Bouchet, Love Dive (diet pelican froth), site-specific sculpture, Plovdiv, Bulgaria, courtesy the artist and SARIEV Contemporary, photo Lina Krivoshieva, 2017

The site-specific sculpture provoked and intrigued locals and guests, which didn’t go unnoticed by the artist who stayed nearby to see and hear some of the reactions. “From the experience I had, I found the audience’s relationship with art to be quite lively. There was a very wide range of responses, and generally well considered - not the usual sarcastic remarks or one-line statements. I had a lot of people come up to me with thoughtful perspectives - some found it beautiful, others found it to be an apt statement of our times, some focused on potential meanings of its location. In addition, what I found nice was that few people commented on their own fantasies with Cola, and several pointed out how they looked at this fountain that they have known their whole lives differently. I appreciate very much when people start discussions because of art – isn’t that important?”

SARIEV Contemporary