Elastic Potential Energy

The new site-specific series was part of the group show “Beyond Everything”, curated by Oksasenkatu 11 collective. The show ran at Haihatus Art Centre & Residency in Joutsa, Finland, from the 17th of June until the 27th of August 2023.

The installation of metal slinkies, natural rubber bands and paintings focuses on the moment at which an elastic material is stretched or compressed to its elastic limit and held forcefully in place, prior to being set in motion. Though great exertion is needed to hold elastic materials in a state of potential energy, the seeming stillness of this state can appear as idleness. How does a person possess elastic potential energy in a (post-)industrial society, where constant movement is considered paramount?

Alongside the sustained buzz of activity, there exists a conflicting struggle to be still. Social media blocker apps sit on smartphones, right next to the social media apps themselves, as users try to wrestle themselves into periods of online inactivity. Greenwashing corporations mislead people into acting unsustainably, the tug of an eco-friendly purchase more tempting than no purchase at all. 

As well as reflecting on societal aspects of the contemporary Western world, Harkes also draws upon the recent personal experience of navigating parental leave as an artist. Such a pause in public artistic activity was not experienced by the artist as a break from work but as a period of extreme occupational tension.

This series is a celebration of the stillness before action, a stillness that hides great amounts of energy and focused effort. It can take the concentration of a rubber band, pulled tight, to disrupt the flow of superfluous energy.