Video and sculpture installation, 2015. Continuous Loop.
“The Moon Is A Mirror” is comprised of five commercial LED panels, custom steel frames, translucent organic materials embedded in resin (dove feathers, fur, snake skins, seeds, seashells), custom programming, electronics and animation. The screens diffuse the light from the LEDs in variant ways and this luminous obstruction creates both a material and discursive surface. The viewer is both looking at and looking through. The images on the electronic screens are interrupted by organic screens. Naturally-occurring translucent materials were researched and selected for their unique qualities to scatter light. Embedded in organic resins, these materials’ variations in texture, color and density affect the video playing on the LED grids behind them. The low-cost LED panels used are currently the fastest proliferating outdoor display technology in our world. When paired with raw natural surfaces inside constructed steel framing, the system becomes a multi-layered hybrid of organic and electronic components. The friction between commercial electronics and coarse organic surface situates them in both media archaeology and emerging technology. The moving image’s preference for the clear screen today ignores its historical roots in translucent organic materials. Cinema’s rich history begins with explorations of light from behind. Images deliberately modified through variations in a screen’s material qualities began with gourds, ice and fibers, and continued through backlit firescreens, photos and diaphanoramas. Early moving image systems like Shadow Plays and Phantasmagorias have each used clarity, diffusion and obstruction as part of their creative strategies. More recently, translucency has been utilized by a subset of artists working in Expanded Cinema, Installation Art and Media Art. Artists throughout time have explored how obstruction can add another dimension to the meaning in the image. The nexus of the surface is changing again in the age of AR and smart glass; transparency is becoming less transparent and surface is being increasingly explored as a way to convey or enhance meaning. Tactile interfaces are rising in popularity and as more artists and scientists explore touch-screen technologies that involve texture, the screen may return as an important layer to the media it presents. This artwork looks backward as a way to look forward; these recent developments have a foundation in media history in which nature has acted as an organic lens and filter to the image. The title, “The Moon is a Mirror”, reminds us that the moon itself is reflected and displayed light, and that nature has been media in many forms long before we began our journey into creating our own moving images. The animation in the sculpture is a simple walk cycle, a foundation in learning how to create a moving image. Walk cycles are both literal and figurative first steps. However, here the man is trapped in a distributed frame, pacing back and forth across the five LED grids. Each organic material modifies his gait differently, diffusing, scattering and blocking the light. Without the video, the screens have a delicate, handcrafted quality. However, as the moving image struggles to pass through, the screens become empowered and subvert the original meaning of the footage. The character seems in-between the display and screen, not present on either. He becomes a metaphor, trapped and pacing between a mediated environment and a constructed nature.
- SCOTT HESSELS (USA) uses kinetic sculpture and natural forces to explore new relationships between the moving image and the environment. Across the works, natural energy becomes the shaping, formative voice in the creation of cinema. Using a range of technologies borrowed from both art and engineering, he surrenders his ‘will to form’ to the powers found in nature. He creates mediated earthworks. “The Moon Is A Mirror” was developed concurrently with the Sustainable Cinema series of sculptures to provide two perspectives: cinema displayed using organic materials and created using natural force. Sustainable Cinema is six kinetic public sculptures that harness natural forces to power a moving image. Large-scale and made from steel or wood, they reference both the early optical illusion toys that were part of cinema history as well as the first energy sources. In these artworks, cinema is given an alternate history in which the original natural power systems and early organic surfaces continued to evolve instead of being discarded by the industrial and digital revolutions. The entire series is a fictional ‘what if’ question, a faux-archaeology in which both perspectives, nature’s voice in both image display and creation, stayed integral to cinema’s evolution. These fake history machines are meant to trigger consideration of more environmentally responsible media. Kinetic sculpture materializes energy, giving form to non-visual forces. These sculptures simultaneously create and break the illusion of animating by revealing the system—we see the machinery, we see the screens. Ecology also reveals the systems that make life. Hessels hopes that when we watch a device make ‘life’ through a simple animation, we extend the metaphor to empowering all natural systems that make life. By giving nature ‘the will to form’, the artworks capture the energy of the earth and when the animation in them comes alive, become part of a larger life force continuum. scotthessels.com
Full Text and photo p. 137-139