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Sunset at the speed of light

Installation; Digital image, lightbox, repeat relay

Sunset at the speed of light

Digital image of Installation

Sunset at the speed of light

Digital video of Installation

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        Sunset at the Speed of Light is simultaneously a space and an object; not specifically an installation, but, importantly, an encounter.  A space that must be entered but is not tethered to the location: an environment that is dark and secluded.   Crossing the threshold (this arena to that arena) requires opening, and passing though, a door.  This results in illuminating, via cast light, the negative space of a dark rectangle on the wall which becomes our point of interest.  The refracted light illuminates and obscures simultaneously: a ghost image is revealed on the surface of the object, residual but clearly permanent; evocative of an image burned into a monitor (the black screen vs. the white rectangle).  The door closes behind us and we are enveloped in darkness.  This atmosphere survives only briefly before being interrupted by the flash of a bright light: the black box announcing itself as a light box.  Strobing characterizes the new environment: white on black; the darkness primes the light as experience. 

        The light box is used to frame and illuminate an image.  The exact nature of this image is unavailable, however, as the sudden start and abrupt end of the flash renders us physically incapable of focusing on the picture.  Our efforts to locate the image cultivate an anxiety of anticipation as our minds attempt to extort control over the dilation of our pupils.  We are forced to brace ourselves in advance of the next flash and strain to recognize the illuminated in the luminous.  There are twenty seconds between each illuminated image, highlighting, through physical embodiment and forced experience, the nature of our vision.  The Visual Short Term Memory begins to decay as soon as one turns away from an image: within 20-26 seconds it will have fully decomposed.  Science also draws connections between successive images, Visual Short Term Memory, and cognitive connections in the concept of frame rates (also around 26).

        The role of language is an emphasis of this work.  The relationship between visual and conceptual is drawn through physical experience.  The decay of visual memory forces us to use semiotic markers to map out the image before us.  The picture flashes and immediately begins to fade: we feel the rush to place markers, to describe.   A line here, created by a black shape and a white shape.  Then we wait... wait... wait... there! Texture here, gradient there, sky, water, sand, horizon?  The image becomes linguistic conception.

        The difference between the visual image and semiotic composition of that image parallels the disparities between prescribed experience and actual experience.  The aim of this work is to simultaneously represent, re-present, and embody a sunset.  The image of a seascape at sundown is a representation; it is the pictorial, calling to mind the Western development of the “picturesque.”  The image also re-presents the works of Hiroshi Sugimoto, citing his concern with the Modernist program (nature de-mystified through science) and the ideal of photography as objective representation.  This is done through embodying the experience of the sunset.  Prescribed experience vs. actual experience is manifested by the trigger of the light box, this experience is both actual and signified.  The flash is not a sunset but it recalls the experiences of reality in order to expose the photograph as a mediated representation: simulacra.


Sunset at the Speed of Light

Wither are we moving? Away from all suns?”