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     //  Stop, traveler

Neon Horizons.

    Neon insists. It doesn’t tug discretely but pushes against us. It is searing, although it doesn’t burn—no heat in neon, it is cool to the touch. Rather, it etches into us from across space. It compels. It’s thus no surprise that neon should find its raison d’etre in advertising during the beginning of the 20th century. When first introduced to the world, at the Paris Motor show in 1910, its bright crimson light held little practical appeal for those in attendance. The required voltage limited its use, and its aesthetics were incompatible with Parisian home decor. But, in three years time, when the first neon advertisement was unveiled, the world would be sold, and neon would come to change our relationship to desire. Originally “await what the stars will bring,” from the phrase “de sidere” (from the stars), desire would cease to be passive, and neon would became the champion of capitalisms’ manifested desire; neon would be the standard-bearer of a shifting economic strategy, announcing the coming affair.

    From the Greek “neos,” neon became the sign of the “new,” the exclamation point to the promises of modern science. But, there is something metaphysical in it, something heavenly. Even in the bright light of day, neon beckons. And, neon is, in fact, the stuff of the stars: its mass abundance making up as much as 1 part in 600 in the Sun. Meanwhile, in the universe it is only about 1 part in 750, and on Earth the element is extremely rare at only 1 part in 83,000. Looking around, at the beacons of neon that light up our cities, we discover a transgression: the relocation the heavens into a vacuum sealed tube. Here, we are startled to find Nietzsche’s cries in the back of our collective subconscious: “Who gave us the sponge to wipe away the entire horizon? What were we doing when we unchained this earth from its sun?”

    Neon presents itself in contradictions. It is simultaneously perennial and ephemeral – housed in glass, it’s contained materiality vanishes at its flare; it is both solid and immaterial, demanding distance even as it beckons. There is something sweet about neon, something syrupy. Its garish light and the sound of high-voltage humming is almost nauseating. It’s too much – an over-indulged perfume: candied. But, it’s also nostalgic: there is a sentimentality, a kind of homesickness that brings to mind the understated struggles in Edward Hoppers paintings or the flickering signs in new wave cinema. There is something ancient here, and its power lies in this unconscious familiarity: it has to do with the way we look at the stars. We used to see them as an image of our future – to be wished on. But, they have been grounded. We have relocated our desires to their subjacent reproductions.

Siste Viator (2012)

Digital image of installation

Neon,  Transformer, Geraniums