The Papillon 

In the Awareness Muscle Training Center exhibition in Museum Villa Stuck, there are a series of machines that involve visitors working out while being asked a set of questions, each line of questioning relating to the theme of the specific machine in use. The Papillon, or the butterfly machine, is so named due to the appearance of the apparatus, which includes wing-like metal bars that unfold as the machine is in use, stretching out from the back when the visitor pulls down from the top. It is a very physically demanding machine and requires hefty upper body strength to work it. Due to this, many visitors use the machine by holding the top bar down and keeping it in place. The other inspiration for the naming of the papillon is the butterfly effect, the theory that small actions can have large consequences; this directly lines up with the thinking behind the papillon.

The instructors ask the visitors to consider the impact of their actions on the world, can they make a difference? Can they have a big impact? The answers were split, with some people saying they could have no impact on the world and others saying they could. Most answers followed the thinking that people could have an impact on their own surroundings; for example, inspiring people they know to change their actions, to recycle, to drive less, fly less. When asked what kind of condition they felt the world was in at the moment the answers varied greatly: some saying that things could be better but they could also be worse, others saying we were in a very bad condition, stating the state of the climate and the rise of political extremism. One person said this time reminded him of the 1930s, just before world war II. Most everyone said they did not feel they did enough personally to make a change and that they felt guilty for this. Most justified this with feeling tired or stating that it took an extra kind of courage, a certain type of character to create large scale change, saying they were too tired, too busy or too lazy to do more personally. Overall people were optimistic that things would change, that people were becoming gradually more aware of things and that things might take time to change but they would improve. 

The concept behind the papillon is that any one insignificant person could come to the exhibition and feel provoked to make a change in their life and to make a difference in the world. The results of people’s answers provide an insight into how similar and how different people’s perceptions of the world are, and what they can do to help it. The machine is inspired by the idea of potentiality, that everyone and anyone could have the potential to make a difference, to create a positive change. It has perhaps an idealistic goal and is the machine that is the most conceptual. On a deeper level it is an expression of emergency art: it is inviting the visitor to think of where we are in the world, of where we need to improve and what needs to change. It is lending them the tools to consider the power they could have, showing them the possibility of their own actions and how their actions can have an impact. It is a bridge between strategy and dreams; and perhaps an inspiration to search for concrete changes that could combat the ever-accelerating progression of emergencies into a state of chaos. 

Text by Elena Hansen