Months ago, I had the chance to interview Tom Herck regarding his latest performance at Burning Man and I was left with the impression that his art stroke a chord with the public primarily because of his ability to connect his creative universe with major issues felt in society, whether on a macro or micro level.
It comes with no surprise to me then that the Belgian artist has not been idle during the past weeks, while the COVID-19 pandemic was sweeping the world. The crucial and altruistic contribution of the health workers has been acknowledged worldwide for months now, and Herck too wanted to express his personal tribute to all those doctors and nurses who have been fighting to preserve as many lives as possible, at their own risk.
Belgium has been among the most severely afflicted areas in Europe, with the province of Limburg particularly hit by the coronavirus, and the Sint-Truiden-born Herck has created a monumental installation to honour those whom he considers the backbone of our time. Supported by local agencies and companies, the artist has just installed The Message Is Light, a gigantic chandelier equipped with 33 letterboxes with a candle attached to each of them, one for each human vertebra.
The 1000 Kg work of art, 6m in diameter x 4,5m high, features three rings of candlestick placed 1,5m apart as a symbol of the social distancing principle that we are all too familiar with now. It will remain suspended to a 25m high crane for 8 days to show support to the people affected by the virus: during this period everyone who will want to send messages of support will be able to do so by sending thoughts to Herck’s Facebook page, Instagram profile and personal email (firstname.lastname@example.org). The messages will be printed and posted in the mailboxes on the eighth day, so that the chandelier will be literally filled with hope. Just like so many people across the Continents are burning candles as a form of solidarity to the victims of the pandemic, on the last day the ones of the installation will be burned, and the following day all the documents of the mailboxes will be delivered to the staff and management of the hospital.
The artwork, which stands as a metaphor for seeing a light at the end of the tunnel, is currently located in front of the St-Trudo hospital, in Herck’s hometown, and waits to be filled with your messages until the 18th of May.
Pictures courtesy of the artist.