A wind turbine blade, longer than the wing of a 747, sits in middle of Queen Victoria Square in the English city of Hull, a public artwork handmade to celebrate the UK's 2017 City of Culture. Artist Nayan Kulkarni, known for site-specific works that enact subtle changes on public spaces using light or sound, is the man behind Blade, the B75 rotor now interrupting Hull's historical city center.
The giant wind turbine, weighing 25 tons, is singularly made of cast fiberglass. It's one of the first to be made by the new Siemens factory that's manufacturing rotor blades and bringing jobs to Hull, an industrial city that's experienced significant decline since the 1970s.
"Blade is certainly the largest autonomous object I have deployed in an artwork," Kulkarni tells Creators. "The artwork is the relationship between the rotor blade and the Square, not really the form on its own."
Trained in sculpture and with a vested interest in material, Kulkarni's designed and manufactured the installation over a 16-week period in Hull. The work speaks to the roles of both industry and culture towards revitalizing what was once one of the poorest cities in England.
"It is striking to interrupt the new shiny logics of Queen Victoria Square with an industrial artifact that both exposes the city's economic path dependency and the UK's increasing reliance on corporate sponsorship to maintain cultural energy," explains Kulkarni. "That is not to say that it [Blade] doesn't celebrate the labor of Hull in a new way. But through folding cultural production into industrial production I think that their is a gentle pointer towards a critique."
The UK City of Culture, which had its inauguration with the city Derry/Londonderry in 2013, aims at inciting tourism to socially and economic deprived areas, providing a year long program of art events and commissioned work.
Kulkarni, who pays regular visits to Hull, has seen a refurbishment to the city that he hopes Blade can encapsulate.
"At first slowly, and now rapidly, the city center is changing," he says. "Particularly in the city center, new cities and cultures are becoming evident in the built spaces—a kind of layering in and through each other. These changes will necessarily produce tensions and dialogues between generational identities, traditions, and reference points."
Pedestrians passing through the many entrances to Queen Victoria Square are confronted by a massive white object, high enough for a double decker bus to pass through, enveloping a sort of sleek industrial grace pointing to the future.
"The generous and playful way that people seem to respond to the installation is rather wonderful," says Kulkarni. "Its aesthetic success and drama has somewhat quietened the more complex folding of ideas that I hope it might help unravel."
Blade is on display at Queen Victoria Square in Hull until March 18, 2017, as part of the UK City of Culture 2017 program. Find out more here.