Week 2 – Charles Avery – January 12-18 – Untitled (Dihedra)

Charles Avery’s project for week two of fig-2 is now called “Untitled (Dihedra)” following the ubiqituous ‘Untitled (Title)’ format that never gets old.  I like the original working title “Ghosts Circumnavigating A Trefoil Knot”, from the sketch for the looped film that comprises the three-chambered heart of the work:

FIG2-02 Avery_Sketchoftwoghostscircumnavigatingatrefoilknot_2014

Ghosts are sexy, though not as sexy as maths. Avery describes the work as “highly mathematical.. a distillation of different dimensions” intended to form an intersection of different spatial ideas. It sexily comprises several elements demonstrating these: hexagonal floor tiles in a 2-dimensional Euclidian plane, a cage which when projected against gives the line in one dimension across the wall, and then, projected from a noisy old ELF film projector, two pairs of dihedrons (two isosceles triangles together, in the shape of a bird) circumnavigating the path of a trefoil knot. The trefoil knot is made of one line weaving round on itself through a three-leaf clover shape (see above sketch).

The work feels Duchampian, mathematically precise, but there’s more to it than just geometry-porn. There’s us. On the outside of the enclosed projection space there is a framed statement “we don’t stay here because of gravity we stay because we like it”:

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This is initially puzzling in relation to the rest of the work, but is a big clue, intended to underline the centrality of our subjectivity in relation to the qualities we perceive in objects, rather than in the objects ourselves. Avery says “the cage represents the structure… in concrete terms, and the viewer brings the subjective element, which is the ghost.. which inhabits that structure.”

We are on the ground not because of the theory of gravity, but because we choose not to fly.  The ghostly projections of the bird-like dihedrons flapping around their trefoil have no choice in the matter; they are mechanical, mathematical. They are shadows made from the absence of light from the projection of film. They have no substance, even as light. They are ghosts. Ghosts are defining liminalities: both presence and absence at once. We as objects are abidingly present (unless you choose to “refute it thus” and break your foot) but our perceptions, and by extension the ‘quality’ of any perceived object, are liminal, ghostly too.

Avery says “the ghost of this being that inheres in objects is a lot to do with my idea of art as quality not as an object.”  Thus the work is only formally Duchampian, mathematical in its means, but really it’s an attempt to apprehend where we are in the world of things: what it all means to be yourself, the viewer, the ghost in the machine.

The final irony is that we thus become prisoners of our own subjectivity, little better than dihedral birds, ghosts circumnavigating a trefoil knot. Though that’s just my subjective view.

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Official fig-2 page for week 2: http://www.fig2.co.uk/#/2/50

Interview with Charles Avery concerning the work: https://soundcloud.com/fig-2-1/250-fatos-ustek-interviews-charles-avery

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