FIH — Field Institute Hombroich
Yuko Shiraishi 2001
FIH was created by three artists: Katsuhito Nishikawa, Tadashi Kawamata and Yuko Shiraishi in the former NATO rocket launching station in Neuss, Germany. It has been open since June 2001 and uses four twelve–metre steel ocean containers, which are placed inside the former rocket launching station at the Stiftung Insel Hombroich. Shiraishi has painted the outsides and insides of the containers and Kawamata has arranged the containers, attached terraces and built bridges between them. Nishikawa has coordinated the whole project. The containers have become a kind of symbolic space for the FIH.
Kawamata, Nishikawa and Shiraishi are running a programme to have two to three artists in residence a year. The artists may be writers, poets, film makers, visual artists, musicians or scientists i.e. a wide range of creators. Each artist in residence will put on an exhibition at the end of their time there. We have a residence house which used be the military workshop situated in the rocket launching station. The exhibition could either be created in the container or could take place outside. In future we are also planning to have a symposium and encourage personal projects as well as workshops and other cultural activities. This is a place where the artist can live, create and exhibit. There is no curator here. It is a living–space where the artist works alone for the time he/she is there and then moves on.
The Field Institute Hombroich is conceived as a living organism in that it is not a permanent museum space, but may grow or decrease by adding or removing containers. At the moment there are four containers, but more bridges and containers may be added. The growth of the organism is not yet complete. Once the containers are too old, they will be discarded, like dead cells. The old containers could be replaced by new ones anywhere within the rocket station and not necessarily on the site of the old ones. In future the FIH will not be restricted to this former rocket station in Germany but could be elsewhere in the world.
We decided to use containers because we did not want to be based in a building like most museums and institutions. The containers are movable and may be treated casually. This flexibility is suited to our content. This is like the policy of the museum on the Insel Hombroich which has refused to use any artificial light security guards, or security videos in their museum. The museum is situated in a national park in Nordrhein–Westfalen and most of the buildings have been built by the artist Erwin Heerich. We wanted to echo this museum but at the same time, we wanted to make our own original statement. Since the FIH is situated in a former rocket station we decided to use coloured containers because of their flexibility and the uniqueness of their colour against their surroundings. The containers themselves, of course, do not have any light, electricity or water. The container is simply a long cubic space. We believe that it is a challenge for the artists to show what they can do in this environmen. There is plenty of white cubic space in the world, and something so basic, whether you are a painter, sculptor, conceptual or video artist, will always present a challenge.
The former NATO rocket launching station in which the FIH is set, still reveals many bullet holes in its towers and other marks from the Cold War. We are not a political institute, but there is a hope that this institute may go some way to creating a world with fewer borders. The NATO station itself did not use to appear on any German maps because it was a secret part of history. Now there is a biophysical institution there as well as a guest house and library all built by Erwin Heerich. At the entrance to the NATO station there is a huge sculpture by Chllida which is higher than the watch tower, so the landscape is slowly changing.
The shape of the FIH is still very abstract and this is how we like it. We do not wish to dictate how the institution will develop, but hope that we have merely sown a seed which will be further nurtured by the artists who come to work at the FIH. All we can do now is wait and watch how it grows.