Visual Arts Center, UT Austin
A Solar Breath
Subtle movement catches your eye as you walk into a large, airy gallery. Light is splayed across the floor. There is just one work of art. It floats in the empty space above your head, tethered from the sides. Coming down to the ground, like four spindly legs, are thin clumps of what looks like wire. One of these legs snakes out to the garden outside, attached to solar panels.
The structure itself looks like a deconstructed, geometric being floating in the middle of the room. It is almost completely made up of string—neon pink, bright yellow, saturated orange. The vibrant hues override the feeble, thin quality of the string and give it structure, allowing it to take up real space in the world. The colorful string arranges itself into intricate hexagonal patterns. As you move around the work, you can see how the patterns mimic and fit into one another. Small, coiled pieces of metal attached to the strings are connected to the clumps of wire, which snake outside. The solar energy coming from the garden makes its way inside the gallery, up the wire, and into the coiled metal, which moves the string with the energy from the sun. The sunnier the day, the more the structure moves within its environment. It looks like it’s breathing.
On the ground below is a white, plush blanket topped with a heap of colorful throw pillows. It invites you to relax, stay awhile, and just watch.
As the accompanying brochure acknowledges, “When you breathe, you move… The movement is subtle, simple, yet part of an intricate system.”
This subtle movement transforms the work. It stoically holds its ground, yet moves with the slightest shift in its environment. It is reactionary. Although it can be perceived to be in the same place all the time, unless the clouds follow suit, it never really is. It’s not quite human, but all the same, it seems to be living.
What is the work’s place in this “intricate system”? It could be a reflection of us as individuals, reacting to the momentum of our lives. Or, possibly, a reflection of society, imperceptibly shifting as the makeup of its environment slowly changes. Maybe it’s both, maybe it’s neither.
And the blanket—a blanket covered in pillows isn’t necessarily essential to the rest of the work. It almost seems to refer to stargazing. Do the complex, hexagonal patterns of the string structure represent constellations within our observable universe? Or rather, just the intricacy of life, here on the ground? Although the cosmos itself is probably as intricate as it gets, there is something to be said for the fractal-like quality that this work exudes. At any (really, at every) level, through its subtle, shifting, reactionary movement, Placeholder reflects the same fundamental quality of living—It reflects change.