A short blog on natural and unnatural things.

Helen Sear’s video Company of Trees leads you deep into the forest.

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In the forest the straight line becomes a circle. We are following a girl in a red dress who is glimpsed between the trees, part here part there, never a complete picture, always fading away, and counting. Numbers appear. The title Company of Trees of course makes you think of wolves as does the red dress. We are in a fairy tale, lost in a dreamlike state.

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In other rooms are other images from the countryside, the stacked chopped wood of the woodcutter, small birds and blinding golden fields interwoven with symbols.

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Human presence is here as in the fairy tale it is a human story but how much control do we have even in chopping and harvesting.

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This countryside is not a sentimental place to stray in.

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….the rest is smoke

We gaze down but see the sky. The image ripples but the water stays still.  Helen Sears uses video after effects imaging to create an illusion of movement in an elliptical pool The Beginning and End of Things.  

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Another illusory reflection; Bill Viola’s installation Moving Stillness (Mt. Rainier), 1979 at Blain Southern. Even after 35 years this piece is still captivating in its mystery.

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We see a reflection of the mountain in a large pool of water, every so often the water is disturbed and the image dissolves into undulating patterns of light which very slowly restore themselves to equilibrium and the image reappears. The mountain and its reflection do not appear to correspond. 1601 Bill Viola 2

Nothing is hidden from us, through technology we experience the magic of physics which is the magic of nature. Viola’s works open space in this way for a spiritual engagement which is a vital part of his ideology.  To alter materially as we pass in and out of life is something we have no control over but to transform our minds is our challenge. He is an admirer of the philosopher Ananda Coomaraswarmy whose writings  embrace mythology and metaphysics – Art is nothing tangible. We cannot call a painting ‘art’ as the words ‘artifact’ and ‘artificial’ imply. The thing made is a work of art made by art, but not itself art. The art remains in the artist and is the knowledge by which things are made.

Viola produces meditative spaces. Another pioneering early work was presented by Blain Southern and The Vinyl Factory at Brewer Street Car Park.  The Talking Drum an early sound composition  that explores resonance in an empty swimming pool using drums and pipes.

It was an uncanny experience entering the vast shadowy space of the underground car park to what felt like the eerie soundtrack of a noir thriller.

In Venice I had another opportunity to walk through the pulsating glow of Joana Vasconcelas’ Garden of Eden. This fibre optic maze has all the false trappings of the biblical Eden in its hypnotic draw.

I’d never really thought about how concrete was applied to our landscape. At UAL’s Shadow Without Object Symposium Bernd Behr introduced us to the Victorian polymath inventor of sprayed concrete Karl Akeley. Sprayed concrete takes on the shape of what it covers, like a skin.1601 Carl AkeleyAkeley was also a pioneering taxidermist and creator of natural history dioramas, he also devised a motion picture camera to take on location. In his presentation  Akeley in the elephant Skull  Bern Behr makes connections between this liquid concrete film that holds an image of what it covers and photographic emulsion. The desire to reconstruct, to capture and present an accurate representation of reality are questioned. Akeley worked hard to perfect his models as being true to life. 1601 Carl Akeley gorillasHe made many expeditions to Africa to collect his own specimens, make drawings and take photographs so he could transpose the African plains to urban New York. He was of course presenting an idealised view to the awestruck New Yorkers adding to the distorted representation of faraway lands much like the holiday postcard photograph.