Article by Roxana Florina Popa
16 February: The artist group arrives at the airport of Mauritius. They will not get the Phoenix out of customs before Monday. By boat, they discover Île aux Cocos. Day 4: Super+ gets the Phoenix boxes. Foil undamaged. Wind speed below 15 km / h predicted for the following day – ideal conditions 21 February: The crew decides to perform the Phoenix. On the way to the port, their car is controlled by the police. The weather gets worse. The team spreads the Phoenix on the beach and fill it in with helium and air. The tip of the Phoenix sticks out now 30 meters in the sky. Gusts of wind are puffing on the foil. Parts of the Phoenix are carried out by the wind. Pressed onto water, they transform the ocean surface into silvery mercury. In the evening, the artists sit in the Wapalapam restaurant, review the action and look for mistakes. Wapalapam belongs to Rok Flander, the former snowboard world champion. Day 8: a panic call from a member of the crew. He has strayed off the road with the four-wheel drive and slipped down eight meters. The rescue cost the team two hours of the day. Super+ finds a lonely bay behind the Le Morne, opening up right on the foot of the mountain, at the wide sea. In the good interaction of the crew, the Phoenix rises within 60 minutes from the ashes. In breath-taking scenery, he dances playfully in the air. The sun is slowly setting and the atmosphere changes dramatically. The Phoenix reflects the evening light and nature. At 19:00 o’clock, they let the Phoenix land. Super+ switches the lights of the sea. The performance was successful and visually stunning. With Mauritian Phoenix beer, they celebrate their successful expedition in the Wapalapam.
RFP: Your art creates and reproduces experiences in completely unique contexts. With the flight of the Phoenix on Mauritius, you appear as pioneers of aviation and seafaring in exotic places manoeuvring balloons and airships over ocean waters. I even think of the famous characters of Jules Verne, Robur the Conqueror and Samuel Fergusson.
What have you discovered by flying the Phoenix on Mauritius?
Super+: With the invitation to Mauritius, we have opened up to the possibility of performing the flight of the Phoenix in an unexpected environment, to let the sculpture interact and fusion with the nature, the wind, the waves and the exotic vegetation.
After our first performances in urban spaces, our next aim should be to make the Phoenix rise from its ashes in an environment untouched by humans, to experience the interaction with nature and to bring it to life.
Our considerations went from the sea to the desert, over the jungle to the ice shelf.
We all quickly agreed within the team that we wanted to respond to the invitation and that this island in the Indian Ocean could be an ideal location.
It was also clear from the very beginning that such an expedition to the southern hemisphere would be an elaborate project. However, this should not keep us from daring to adventure and get 12 on the plane.
Despite all endeavours, obstacles and setbacks on our way, we ended up accomplishing what many have doubted: in a secluded bay, the team could make the Phoenix dance over the mirror-like sea for several hours and capture those incredible pictures.
RFP: What kind of experience and dream have you wished to experience?
Super+: Of course, there were many expectations of the project. The focus was on the performance, a perfect flight of the Phoenix that steals everybody’s breath away in the tropical scenery. The dream was to make an art performance in the nature and later to present it through images and video performance.
RFP: Is the Phoenix a balloon, a kite, a forerunner of a futuristic flying machine, a mirror for the beauty of nature?
Super+: A balloon, a UFO, a mythical creature and everything that our imagination makes out of it. He unfolds tremendous power that makes us swirl on the ropes through the air and sinks a moment later gently and with poetic movements on the water surface. He is a magical being who constantly changes his form and colour by deforming himself in the wind and reflecting his surroundings.
RFP: To make the performance possible, you have planned an entire organisation from Munich, the land of the Phoenix, to South Africa for the delivery of helium, to mobilising a crew of 12 in the port of La Gaulette and to exploring the geography of Mauritius, to the best place to find the Phoenix fly.
How long did it take you to plan the whole action?
Super+: 4 months in total.
RFP: Why have you chosen Mauritius?
Super+: We hoped to have there exactly the conditions that we had foreseen for the next step in the flight of the Phoenix: a breath-taking environment and the vast untamed nature. Politically, too, we were interested in the island, which is so remote from the ocean, colonized by 4 countries one after the other, and where several religions are now living side by side peacefully.
RFP: How many of your steps have been planned and how much did you need to adjust?
Super+: Before the trip, we planned what could be planned and made all preparations. Our team accompanied the project from the beginning and has recently grown to 12 people. Shortly after New Year’s Eve, we built the Phoenix in the Oskar von Miller Gymnasium in Munich. Since there was a risk that a performance would go wrong, we stuck two sculptures out of the foil.
That took several days and lots of wo / manpower and time did not allow for a third Phoenix.
To minimize the risk, of course, we also had to think of little things like sunscreen, diving equipment, knives, shoes etc. Flights and accommodation were booked and plenty of equipment packed.
How it actually looked locally and where we could actually perform the Phoenix was not predictable, not even if the weather would have played along. In February, the wind is weakest on average, but the probability of cyclones is highest.
RFP: What mistakes did you make and how did you overcome them on the second flight of the Phoenix?
Super+: In the first performance, on a small Mauritius offshore island popularly called “Coconut Island”, a gust of wind literally blew us up in no time.
The beach was narrow and not protected by the wind. We knew that this could happen, as it could also have been different. Since we had filmed everything with several cameras, we were able to do video analysis and see exactly why and where the foil breaks.
Before the second performance, we went through all the mistakes together with the team so that we could avoid them the second time around. After the first “rehearsal”, everything went smoothly the second time. The bay was perfect, the beach wide and no wind.
Sure, there were some situations that could have led to failure, but we were lucky. Luck is an important factor that is always taken into account.
RFP: What was the highlight of flying the Phoenix over the Indian Ocean?
Super+: I think there was a different climax for everyone. A highlight of the entire journey was that the monumental sculpture had finally risen completely from the sea, or the moment when the sun dipped into the sea behind the palm trees and the Phoenix transformed himself in the sunrays into liquid gold. It was also amazing to watch fruit bats make their rounds around the Phoenix as if it were some kind of giant bat.
RFP: How much was the performance visited or seen from afar? Does the nature of Mauritius allow this kind of performance?
Super+: Our performance could only happen spontaneously because we did not know when the weather was playing along. In addition, we did not announce it.
This art performance was not about the audience, it was about experiencing and documenting it ourselves and in a team, and showing the video and photo material in exhibitions to a broad audience later.
In fact, the first Phoenix caught the eyes of some islanders and tourists who came by boat to our little island.
In the second performance, by chance, the owner of the lands came to the remote beach, a few local anglers stood next door in the water and otherwise only the fruit bats were witnesses.
RFP: What have you learned about the abilities of your Phoenix? What’s the next challenge to fly the Phoenix?
Super+: Each flight of the Phoenix brings new challenges and the expedition to the Indian Ocean was extremely exciting for us.
We have learned a lot through this art project and made many new experiences. What appealed to us most was that the Phoenix works in nature, does not compete with it, but merges with its environment and lights up even more.
Our challenge is to further develop the project. We will work on the sculpture, keep it going and look for a unique place where Phoenix will rise from the ashes.
Special Thanks go to the Super+ artists and to Simone Nickl PR in München
Read more about Super+
Roxana Florina Popa is the author and self-publisher of the book “Beauty Elegance Creativity – 12 Interviews on the Act of Creation“