The aesthetic appeal of impermanence
Stacy Brafield, Lona Hansen - 3300
November 2nd - November 7th, 2012
Hordaland Art Centre
At first glance, Stacy Brafield and Lona Hansen’s installation 3300 appears like a force field of light, which creates a closed form in the gallery space. Narrow transparent bands, attached to the floor and ceiling, echo the rectangular shape of the room and trap the light source within its structure. Depending on the viewer’s position the installation changes in character. Despite being almost immaterial, the work emits a dominating presence that immediately gets the spectator’s attention. The simple form has a quiet beauty that encourages a closer inspection, which in turn reveals the fragile bands to be nothing but regular scotch tape.
The inherent aesthetic appeal of something so ordinary is remarkable, and with large enough quantities (3300 meters?) it can clearly even create spatial structures. The work is simultaneously visually perplexing and completely honest in its use of materials. Trying to picture the artistic experimentation with material and form, one can imagine how the installation slowly materialized in close dialogue with the existing space. Since the installation is firmly entrenched in the existing architecture, and utilizes both floor and ceiling to stabilize and solidify the structure, it accentuates the spatial qualities of the room it occupies as well.
Preserving or removing the work without destroying it is impossible, and over time the installation is destined to change. Some of the bands of tape eventually become attached to one another, altering the strict visual logic of the installation. This in turn draws attention to the present since there is a form of exclusivity witnessing the powerful installation, knowing it will inevitably be reduced to a heap of regular scotch tape. The impermanent quality of the material emphasizes a state of flux, contrasting the perfect logic the structure is based upon.
When approaching the wall of tape, your movements and your breath make the bands quiver slightly. As the installation reacts to your presence you too become highly aware of your physicality. Both the desire to enter the structure to explore it further, and the awareness that the pristine installation is extremely fragile enhances this sensation. The spectator is turned into a participant as it becomes difficult to perceive the artwork without relating it to one’s own physical presence. When the viewer is allowed to co-produce the situation, it might cause his or hers subjective awareness to merge with the artwork, creating a sensation of a new, more powerful, experience of totality. This heightened consciousness is not unlike what some Minimalist artists experienced with, which Michael Fried describes as such:
That the beholder is confronted by literalist work within a situation that he experiences as his means that there is an important sense in which the work in question exists for him alone, even if he is not actually alone with the work at the time. [...] Someone has merely to enter the room in which a literalist work has been placed to become that beholder, that audience of one – almost as though the work in question has been waiting for him.
This description also fits 3300. Watching, exploring and experiencing the work invokes a sensory delight, which might render the spectator convinced that the ghostly structure only truly reveals itself to him or herself.
Taking these observations into account, the austere artwork reveals itself to be more playful than initially expected. Brafield and Hansen’s experimentation with form and material can be perceived as subtle manifestations celebrating the artistic process, which appears to oscillates somewhere between the fruitful dichotomy of structural logic and creative exploration.