Earth, water, air and sun – these four elements are essential to champagne-making. To reimmerse us in nature, acknowledge the alchemical, elemental make-up of champagne and bring a multisensorial experience into our daily lives, Ruinart has collaborated with artist Jeppe Hein.
The resulting participatory installation, ‘Right Here, Right Now’, summons the four elements to awaken our senses and connect us to ourselves and the world.
‘Right Here, Right Now’ at Art Basel in Basel
For the project – the 2022 commission in Ruinart’s Carte Blanche series, and generating installations to appear at art fairs and events throughout the year, of which Art Basel in Basel is the latest – the champagne house encouraged Hein to play with the element of surprise, the magic of the unexpected. In turn, he invites participants to share emotions and reflect on the intangible value of the present moment, at once fragile and memorable.
Both an immersive artwork and a digital extension, ‘Right Here, Right Now’ provides a journey into Ruinart’s storied history and unparalleled vinicultural know-how. Just like the maison’s winemakers, Hein is an artist who likes to start with very simple things. A grape, a piece of wet chalk and the specific aroma that hovers over the vineyard lingering above the vines. Hein translates his first impressions of Ruinart’s terroir into fragments of matter and emotion. He asks us to feel and be inspired by the natural connections between things, in a collective experience that is unique each time.
Jeppe Hein on his inspiration
Hein explains how researching the elemental nature of champagne-making provided a very personal and multisensorial effect. ‘I could imagine the sun touching my face, while I am standing in the middle of the vineyard,’ he says. ‘Smelling the moisture of the earth, listening to rainwater dripping onto the vine leaves and tasting the grapes.’
The final installation has translated into a sensory-focused experience for visitors that includes, for example, being invited to place their hand inside a hole set within a mirror, and to receive a series of three objects, each connected to Ruinart: a drop of scented oil (evoking a vineyard), a raisin (to be tasted as part of a mindfulness exercise), and a piece of chalk (a tactile nod the land of the Champagne region, on which Ruinart’s grapes are cultivated).
Original inspiration for the installation, which encourages what Hein calls ‘a small sensory epiphany’ in its visitors, came from the artist’s first visit Maison Ruinart, the champagne house’s HQ in Reims, France. ‘The real discovery for me was going to the vineyards very early in the morning, in the mist, at the beginning of harvest,’ he says.
‘Everyone was very excited. I could feel the tension at this special time of year. The cellar master and his team were checking if the grapes were sweet enough. [I was] going back and forth, cutting bunches, smelling the scents with my eyes closed, tasting the sweetness, acidity and bitterness of the grape. It was incredible. It made me realise how difficult it is to make a bottle of champagne and how much work it involves. I now have a huge amount of respect for the many, many people involved in this process.’
The region’s crayères, the former chalk quarries used by Ruinart to age its wines, provided another reference point. ‘The first thing you feel is the change of temperature and humidity on your skin. A very pleasant smell emanates from the wet chalk, nothing like the mustiness of a cellar. The most inspiring thing was feeling the chalk under my fingers, as I ran them over the walls. I thought, “This is something I want to explore, but also something I want to share with others.” I wanted people to live this experience. I wanted to put that chalk in their hand.’
Hein’s ‘Right Here, Right Now’ is on a mission to offer new perspective and vision, to encourage the audience to smell, hear, taste and feel the essence of both Ruinart and their own lives. ‘For me, it is about helping people understand who they are and where they are going,’ says Hein. ‘But also how to be present here and now, in the moment. Because, with our hectic lifestyles, we sometimes forget to enjoy and seize the moment.’
The digital experience
For those unable to make the fair in person, Hein’s moment-seizing can be explored in the digital space. An online interactive presentation of the project offers art lovers a singular experience that is simultaneously participatory, sensory and meditative. Designed to heighten the connection between artist, digital visitor and the outside world, it invites an open-armed embrace of the moment via kinetic navigation and intuitive interaction. §