ON SCENES 1-10, TINPLATES, AQUASCOPE
BY MAGNUS FLORIN
on SCENES 1-10
The titles point to different places. A church, a street, a market in Paris. A house in Pompeii. A region in Ireland, the farthest, the utmost westerly, where the great sea takes over. But the place-names are hardly any ordinary stage-directions, like in a play. The events unfolding here don't allow themselves to be fixed in time and space. Otherwise than in exactly that time and that space we ourselves are sharing with the small figures that we observe. In that way we accompany them and that is rather intimate. We can approach them as closely as we wish, stroll from one to another and back again. They seem to have some kind of life of their own, they are moving and seem to listen quietly to what we hear ourselves. A church, a street, close to the sea in Ireland. We can feel at home here, almost think of the figures as our friends. But the truth is that we cannot influence what's happening on these stages. What's unfolding there belongs to another world, a world beyond. An abyss is separating us. And yet we are that close.
It may seem like a paradox to speak about "scenes" since these events are so discrete or almost non-existent. It is rather a question of scenes beyond all drama, all action and roles, all costumes, all props. The figures are not at all striking, they seem to be created by a few lines in the air or just arbitrarily borrowing their shape from something trivial and just forgotten. A piece of a rudimentary body and clothing at the same time, a temporary presence that can be dissolved at any time. Yet it is exactly this very unspecified something that gives us a notion of something long lasting about the figures. They are not specific individuals, rather nameless witnesses to life, denoting the conditions common to humanity. We realise that they are automatons. But not like sophisticated non-human robots to be enthralled by. Rather a sort of quiet recognition is emerging when we see them. We realize that their automatism is talking about one of the dimensions of existence. That part of the existence that is not governed by conscious intentions or motives or meaningful purposes. Most things in life are running by themselves without our considerations or volition at every moment, by sheer habit, we don't have to make decisions all the time. And these scenes and figures remind us about this. But they seem to be able to do it just by virtue of that they have left all the endeavors and commitments of ordinary present life. They are not casting glances, they are not gesticulating any longer, they are bloodless. Negations of ordinary life, if you like. Perhaps we can think about them as dead? Like memories of family and friends visiting us for a while, making an odd guest performance in our time, our rooms? They populate the scenes, but in a strange way – they populate them with our certainty about their absence. Chance and automatism, arbitrariness and rules meet on these stages. And just this kind of meetings is leading us away from the force of habit towards the undreamed-of and amazing. It is like a humorous god on the last day of creation, just before his own disappearance, had inserted a flight of fancy as a small disturbance, a dangerous ingredient of playing, to keep his created beings open to the unexpected. Go a bit closer still, listen to those sounds they are listening to. Of a market in Paris, a house in Pompey. You have been there.
Light moves at maximum speed in a vacuum, A little slower in air and even a little slower in water. That's why the rays of light refract when they pass between air and water, like between different lenses. We can see it on the small stones at the shoreline when we are wandering along the shore and the waves pass over them forwards and backwards, The Water-telescope could be one of Leonardo's strange inventions. A glass-tube with air and water. A seemingly simple and at the same time sophisticated device making us see the otherwise unseen. Light + water + movement. What is reaching our eye? Cosmology or molecular biology? A faraway galaxy in the most powerful telescope in the world or the electron microscope catching the innermost center of a gene? It's a question of optics. Sense and consciousness, body and existence. We are looking, we are observing. But it goes both ways. For just when we cast our glance, what is seen is streaming straight into our beings. It is like if we ourselves were being seen and observed. Inspected by a strange and enigmatic being, a god or a monster. A world eye, more enormous than we can grasp.
on TINPLATES 1-5
What are those formations seemingly hovering slightly above the ground? The brief titles give us a hint That they belong to geography, that they are islands.
They have names – Bensalem, Foollyk... like seas and mountain ranges.
In that way they are within our reach, possible travel destinations. But we soon surmise that these are a special kind of islands. You don't find them on ordinary charts and yet they exist, like promises or dangers pointed out by human imagination. But are they inventions or discoveries? That is: are they sheer creations of our imagination. Or did they already exist before they got their names and descriptions? Mirages are hanging in the air. The thirsty riders of the desert caravan can see an oasis soaring above the horizon. Seafarers far out to sea can see an island floating in the air. But the distance to the mirages is impossible to bridge. Yet they exist as physic realities created by air and light. From Bering's voyage round the North East Passage it was told that the sun was rising and breaking the polar night several days before the date in the calendar. That was no imagination by sailors tired of eternal darkness, but the capability of the atmosphere to transport the image of the sun.
So let us think of these formations as imagined islands or mirages. Yet they are so immediately tangible that we would be able to touch them. Let a finger stroke over its surface and feel how coarse or smooth it is. We can walk around them and watch their folds and wreaths. It says they are of plate and should have a considerable weight? Yet we perceive that what we see is just an outside like the skin on our body. What can be found underneath? Is what we are seeing just a very thin film stretched out to make the form visible? We might get the impression of a mold, in fact as simple and tangible as the cake pan in the kitchen drawer. What we see is in that way a sort of models – but not models "of" something already existing, but "for" something that would be possible to create. But in that case perhaps as a sort of re-creating of memories? Recollections of a returning traveller who in a piece of plate is trying to give the rest of us an idea of something earlier unseen. No wind is blowing over these islands. No trees with branches and foliage raise. No grass, no mycelium. No worms, no birds. Islands without greenery. Gray islands. Gray folds and wreaths. No wonder if the spectator suddenly remembers a moment in a museum – at a glass show-case with a human brain preserved in a bottle. A strange feeling. The peculiar in standing there and amazed seem to be seeing one's own gray matter. The crisp, vulnerable and at the same time very consistent mass. A piece of interior geology common to all human beings since long ago. The twelve hundred grams. The neurolgoists even talk about a special area of islands in the brain, called insula from the Latin word for island.
Magnus Florin 2018
translation Magnus Hedlund