We were – Zoe Scofield & Juniper Shuey
Work No. 360: Half the Air in a Given Space, - Martin Creed
Horizon Field Hamburg – Antony Gormley
Walking through “We were” by Zoe Scofield and Juniper Shuey this past fall at the Frye Art Museum foregrounded in my mind two other exhibits in recent years which invigorated my spirit and compelled me to reflect on how space is produced and known through touch. A great origin point for this workingsurface_footnote.
Fine white lines of string cross from the outer black walls to then fall to the floor into a collection of discrete illuminated cylinders fit to the size of an individual. This organized the gallery into collective and individual space defined by light and string. The lines traced a surface to hold illuminated figures and establish boundary lines which when I touched them felt more solid then the reflected ephemeral dancing figures led me to believe. Was the surface material or light? Entering the gallery my first inclination was to reach out and touch the fine white boundary lines which shaped the room. My hands passed along the lines allowing my body to pass through the surface. My hand comprehending the material. My eyes comprehending the light. Now inside one of the string cylinders, I had a distinct feeling that I was now outside of the gallery. Touching the boundary line and passing through had inverted the space. Passing through the boundary line enabled me to - “relax into my body’s, a body’s, physical intelligence.” These words written on the wall by Zoe and Juniper struck deep and resonated with my understanding of this world and the world in general. A world of authenticity through touch and contact. One can intellectualize this in social theory by engaging the ideas of contact zones (Mary Louise Pratt). One can philosophize touch in theories of phenomenology and how through our senses we experience the phenomenon of the world around us (Juhani Pallasmaa). Or, as I did on this day, open up into this space my physical intelligence and memory. In Zoe and Juniper’s words I did - “hand it over to [my] body’s memory.” What memories arrived at my fingertips as my hand passed through this boundary line? At first it was a loss. The loss of the ability to contact and interact with one of the most authentic experiences imaginable which occurred over the past 6 months. A relationship based on an immediacy that collapsed space and time into a profound and authentic touch. A reality I could contemplate as eternity but a reality which was released by the other struggling with the same. Contact lost. Take a Breath. Feel the air. Touch the surface.
Work No. 360: Half the Air in a Given Space
Walking through Work No. 360: Half the Air in a Given Space” by Martin Creed this past summer at The Henry Art Gallery I questioned not just the position of my hand but the position of every aspect of my body and skin. The air became surface. To feel the air did not rely on the act of breathing, it relied on the act of moving. I approached the door to the gallery with some trepidation. As with any encounter with someone or someplace new there is trepidation resting inside our bodies. How present this trepidation is in our experience in many ways correlates to issues of familiarity, comprehension, and habit. Arriving at the door, I asked the museum docent hesitantly “Are we allowed to go in?” A question to initiate a response. A negative response would indicate if my understanding of the world would remain unchallenged, unexplored. The door remaining closed. A positive response would invite me to challenge my comprehension and familiarity of the here and the now. The door being opened. A question asking for a reciprocal. Not all questions require this. But if your question inherently engages touch then a reciprocal is required. The answer to this question at hand and a question earlier in the summer involving a cup coffee were both yes. I was about to learn something new about space and myself because the answer to my question, asked with a sense of trepidation was yes, you are welcome here. You are welcome to enter this space, to enter this world. My nerves were not settled with the placement of a temporary bracelet around my wrist for safety and a clear direct look into my eyes by the museum docent to verify that I had read the relevant legal and safety information before entering the room. A clear acknowledgement of risk was shared. I shed all pretense that I knew what experience was beyond that set of doors. I was cleansed of my assumed knowledge. My body and the world became profoundly present and explicit. The door opened and a frenetic dance commenced to open the door wide enough to squeeze my body across the threshold while also stemming the cascade of balloons starting to flow out of the gallery and into the hallway. This dance ends with an abrupt slam of the door against the jamb a click of the latch, then silence. I walked the gallery alone for 20 minutes. I did not really walk the gallery. I walked a continually morphing 4 foot radius of air and space. My body became the gallery. My body became the work. The work became me. A relationship was established. Slowly my initial trepidation receded and any fear of intimacy within myself, in this space, and in contact with all that surrounded and supported me turned to joy. A joy in a new found experience that my body and skin are not a source of fear but a source of nourishment.
Horizon Field Hamburg
Walking on Horizon Field Hamburg by Antony Gormley in 2012 at the Hall for Contemporary Art of the Deichtorhallen, I struggled to comprehend what I was experiencing and just what space I had entered. I visited the show by invitation of two close friends while in Hamburg. We entered the show in the midst of a vibrant conversation. This ended abruptly when we were presented with a otherworldly suspended surface that was Horizon Field Hamburg. Before fully engaging the surface we were required to get situated. Shoes, coat, and bag all came off and into a locker they went. I feel that I removed much of my outer shell. My toes wiggled. My heels now fell on the concrete floor directly. I was present. While not ritualistic or a very thoughtfully designed transition, the hectic shoe locker area and hurried attempt to balance on my left foot while removing my right shoe then balance on my right foot to remove my left shoe acted to prepare me for the surface. I would not approach the surface with the baggage of the city through which I had just arrived. How much baggage should one carry forward into any experience, any relationship? The intent of Horizon Field Hamburg was to be an experience of the city, an experience that required a shift in how we were situated. Just as the door slamming shut at the Henry created a distinct threshold of experience, this harried exchange of clothing did important work to situate me in the space and prepare my body by opening an important receptor - my feet. (Tim Ingold) We climbed the scaffold stairs, turned 90 degrees and walked out to the end of a short platform suspended over the highly polished black surface. My foot fell to the suspended surface and I was released. I found myself continually moving in an attempt to understand and respond to the layers of vibrations caused by all the other people on the surface. This “community” (term used by Gormley to define the collection of people on the surface during his lecture that evening) all created reverberations through the surface which disoriented me. My body was confused. My mind was confused. This confusion was not troubling but more of a palpable excitement and wonderment. Confusion, in me, has a tendency to either cause frustration toward anxiety or on the other hand wonderment toward pleasure. This surface supported wonder. Regardless of wonder or fear, my body when confused seeks to find ground. A firm point from which to explore, learn, and relate to others. So I laid down on the surface with as much of my skin in contact with the ‘ground’ as possible. Given that this ‘ground’ was suspended by cables over 20 feet in the air presented my body with a ground I did not know could exist. I laid as still as possible for as long as possible, just breathing. After what felt like 5 minutes on the ground I clearly understood the surface to hold two distinct patterns of movement. A high tempo, high pitched vibration which traveled with quick feet, fast moves, shouts of adult laughter, and the sound of children’s screams as their feet landed on the surface. A low tempo, low pitched vibration coming from the slow oscillation of the surface back and forth. This slow oscillation resulted from the accumulation of the high tempo being translated through the inertial weight and structural system of the surface. The slow oscillation was the ground I sought. The collection of vigorous small movements of various individuals developed a deep seeded vital movement that affected all. I got up from the ‘ground’ and stretched, skipped, and laughed with my friends as we explored the community that was the surface that made up Hamburg to us that afternoon. I was present in the fact that for a relationship to develop, a community to emerge, care to be brought forward, a complementary resonance of high pitched and low pitched engagement is needed to sustain mutual contact.
All three of these works remind me of the importance of contact and how I touch my surroundings and how the people I am surrounded with touch me. I continue to find myself exploring design, learning, relationships, and various other aspects of life through a struggle to know this world through contact and touch. My body is central to this exploration and how I shape my world. These three works inspire me to continue this beautiful struggle to comprehend and develop my physical intelligence.