Saturday, 8 July 2017

At the Lightning Field by Laura Raicovich    {Reviewed by THOMAS}
The Lightning Field’ is a one-mile-by-one-kilometer grid of 400 evenly spaced 4.5m-8m high stainless steel poles in the remote desert of New Mexico, constructed by Walter De Maria in 1977 such that it would support a regular hypothetical slab precisely on all points. As well as being an attractor for lightning, which is frequent in that area, the grid is an attractor for artists, scientists and other people who have an inclination to correlate the sphere of experience with the sphere of speculation (if such things may be thought of as spheres). Although the field can be circumambulated, to be within it is to experience it as of infinite (or non-finite) extent: the pattern of the grid resolves its regularity at the distance beyond which no effort is required to bring objects into focus, but is indistinguishable closer up. Within this implied infinity of regularity, of spaciotemporal generality, the irregular, the specific, is more noticeable, and, by implication, more measurable, as if the grid were a graph upon which to plot the curve of experience, the clinamen of the actual as opposed to the general, the phenomenon of perception in contrast to that which is perceived. This mathematics is the mathematics of subjectivity. The viewer, so to call a person entering the field, is thrown back upon their own intrusion, “the burden of response is placed not on the sculpture but on the spectator”, who thereby becomes aware primarily of themselves. The heightened awareness of oneself and of particular phenomena within the field is only mystical if by mystical we mean a separation of the particular from the general. “The Lightning Field is not a magical plane. Within the desert there are few distractions from the acts and implications of perception.” And yet the separation of the particular from the general allows us to study not only the particular but the general also. Synthesis is a problem resolved by scale; analysis is a problem resolved by shape. The search for patterns and symmetries, especially those that appear on both the infinitesimal and infinite scales, supersedes the study of divisible phenomena. Space and time reveal themselves as properties of phenomena that allow these phenomena to relate, rather than as a medium or media in which they occur. The grid is a framework within which the curve of experience can be more clearly perceived and also a framework for extrapolating that experience beyond the prescribed ground. It is a space for the study of the relationship between the particular and the general, between the actual and the theoretical, between the individual and the class of which it is both a representative and a promulgator. The Lightning Field is a mechanism for the “recalibration of time and space. … It presents measurement, space and time in combinations that alternately adhere to and confound regularity, suggesting something far less rational, like the inaccuracy of a memory or the way lightning sprawls across the desert sky.” The regularity of the arrangement is an attractor of the irregular force of lightning, the beautiful ‘natural disaster’ that the artist (the artist who made the field, or any artist who seeks, at least figuratively, to attract an electric strike to their grid of regular effort) so longs for, the most potent and least predictable of phenomena. 

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