When I first walked into SAFE a year ago; a gallery in a portion of an Atomic Cold War bunker in Dalfsen,
I realized that I was entering a space designed to house a large number of people. These people would be strangers living in an enclosed world with no sense or connection with what was occurring on the outside.
A short story, by Samuel Beckett, entitled 'The Lost Ones' came to mind and 6 months or so later, when reflecting on the space, I found that the text remained as a strong conceptual starting point.
In the story hundreds of people are roaming in circles in an enclosed space, dreaming of escaping, some trying to climb ladders to get away from their fellow roamers, other resigned to their existence. A secondary starting point was American Pastoral by Philip Roth, which revolves around a glove manufacturer in New Jersey, USA.
My intention in the installation is to evoke a presence of past hypothetical inhabitants or perhaps present ones, and for the space to be condensed and filled, have a feeling of claustrophobia. A world that is constantly moving, in flux.
I also, contemplated ways of bringing some indication of the world these inhabitants would have existed in.
On discussing the text and the installation ideas with lighting designer, Henk Post, we arrived at the conclusion that changing light would be a pertinent way to to bring in the world they existed in, thus referring, perhaps, to the passage of the sun or to create a shift in the images created by casting shadows on the walls of the spaces. Henk Post will be working with me on this aspect.
The piece titled The Lost Ones, consists of animated fabricated gloves, button down shirt collars and eye glasses, umbrellas, billiard cues, metal rods, shoe forms, etc. All of the objects moving under their own volition, ceasing to move at intervals. The objects when animated take on their own time and when static appear in abeyance, as though time is frozen in them. The piece is designed to activate the spaces and then for stillness to occur.
The viewer, on entering, would experience a space 'inhabited' metaphorically by human beings via the objects chosen; accessories and objects which describe the bodily edges and which can symbolically define certain attributes of the wearer such as status, the intellect, gender. These objects include hats, shoes, gloves, eyeglasses. The ladders placed around the space giving a sense of the potential of a journey with no possibility of completion and to help to define areas and connect the floor to the ceiling. The movement of the objects referring to human movement by means of slow moving motors set on timers and scanners which will give a sense of a constantly shifting world. The viewer will hopefully experience a sense of humanity in a concrete cell.
On first entering the space, the viewer encounters suspended umbrellas, floating in some world. This leads into the second space, where on the walls are a series of constructed gloves and shirt collars, with eye glasses watching the viewer. A group of constructed, dysfunctional ladders reach from the floor to the ceiling, mapping out areas in the space. In the third space, more abstract world exists concerned with constructed sounds, which one hears obliquely.
" ...it is clear however, from a thousand little signs to long to imagine, that they are not sleeping. Only murmur ah, no more, in this silence, and at the same instant for the eye of prey the infinitesimal shudder instantaneously suppressed.... No, life ends and no, there is nothing elsewhere, and no question now of ever finding again that white speck lost in whiteness, to see if they still in the stress of that storm, or of a worse storm, or in the black dark for good, or the great whiteness unchanging, and if not what they are doing."
Imagination Dead Imagine by Samuel Beckett
"...It too has its moments of stillness more or less hot or cold. They
coincide with those of the lights. Then all go dead still. It is perhaps the end of all. A few seconds and all begins again. Consequences of this climate for the skin. It shrivels. The bodies brush together with a rustle of dry leaves.....
......And finally much later that ever and anon there comes a momentary lull. The effect of those brief and rare respites is unspeakably dramatic to put it mildly. Those who never know a moment's rest stand rooted to the spot often in extravagant postures and the stillness heightened tenfold of the sedentary and vanquished makes that which is normally theirs seem risible in comparison. The fists on their way to smite in anger or discouragement freeze in their arcs until the scare is past ...." The Lost Ones by Samuel Beckett
... Twisted fingers. .. When you are cutting a fourchette or thumb or anything, you got to pull it straight. If you don't pull it straight, you're going to have a problem. If he pulled that fourchette crookedly on the bias, then when it's sewn together the finger is going to corkscrew just like this...
..."Monkeys, gorillas, they have brains and we have a brain, but they don't have this thing, the thumb. They can't move it opposite the way we do. The inner digit on the hand of man, that might be the distinguishing physical feature between ourselves and the rest of animals. And the glove protects that inner digit. The ladies' glove, the welder's glove, the rubber glove, the baseball glove, the baseball glove, et cetera. This is the root of humanity, this opposable thumb. It enables us to make tools and build cities and everything else...There is no other part of a human being that is clothed that is such a complex moving structure...."
American Pastoral by Philip Roth
Houghton Mifflin Company, Boston, New York 1997
Sue Rees 2001