Empty Proemises Page - Jon Burris Projects

Moment: EMST, Empty Pr(oe)mises,

A proposal for Empty Pr(oe)mises project in the space of the National Museum of Contemporary Arts (Athens), responding to the theme of "emptiness."

From the proposal statement: “There is a tension and a struggle between the will of the space in preserving its void and the will of the forces that wish to occupy it.” (from the call for proposals). As the announcement recognizes, true emptiness does not exist: it’s inherently subjective, perceptual and metaphoric rather than physical, whether of a region (Saudi Arabia’s “Empty Quarter”), a person (“how vacuous he is") or an artwork. The proposed work, bearing the working title "Moment: EMST”, explores our perception of the invisible randomness which permeates our environment.

“Moment” is the umbrella name of a continuing project of still and installation works whose common element is the use of the ambient radiation field to explore the incorporation into the artwork of real-world randomness. This background radiation offers an elemental indeterminacy: intrinsically random, value-free, and devoid of metaphor. Omnipresent and eternal, it is the byproduct of the universe’s physical decay. It is also, as the Second Law of Thermodynamics instructs us, the marker of the slow progress to the universe's final entropic state. There is no region, however empty, which escapes these dynamics.

The installation itself is simple: The space is empty except for 18 spotlights mounted on or suspended from the ceiling, projecting down. Each is connected to a radiation detector, so that the spotlight emits a brief, bright flash each time a particle traverses the sensitive tube. While intrinsically unpredictable, each will flash on average 20 times per minute. (The piece introduces no radiation to the environment; it simply detects that which is present.)

Six video screens are mounted on the side walls, each connected to a video camera mounted underneath. The camera’s signal is mediated by electronics which are themselves connected to radiation detectors, so that the displayed image is a freeze-frame of the moment of detection, held until the next event, at which point it is replaced by the frozen image from that moment. Each camera captures the screen on the facing wall, displaying the opposite view of the same area.

The installation is completely silent.

The visitor’s relationship to the work is multivalent. At once, s/he is both the detached observer of the elemental forces that surround him/her as well as the acted upon through the camera’s unpredictable capturing of his/her image and the dual view of the past as shown on both facing screens. So, this is what fills any void. Outside human experience, the intense neutrality of the material is at the heart of the work. These phenomena, standing outside culture and otherwise inaccessible to our senses, raise a set of distinctly human issues about perceptual dynamics. In that we instinctively attempt to impose order on disorder - to create meaning - the piece explores the unresolvable tension between the reflex to organize experience and a sensory field of no inherent organization. For me, it is the viewer's reflecting on his/her perceptual experience while incorporating the work’s larger context which is this work’s ultimate subject.

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