About the work




Superflex Biogas in Africa, 1997
Mixed media
Variable dimensions 

Superflex Biogas in Africa is both artwork and documentation. The installation illustrates Superflex's efforts to develop an ecologically sustainable energy source for poor, isolated farming families in Third World countries.

In 1997 Superflex introduced a biogas plant which was installed in a village in Tanzania. Since then, two orange balloons in the village have converted biological waste into gas, thus making an African household self-sufficient in terms of heating and lighting.

The project spawned the company Supergas Ltd in which engineers, Superflex and various investors expand the project for commercial use in different parts of the world.

When on display at ARKEN the installation Superflex Biogas in Africa is presented as a kind of sales stand for the biogas plant where you can learn about the idea behind the project and see how the plant works with a balloon prototype, diagrams, posters and a table with brochures.

Three videos document the installation of the system and show how Superflex worked with the locals in Tanzania. The large orange balloon which in a museum of art at first appears to be a sculpture turns out to be a functional object. The orange colour is Superflex's trademark and they use it in all of their projects. This gives them an instantly recognisable profile which has a lot in common with the logos of more traditional companies.

In the video Superflex appear in khaki shorts and green shirts: an allusion to the stereotypical attire for a Westerner living in Africa. This dress is a stark contrast to the Africans' clothing and thus perpetuates a traditional distribution of roles, the industrial countries functioning as the enterprising, charitable benefactors, the developing countries being relegated to the role of passive recipients. The irony is directed at both the traditional donor situation in the developing countries and at the idea of art's pure (white) and lofty space.

Superflex have tried to escape the conventional roles by cooperating with SURUDE (Sustainable Rural Development). SURUDE is a nongovernmental organisation concerned with the education of farmers and a sustainable working of natural resources. The collaboration stimulates farmer investment in the projects. Eventually it may assist in changing some of the power structures normally controlling the relief work and other government-run initiatives.

Superflex's art in general
Superflex describe their artistic projects as tools. Superflex Biogas in Africa is both a serious suggestion for a substantial improvement of day-to-day life in a Third World country and a work of art that invites reflection on the relationship between rich and poor countries.

Unlike traditional art critical of society Superflex do not stop at pointing out specific problems. They regard art as a domain in which it is possible to set up actual, practical solutions and they intervene actively in social and political structures. With various places and problems as their point of departure Superflex create works, or tools, that contribute either to solving a concrete problem for a community or increasing the communication and cooperation. Superflex seek close collaborations with their users and each work functions as a physical and social framework and starting point for concrete use.

Superflex challenge the traditional role of the artist. Instead of using their Christian names they have devised the Superflex concept. Like the avant-garde artists of the 1960s who discussed the prevalent perception of the artist, Superflex downplay the character of the individual artist in favour of the group dynamic. Superflex are not only an artist collective; they are also a company trying to function on the prevailing market terms.

DK-2635 Ishøj
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