series — reviews
(noun, verb), state of synchronous operation: to put two mechanisms in phase, to phase one mechanism with another

“Phase” (noun, verb)
a state of synchronous operation: to put two mechanisms in phase, to phase one mechanism with another.

A light projector inside a transparent glass container hangs from the Verlorenkostbridge in Ghent.
It is constructed from various optical parts, which were assembled from different sources such as an overhead projector, a film projector and a slide projector. The light bulb, the lens and other components are carefully displayed inside the box with small gaps between each part. A ventilator quietly spins to extract heat and a mirror directs the light down into the water in zenith. What is actually seen however, the formal or visual impression, are two lights: one very bright hanging from the bridge, and another one sunk deep in the water, a clear reflection of the illuminating box above. Halfway in between them on the surface of the water rests a projection of the light. It embodies the shape of an overhead projector’s frame, and it strongly gives the impression that it was made jointly by the two sources of light, the imaginary one emerging from below and the real one shining from above.

The light projection marks the surface of the water as point zero from which all elements symmetrically accumulate, it is the seam line between two pressures and two weights, water and air. From bottom to top or vice versa the elements are layered vertically in an axis, organised in opposition to the usual perception of what’s high and what’s low. Unlike the logic of gravity, here concrete matter is up and abstract matter is down. Conceiving this work meant looking at the bridge’s architecture plans and understanding how to effectively install an unusual optic device on it. Yet the practical reliance on optics and architecture served to build up an optical-mental twist: if light is emerging from the bottom of the river in order to produce a frame of light, then the bridge itself could also be a projection made by it, and the bodies on it too.

The work, evidently, is made out of a single apparatus hanging from a bridge. The simplicity of that act however, is strongly contrasted by the way in which the device works to render what’s around it inseparable from it. It makes every natural and human-made element in this environment also become an optical component. By giving a dual function to each of the elements, movement happens among them. The surface of the water is equally a reflection and a projection surface, the upper projector both throws a beam of light and displays itself to the public, the bridge serves to mount the projector and also to direct the viewer’s movement. In Cathérine’s studio there is a collection of geological core samples, compressed objects, which demonstrate how time can become matter. The movement amongst the components of the installation travels up and down simultaneously, as within a shaft in different layers, reminiscent of the cylinder shaped objects in the studio. By using light as its basic building brick, the installation functions as a quiet apparatus engaged with the atmospheric layers under it. A light beam’s movement is unseen, but it does move, and then it measures time and distances.

The public display of the projector’s fragmented components can now be read as a cypher for the whole arrangement, an act of slicing and subsequently unfolding layers of different matter in space. A projector is usually utilized to unite layers and then project them as one flat image. Here however, the projector does the opposite, instead of producing one illusory image, there are none. Rather, it looks again and again at itself, displays and spreads itself out in a complex manner. Twice a day, throughout sunset, and throughout sunrise, the projector switched on and then off. Each cycle lasted 90 minutes, the time in which the disappearance of natural light allows the gradual appearance of artificial light. It is the point in which the two movements, that of the greater source and that of the smaller source make the synchronized process become visible.

This text happened as a continuation of the conversation between Cathérine and myself during the period we spent as studio neighbours at WIELS.

Shelly Nadashi
published at ‘Le Salon’ February 2012