From ash to stardust cooking with B&B/ A spaced out BBQ
Text by Otto Ruin
In the outskirts of satellite town Sundbyberg outside of Stockholm, locals can now gather around Bigert & Bergström’s new social sculpture, BBQ Meteorite. Behind a housing complex, a meteorite in cast iron has struck down. Inspired by the Youndegin meteorite found in Western Australia in 1884, the heat-resistant sculpture thrones three metres above the ground, standing in a crater that inhabitants can use as a grill to cook delicious BBQ or a campfire to hang out around.
From creation to destruction, the flames from the inviting grill-crater tell several stories. Meteorites have been vital both to the birth of life and mass extinctions. The climate changes that erupted when the Chicxulub meteorite hit the Yucatán Peninsula 65 million years ago resulted in the extinction of 75% of the earth’s population. The end of dinosaurs but an event that prepares the stage for mammals and human life.
The doubleness of social activity, humour, menace, and contemplation are leitmotifs in the Swedish artist duo’s public social sculptures. In works like Co2 – Lock in (2012), China Syndrome Fire Basket (2020) and Cooling Station Party Tent (2022) they invite the public for discussion and reflection. While mentioned works focus on the situation on earth, whether it is climate change or nuclear catastrophes, this time, the focal point is on outer space.
The relationship between humans and celestial bodies goes far back. In Judeo-Christian tradition, the Baetylus (meaning “House of God”) are sacred worshipped stones, sometimes historically said to be meteorites. The Astro-worship of rocks existed in pagan Greek mythology; the centre of the world, Omphalos, took the shape of a magical stone from Zeus. Sacred celestial stones are also seen in native Pueblo culture, such as the Winona meteorite found in an archaeological excavation of a traditional Sinagua burial site in Arizona in 1928.
The Astro-cult of pagan symbols continued in early modern times. In an Astro-political reflection on the Halley comet, the protestant reformer Melanchthon asked in a letter to famous German Astrologer and Chronicler Johann Carion in 1531 for his verdicts on the frightful space phenomena and its political implication.
While the religious verdicts and mythological cult meanings of celestial bodies such as comets and meteorites represent the forces of destruction, creation, or epitaphic experience of deity, the meteorite, for modern man as so much else, becomes an object of exploitation.
Around the globe there exist meteorite hunters that look for fallen valuable space objects for a living. However, the hunt for rare minerals and metals doesn’t stop with these space cowboys. Because of resource depletion on earth, extracting elements from asteroids by space mining has become more than just an idea of science fiction. In 2022, NASAs succeeded in their Dart mission project, the first planetary space defence technology to move an asteroid in space. With his SpaceX project, Elon Musk plans to colonise Mars. Human control and exploitation of nature do not cease with the earth but are now beyond this world.
But what if we fail? In movies like the Netflix success Don’t look up (2021) and Lars von Trier’s Melancholia (2011), Homo sapiens are doomed by our hybris to calculate outer space. While space objects have lost their mythological power, they are still real existential threats to life on Earth. The fallen meteorite and burning crate of BBQ Meteorite becomes a visual symbol of the God-like homo economicus failure to control and predict the natural forces of outer space.
From the outer world to the small one – the BBQ is for the plenty associated with joy, parties, and family gatherings. However, in 2018 during the ever-record hot summer in Sweden because of climate change, the Swedish government declared a national grill prohibition. A single spark from the grill was enough to start an uncontrollable wildfire. BBQ parties became too hot, in other words.
To the reflection of the fire in the copy of the 4,6-billion-year-old stone and flavours of hot dogs, corn, or vegetables, BBQ Meteorite thus invites locals to gather. Like the Omphalos, the grill and campfire become a navel to engage in thought-provoking conversations about the climate and the human quest to save the planet from space. Ketchup or Mustard?
BBQ Meteorite made for Kvarteret Ekdungen Commissioner: Tom Radway, Förvaltaren AB Public Art Consultant: Ann Magnusson, AM Public
ILLUSTRATION, SKETCHES AND INSPIRATION
Photos: Jean-Baptiste Béranger