6 minutes high definition digital film & sculptural installation
The looped eight-minute high definition digital film Captain of your soul (2009) is my own attempt
to activate a contemporary vanitas motif and capture its diffused time. The terror of time within the work is made
present initially within the entropic nature inherent to the decomposing materiality within the sculpture itself. An
economy of materials, fire, candles, duct tape and a cast urethane arm is transformed into a glistening balkanised
abstraction of a chandelier, spinning towards entropic collapse within a black void. The human bodies decay, its
pending death is personified within the pieces melting rigidity and within its initial state of bricolaged imperfection
as a chandelier composed from sculptural debris.
'Imperfection is in some way essential to all that we know of life. It is the sign of life in a mortal
body, that is to say, of a state of process and change. Nothing that lives is, or can be, rigidly
perfect; part of it is decaying, part nascent … And in all things that live there are certain
irregularities and deficiencies, which are not only signs of life but sources of beauty.'
(Pallasmaa 2006 p6)
The inherent beauty of life that is required by the vanitas logic is invoked initially through the personification and
transformation of the latent beauty of the work's imperfect, cheap, trash-like material composition. When this latent
beauty is manipulated physically into an image of the balkanised-chandelier it exploits the vanitas candle motif as
a structural module to become an abomination of beauty and baroque decadence. Perhaps this twisted version of
beauty is its contemporary materialization.
The chandeliers vanitas candles modularity is overwhelmingly disrupted by the magnificence of a God-like light
that radiates from a central, candle whose wicks burns at both ends and which is held tenuously by a severed
urethane arm. This candle's dislocation from the task of mundane structure back to its position, as the pinnacle
of metaphorical symbolism is doubly made present through its isolation and elevation by the ghostly limb. The
totality of the eerie limbs gesture is allegorical as its cumulative symbolism builds the vanitas narrative. The gentle
clasp of the hand around the candle echoes the fragility of the pending burnt flesh, or extinguished life resulting
from the doubled candle metaphor. Emphatically there is a gestured authority realised in the centralised raising
of the doubled candle above the chandelier, as though this sign, this idea is being offered to us, a unique gift
to be witnessed and cherished. This sign being that life is beautiful, that life is a unique gift to be witnessed and
cherished, is at the heart of the vanitas proposition.
In contrast to the decomposing tragic baroque beauty is the eternal beauty that suspends time's entropic nature.
'The language of beauty is essentially the language of the timeless reality. 'Our longing and quest for
beauty is an unconscious attempt to temporarily eliminate the reality of erosion, entropy and death.
(Pallasmaa 2006 p6)
This attempt towards temporal discontinuity with a meditative or suspended moment is the most powerful device
buried within art's toolkit; it has been suggested that, "[e]very truly moving experience of art - ancient, modern
or contemporary - seems to suspend time and open the curtains of experience onto a calm, tranquil duration.'
Where the, '…distinct slowness and silencing of experience belong to profound artistic greatness in general."
(Pallasmaa 2006 p6) Through the use of film as a means of capturing and presenting the sculpture Captain of
your soul (2009), the transformed filmic sculpture encompasses both a symbolic and literal distortion of time. The
work dislocates time, severing temporality's continuum when it recreates a moment when the projected future is
curled back into the past. Contemplation of the present is the vanitas soul, a gift that shadows the essence of the
aesthetic experience where,
time seems to slow down, allowing our memories and perceptions to mingle. Unlike chronological
time, which is concerned with actions and consequences, aesthetic time is a layered surface in
which present (what is seen, touched, smelled, tasted, heard) and past (what is remembered or
re-considered) are embedded. The past and present overlap in fluid ways, neither one serving of
being summoned for the sake of the other. Time becomes less a singular journey we travel on than
a richly marked and textured surface we touch.
(Pallasmaa 2006 p7)
Great arts aesthetic experience reconfigures and displaces time, slowing it down while within the vanitas system
meta-time is collapsed and paused. The viewer must re-emerge in the present, at the moment of the now after
seeing his or her own death. Captain of your soul (2009) borrows the vanitas system reconfiguring the rules of
arts aesthetic experience. The work takes life, death, desire and decadence only to illuminate and lose them in the
shadows of the metaphysical question of time and art.