Light has been many things to artists, from the scientific explorations of the Post-Impressionists, to the primary place it took in the Modernist agenda of formalism and even its place in contemporary atmospheres of total transporting. What are we to think, then, when a contemporary artist calls something so fundamental and so sublime “awkward?”
“The Awkward Intrusion of Light,” a large-scale installation by artist team Rob and Georgia Buchert, up at BYU’s HFAC through mid-January, takes its form in numerous fabric columns suspended above the ground of the college’s Fine Arts center. Buchert calls these columns “veils,” a term which in the LDS faith represents the division between the temporal and the eternal. “It doesn’t matter where you stand,” says Rob Buchert of the installation, “inside the column, outside the column, the veil is the same and the metaphor of light is the same.”
Buchert sees this light as “the representation of anything that enters an individual reality to cause a fissure in that reality causing the individual to act upon the intrusion.” It creates, he says, ”awkwardness,” and is a superb semiotic metaphor for the meanings the Bucherts are trying to convey. Along with the fabric columns, the installation features two tall, rectangular boxed listening stations playing a recording of an abstract narrative of recorded voices. These voices are the omega to which the light is the alpha. The luminous alpha is a pure element, but the abrasiveness of living causes disruption that somewhere along the distance between alpha and omega leads to all sorts of dialectical awkwardness.
Philosophers are not the only ones to engage in dialectics. We do so all the time. Every moment we as existential beings are faced with a choice, between what may not be exactly be extremes of opposites, theses and antitheses, but choices nonetheless — we must decide not only what to choose, but how we ourselves will decide to create a synthesis of our own being. This synthesis is a responsiveness that comes from something like deciding to eat a sensible meal over one that is more unhealthy, this having an affect on one’s own life in the product of weight loss, higher metabolism, energy and health and longevity in general. Such choices in ones personal life are constant. So are choices such as deciding to reuse a plastic bottle, to shop second-hand, to conserve on resources, to donate old goods as opposed to throwing them away, such decisions are abundant, but these add to the greater livelihood and wellbeing of the world around us.
Ultimately, the purpose to our perpetual discourse of decision-making is progression, for ourselves an others. In the context of this installation, then, what is the desired progression? The progression made less awkward and of more light, less manufactured and more pure.
All of earth’s systems are either a nonlinear one, like a river and its tributaries, a migration of birds, or the human circulatory system, or linear ones like the altering of a wetland to serve the purpose of a master planned community. In the Bucherts installation, the elemental is revealed naturally as a nonlinear progression, the manufactured is revealed artificially as a linear progression, nudging the viewer to consider the ways they might live that contribute less to a manufactured, linear artificial progression and more to a natural, nonlinear progression. The irony of this dichotomy is that one desires a nonlinearity to be less awkward instead of a linearity to be more awkward.
Surely the Buchert’s intent was not to be scientific about the factor of awkwardness, however it might be demonstrative on the scale of purity of light and the abrasiveness of the abstract sound narrative of every-day living. This scientific method is sure ground to what the Bucherts are presenting. This fundamental theory of the artificiality of life that is a linear artificial system, like a master planned community that has a resonating effect on other earth ecosystems that will affect others. Again, this can raise awareness to help individuals make choices to decide how they might better live a lifestyle that is more non linear and decide ways by which they might live more naturally and contribute less to any linearity of human artificiality. A general consideration and awareness of everyday freedom of choices and responsibilities, the potential of sources and effects, and one’s responsibilities to these as residents to the larger functioning system as a part to the whole, in one’s own progression, and how everything done has an effect on the self and the world around.