High up on a cherry picker in Aberdeen and Jan Vormann is patching up an old wall. Part of the Aberdeen Nuart festival, he’s attracted quite a crowd of people looking curiously upwards. Lego, his material of choice. The popular plastic brick is now covering over patches in one of the cities oldest structures.
Part of Jan’s Dispatchwork project. Each piece is carefully chosen and then put together in situ. The Lego pieces themselves having been donated by local people after a call out for bricks before the festival. The resulting patches remain fixed in place. Blended against the edges of the old stonework. They are secured not by cement or glue but by pressure and by becoming entwined with the wall.
Architecture and Art
Jan’s work is as much about architecture as it is about art. The two for him seem indelibly linked. His patchwork pieces of Lego simply wouldn’t work without the wall. Conscious of the fact that it will already have experienced a history of its own. By placing his work within the cracks of the surface he is inviting people to look at it. To acknowledge it more and to ponder just for a moment what story that space or surface might have had.
The wall in Aberdeen is no exception. One of the oldest in this grand city. It had formerly been a part of an old townhouse known as Aedies House. Built around 1604 and finally demolished in 1914 it held a dark history. Believed as it was to have been a holding house for children stolen off the streets to be sold as slaves in America. In one of the darkest periods of Aberdonian history, between 1740 and 1760, around 700 children would be kidnapped from the streets. Their fate, to be kept in holding houses like Aedies until there were enough of them to transport.
Jan’s work of course is now hugely popular with children. Many stopping in their tracks when they notice that the cracks are filled with Lego. When we speak he only hints to me about its dark history. Instead he invites me to find out for myself just what might well have happened here. I get the feeling that he enjoys the fact that his art could begin to transform the perception of this space in such a way.
In Aberdeen his work on this particular wall is mainly placed high up. However his work normally would be easier to access. He likes the fact that people could just stumble across it and that in the daily interaction of life, it too could just fall away. “The idea is that people walk across their normal paths.” he tells me. “They walk along a road they would always walk and they find this formerly broken piece of the wall where suddenly they find this installation. The fifth, the sixth, the seventh will maybe even touch it and then it might move a little bit and then at some point it might fall out.”
Ever Changing Art
Even when the installation has fallen out the interaction doesn’t end. The next person he says might just see a pile of lego on the ground, they might then pick it up and take it home. This cyclical nature of what could be regarding as the life span of this plastic brick seems to be an integral part of his work. The fact that lego bricks donated by Aberdonian kids might once again be discovered or used by Aberdonian kids is not lost on him.
That’s also exactly what was beginning to happen to this installation. Watching afterwards and seeing how people would interact with the wall. Some bits which were at a more human level did indeed fall out. Not suprising really given the amount of activity around the area over the Easter weekend. Children then began to rebuild the installation in their own way. The result, a different form of sculpture. The Lego bricks and the wall beginning to re-imagine their brief relationship.
Jan Vormann was interviewed at his installation on the Green in Aberdeen on Friday 19 April 2019. The artwork was part of Jan Vormann’s Dispatchwork project which he brought to the third edition of the Nuart Aberdeen festival which took place between 18-21 April 2019.