Saturday, 9 July 2011

If Nothing Happens

Lyotard posits technology as the site of proof, efficiency, progress and, in turn, terror. The technologies, due to their origins in reason and empiricism, generally disregard any form of personal or divine transcendental experience. There is a small but growing body of interactive digital installation environments in which an evocation of the sublime is intended as a response to this rigid rationalism. It is in this category that I feel my third project sits. I have previously written about notions of the sublime in this blog, with particular reference to Lyotard's work on postmodernism. In contrast to the vernacular use of the word sublime, it's meaning in the context of art is less about beauty and more to do with that which inspires a form of existential wonder while simultaneously evoking suggestions of fear/terror, perhaps even death. As I previously wrote, it is my belief that this dichotomy situated at the heart of the sublime, is most readily experienced in contemporary society when things are stripped away to their essence, when silence is encountered amidst the usual bombardment of noise and particularly in disarming simplicity. Techniques sometimes used to evoke this in an installation environment are sensory bombardment or sensory deprivation.

An excellent example of this is Kurt Hentsclaeger's Zee;

" a 'mind-scape' in which artificial fog and stroboscopic light fully obscure the physical installation space, resulting in an almost complete disconnect from the without and offering an entry towards a surprise within. Stroboscopic- and pulse light filtering through the thick fog augment an impression of a luminescent kinetic sphere wherein the environment acts as the seeding stimulant and you synthesize the impression. ZEE is expanding on composing with multiple interfering strobe lights amidst fog and the effects those have on a human perception and decoding apparatus: the brain. A surround sound-scape synchronizes to interference phenomena - of what could be described as a psychedelic architecture of pure light.

In the midst of the such perceptual tension there is a possibility of experiencing the 'now' as continuous present. Returning once more to Barnett Baruch Newman and his essay 'the sublime is now';

"the now...... is what dismantles consciousness, what deposes consciousness, it is what consciousness cannot formulate, and even what consciousness forgets in order to constitute itself. What we do not manage to formulate is that something happens."

In the installation space for this project participants will be entirely isolated, evoking the existential aloneness frequently associated with the sublime. This is deliberately intended to be unsettling. Immersive sounds, courtesy of Chris Watson, evoke the wonder of nature as traditional avenue to the sublime . The space becomes an internal one as participants must close their eyes to engage with the piece, a move that disrupts the supremacy of the visual scopic regime. Digital nature becomes neurofeedback, the final image representing the participant with eyes closed further eludes to the unrepresentable landscape of the sublime, but it is the experience rather than the final physical artefact that is my main focus here.