'Colors in Motion: A Conversation with Daniel Buren' – Sculpture Magazine
17 June 2023
'Comme tombées du ciel, les couleurs in situ et en mouvement (As if fallen from the sky, the colors in situ and in motion)', Daniel Buren’s spectacular color and light intervention at the Liège-Guillemins train station in Belgium, takes a precise approach to the notion of “as-is,” minimally altering yet radically transforming what already exists. Unveiled in October 2022, the work is completely integrated into the Santiago Calatrava-designed station, which serves as a major stop for domestic and international rail travel. In the main part of the roof-based installation, squares of white, blue, orange, pink, and green are arranged in a chess board-like grid. Contrasting striped panels appear in red, white, and yellow. Together, they project a colorful array of ever-changing shadows that heighten the experience of the space below. The precise interplay of color and light and the full variety of visual effects have not yet been completely revealed; as the seasons shift, new perspectives keep emerging.
Robert Preece: How long was this project in the works?
Daniel Buren: Joël Benzakin, independent curator and organizer of the project, and Stephan Uhoda, director of Uhoda Group, which has its headquarters in Liège, first contacted me in May or June of 2021, asking if I would be interested in doing something at the station. I signed the contract the following month and set to work defining the entire project. After the plans were approved, we started to work on the glass roof structure in early August 2022. The work was completed on October 10, 2022, with an official opening on October 15.
RP: How did you go about choosing the colors and shapes within the design? Did you have to consult with the Liège-Guillemins station management or with the Calatrava studio?
DB: It’s always difficult for me to speak about how the colors are chosen because I don’t really know. Once I was happy with the arrangement on the glass structure of the roof—a sort of gigantic chess grid covering two hectares—the only thing I used as a guide was my will. The pattern made a strong contrast between one color and the next, so I worked with a juxtaposition of contrasting colors following this principle. I had to select from the rather limited palette of colors available from the producer of the transparent, self-adhesive vinyl film. I never consulted with the station management or Calatrava’s studio.
RP: Were there unexpected challenges or issues along the way?
DB: The team hired to manage the work was the same one that, 10 years earlier, had overseen the placing of the glass roof sections. They knew the whole situation pretty well. Not a single negative thing happened during the installation process, which took almost three months of hard work.
RP: How does the work change with various light conditions and through the seasons?
DB: As soon as you take the risk of working outside, and especially here, on a huge glass roof, you are completely dependent on changes in the weather. This is one of the reasons that I love to work outside. Working with any kind of skylight opens that risk to the maximum degree. If you see the work on a gray day, cloudy and sunless, the effects of the color projections disappear almost completely. As soon as the sun shows itself though, the work virtually explodes everywhere.
These two extremes within the same work are part of the visual game—the reason that I find such a situation so vivid and interesting. What you see can jump from, let’s say close to one or 10 percent, to an extreme density, with hundreds of multiplied new aspects, 100 times stronger, full of visual accidents, completely unexpected and exciting, sometimes even completely crazy.
Read the full interview with Daniel Buren conducted by Robert Preece in Sculpture Magazine here.
Daniel Buren’s Comme tombées du ciel, les couleurs in situ et en mouvement remains on view through 15 October 2023.