LED lights are positioned throughout the blackened gallery space. As these are the only points of light, the architecture of the space effectively disappears, giving the impression of looking deep into the cosmos. The relative positions of the LED’s correspond exactly to lights from existing computer and stereo terminals and workstations. These are our new constellations “The Sleeping Mac”, “The Printer and Scanner”, “The Modem”, etc. Unlike stars, these ones we mostly look down on with a few exceptions.
Non-disciplinary (undisciplined?) artist Robyn Moody is currently based in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. He takes a whimsical and multifaceted approach to artmaking, incorporating electronics, film, performance, installation, sculpture, or whatever a project requires. He holds an MFA from NSCAD University in Halifax, Nova Scotia (2006) and has exhibited his work extensively across Canada, and somewhat less extensively in Europe. In his free time he teaches at the Alberta College of Art and Design.
/ROBYN MOODY — CONSTELLATION
Everyone knows that constellations do not represent their stars' true relations to one another. Gargantuan chasms may exist between stars that, from our earthbound position, appear as though they were side by side, as pinholes in a continuous velvet sheet. Science centres make a point of countering this illusion of two-dimensionality through displays in which we are afforded the luxury of walking around, for instance, the Big Dipper. Seeing it from a number of angles, children come to understand constellations as series of unrelated celestial bodies united only by a cosmic perspective trick being played on earthlings.
In “Notes on Sculpture, Part 1”, Robert Morris alludes to Kant's deduction that because our retinas are only equipped to perceive a succession of two-dimensional images, three-dimensional space is not something we actually perceive. Rather, it is something we contribute to experience. Our conception of a three-dimensional world is a way of organizing disparate, fleeting images into a sensible continuity, of turning a soup of colour into solid objects that persist in time. Morris focuses on cases in which no time is required for this production of space to occur:
In the simpler regular polyhedrons, such as cubes and pyramids, one need not move around the object for the sense of the whole, the gestalt, to occur. One sees and immediately 'believes' that the pattern within one's mind corresponds to the existential fact of the object. Belief in this sense is ... a kind of faith in spatial extension.1
It turns out that the illusion of a two-dimensional night sky is only an illusion for those who are enmeshed in (and this is all but universal among the living) a three-dimensional world.
Robyn Moody's walk-in night-sky diorama Constellation addresses just such issues of spatial ambiguity. One steps into a disorienting darkness filled with dozens of points of coloured light-emitting diodes that immediately suggests a lab chock full of computer equipment in sleep mode. Although they are poor indicators of the space's shape, the LEDs nevertheless serve as important steer-clear-of-here signs to any who might trip over expensive equipment. Confronted by points of light whose relative distances are unknowable, the observer immediately reacts, understandably by freezing in place. But, paradoxically, it is only in the act of moving one's body that the space becomes intelligible. Contrary to Morris's perspicuous cases where “belief” is immediate, this is a perspicuous instance of “belief” being made difficult and slow.
It soon becomes evident that these lights are attached not to monitors, scanners, or printers, but to slender steel rods. Rather than seeing these lights peripherally while we gaze through windows on the virtual world, we are brought to their here-and-now physicality. Just as Euclidian geometry—and Cartesian space—was in the 19th century shown to be only one possible geometry among many, so is the physical world rapidly becoming merely one possible site to inhabit. Virtual worlds (which have existed in forms as banal as speech, drawing, and writing) have only recently, since the advent of computers, revealed themselves as inhabitable spaces, questioning the reality of the “real” world that they presuppose and imitate. And just as 3D models presuppose a world of sentient bodies who understand what to do with depth cues on a two-dimensional surface, so are they also irreducibly dependent upon that world for their hardware, electricity, and safe rooms. Not only does Constellation reiterate Morris's observation that space is an assumption projected onto sensory experience, it also reinstates that world as a condition of possibility for its virtual rivals.
1. Morris, Robert. "Notes on Sculpture 1 - 3." Art in Theory 1900 - 1990:
An Anthology of Changing Ideas. Ed. Charles Harrison and Paul Wood.
Oxford: Blackwell, 1992. 813-822
/PAUL ROBERT is an artist, educator, and writer living in his home city of Calgary. Since completing his MFA at the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design in 2005, he has been steadily dabbling (and babbling) in computer language.