Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Omnia sunt, lumina sunt

The lair of light soots efficient metronomes into the yesyokes. Like the arrival of the 456. Omnia sunt, lumina sunt all things that are, are light. The promotional literature, Let there be light -- Trite Cliché Immature -- takes away mystery, leaving all things created by god. All things are light. Why? How? Is the mystery not that all things arise from nothingness, that single infinitesimal moment of radiating energy and inflationary expansion. That the word world is nothing but the many billion years old hydrogen atom combined and recombined and fused and torn asunder and vomited out in mindless explosions of mind numbing power set hurtling across the random swerves -- until one fine morning the atom rearranged asks why am I here? Want is light? Why are all things light? Why are there things rather than nothing at all?

“The light & heat of the sun; these are composed of minute atoms which, when they are shoved off, lose no time in shooting right across the interspace of air in the direction imparted by the shove.” Lucretius De Rerum Natura

No god - no mystery - just intergenerational long fears. Light is real and subtle and it is the mystery. And when I look around all the green and all the flowering birds and animals born of light. Color and sound and life non-existent without light. For light is Eros, first born from out of the yawning emptiness, from the gaping nothingness, the generative spirit. Light is constant, the inescapable, the massless quandary. For we can go no faster, the light chases us and we can not flee, we can not outrun.

From my backyard the pillar of light rises over the neighbours house. Only certain places, one must avoid the street lights, one must avoid the light falling from windows. And the matrix of cloud and night sky tumbles and rumbles and turns this way and that, so the column appears and disperses, comes together and falls apart. Blasting Loretta Lynn as I drive into town (40 kilometres) the light glows and stakes shape more solid as I move closer and over the bridge and into the city. From light to stone.

So I wondered and wandered and went down across the wide Derwent estuary to partake the opening night of Sound to Light -- Crossing Borders (STL). As well as the exhibit I saw some audio/visual performances. STL is described as a dynamic, playful, chaotic, experimental project. A social art project that seeks to transcend boundaries between disciplines, but more importantly -- and something that can only be done at this time in history -- seeks to transcend physical location. This could not have been done before the invention of high-speed networking. Like the ancient shamans who could be in two places at once, nowadays artists are able to perform this miracle of bi-location. Optical fibre being part of the infrastructure of modern shamanistic practice the name of the exhibit takes on a special meaning.

Up Woobys Lane, through the courtyard, into an industrial revolution rabbit warren of an old warehouse. Low skeletal ceiling, silver insulation skin exposed. Rendered sandstone, convict-hewn blocks, photographers moving about for a better composition. Pale smart phone light, apparitions in the crowd, petals on a wet, black night. Electronic equipment humming, buzzing a series of sounds and beats, screens projecting the present and past in various combinations, strange generated life forms dancing and swirling. Art, as Andy Warhol said, is anything you can get away with; and everything we do, as John Cage said, is music.

Beyond the large performance space, a series of connected rooms of various installations. I would suggest visiting the soundtolight.net website to get more detailed information about the artworks. I can only describe my impressions, and what I saw. With much happening not everything could be given the attention required, and not everything could be properly critiqued.

In one room amplifiers, wires and a small wooden table. On the table Oscar Ferreiro & Heath Brown assembled small pieces of bone. The geometry of innocent flesh on the bone (well as a Dylan freak how could I pass this up?) Small electronic widgets attached to sawn and white scrubbed clean bones. The small motors recorded, and the manipulated sounds filled the little room. The natural and the artificial, prehistoric flutes made of bone and the most up to date technology. Further on a stand in a hallway a simple music box, with a twin in Melbourne. The pair move so slowly that no eye can detect movement. Played back as a time-lapse video the movement becomes apparent, the structure and the music is revealed.

Like Chinese guerrillas amid the peasant class, like fish in the sea, we move through light and sound. Moving from room to room. Agreeing with the Joycean poverty atmosphere of old warehouse art gallery was a room designed by Dylan Sheridan & Laura Hindmarsh. This was a flickering magic lantern room of images thrown onto thin screens in the darkness. This created a melancholy feeling. The impression of being a young child, a poor Edwardian urchin, sneaking a peek into the fabled nickelodeon. Take me away from all this death.

Chris Vik, of Ethno Tekh played his Kinectar. He has written some software to interface with the Kinect sensor, allowing artists while wearing special gloves, to create music by gesture alone. A very cool idea indeed, bringing sound to the language of gesture.

If Sound to Light -- Crossing Borders was meant to be a dynamic, playful, chaotic, experimental social art project, then one is forced to admit that they have succeeded. This type of technological art, this type of social art, this type of shamanistic bi-location will only extend and grow over the next period. In the way that the continual revolution of capitalism is threatening many old style business models, so too is the industrial scientific revolution forcing us to revalue art and the production of art. Recalling Socrates and his contrasting writing to the living word of knowledge. So we must ask if technology, as an extension of writing is not as well a pharmakon. Is technology a remedy, or is it a poison, or (most likely) both at once?

The boat of Ra-Set moves with the sun "but our job to build light." Ezra Pound Canto XCVIII

With one child just minutes away from yet another hospital visit,pale gray and listless from asthma, and one child on crutches with a broken foot, I can be forgiven for missing the unveiling, unleashing of Ryoji Ikeda's Spectra light tower. But I had an opportunity after the STL opening to wander into the domain, near the empty tomb to see for myself up close. Judging by the crowds and the traffic and the families and photographs this was a big hit with the locals. And why not? 'Tis a beautiful thing. Tall and proud and silent the beam of light rises up to the very heavens. All sorts of images and thoughts rattle around my noggin. Storming the gates of heaven. An echo of the blitz. Sublime Rothko silence and religiousness.

Only when I leave the car there is this noise of sine waves that fills all things, and to me subtracts rather than adds to the art work. I wanted the silence to stand and stare and wonder. I wanted to be alone with my thoughts with my own head.

And standing, and walking around I am breathless, but then from nowhere, from deep recesses within a nagging doubt arises. Why? What of this tower of light? Is it more an attempt to control and dominate nature? Is the empty night sky full of wonder and the cold wind of outer space, not enough? Is it not enough to point and say this is art? Like the gardener who digs up the native plants and replaces with roses, or the surfer who sees the ocean and demands to run on top of the waves to control and so dominate the sea, or the matron who see the fox or minx and wishes to flay the flesh as fashion; so too does this installation seem to want to control and dominate the landscape the city the very night itself.

A wonderful art piece to be sure and like all large scale public art, it is more than art. Rather a victory of technology of harnessed nature, of money and power, of government and business and bureaucracy.

Or is it more like the green blades of grass struggling to the light from under from the cracked concrete? The light life force, the will to power?

Or maybe a sound and fury signifying nothing, an insult to poor and voiceless in our society? Spectra must be all this and more. I think the artist said it best when he spoke of this work (like all art works) as being something different for everyone.

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