michael j. morris

More on Siren
1 March, 2009, 2:21 am
Filed under: art, inspiration | Tags: , ,

Since my experience of Ray Lee’s Siren on Thursday bordered on transcendent, I made time this evening to experience it again. And I’m glad I did. I held even more meaning for me tonight, raised more metaphors and dichotomies and questions concerning reality, and the culture in which we live.

As mentioned in my previous post, revealing the invisible seemed to be a central theme (for me, for the artist) in this piece. This was even further pronounced in the second experience of the work. Not only were invisible elements such as sound waves, spatial formations, etc., revealed, but there were the more subtle invisibles: social behaviors, individual responses to the work, social configurations, all revealed in response to this work.

A pivotal moment for me this evening was when the extra illumination of the space was extinguished. The first experience is one in which that which had been previously visible became invisible. The tripods, the performers, the other audience members, the boundaries of the space, all disappeared. All that remained were the circling red lights, like solar systems spinning out of control all around and throughout us. Then, once again, there was the more subtle experience of my eyes adjusting to the darkness, and these “invisible” components of the work being reveled: I could once again see the tripods, the sources of these circling lights. I could see the performers, those who were orchestrating this entire experience (more on this later). This simple shift from light to darkness engaged a whole deeper level of experiencing the visible and the invisible.

Tonight I had a new experience with the performers themselves, especially in the darkness. Previously I brought to them a potential meaning of we as human beings being co-creators or controllers for the reality in which we live, the orchestrators of the “culture of panic” in which we so easily find ourselves. Tonight I had a more specific experience of these figures moving in the darkness. Due to their dark gray wool suits, they moved throughout the installation as invisible men, adjusting and controlling the organization and experience of this piece. Tonight this held a potentially more sinister connotation for me, one of those unseen individuals who guide and direct the larger socio-cultural experience. Those hidden figures directing this “culture of panic.” I almost felt as if this work were making some effort of revealing those invisible political forces as well. 

I was struck tonight by another dichotomous juxtaposition: that of the Siren who drew sailors towards danger, towards destruction, and the formal properties of these sound/light/mechanical objects, a form which readily echoed (tonight) a lighthouse. It raised the question for me how a danger and a protector might co-exist in the same object, the discrepancy between name and form. I’m not sure where this thought process leads, but it struck me in this second experience.

I was more aware this evening of the act of construction. The piece begins with the construction of musical chords. Which the instruments are set into motion (rotation) these chords become moving melodies, the construction of a symphony, or a moving aural landscape. I was also aware of the indirect construction of social configurations, that by bringing a group of people into the space of this work and giving them the agency to move about the space, movement of the audience was structured into the work. But it was not as simple as random movement: the movement was responsitory, people moving to where they could see better, or hear differently, away from someone, or nearer someone else. This unfolding social configuration was a subtle construction of the work, of which I was tonight more aware.

Then there were just the additional aesthetic qualities that took my notice:

the beauty of the movement-landscape, the tripods stationary, then rotating slowly, syncopated slightly, gaining speed, slowing, coming to stillness again.

the shadows cast on the walls, from the instruments, from the bodies in the space, etc.

the challenge to appreciate the talking of other audience members (which had been expressly prohibited) as a part of the aural landscape of the work, in a John Cage sort of “all sort as music” sense.

the sheer ecstasy of the subtlety of the adjustments in the piece: the tones being produced, adding tones to the chords, the rotations (and how their syncopated nature built in an evolving melody), the adjustments of the speed of the rotations, stopping the rotations, discontinuing the tones, the silence at the end.

I’m sure I could continue to process and respond to this work, but that is all I have the energy for tonight. I do hope you had the opportunity to experience this work. If not, I hope this re-telling fulfills you on some vicarious level.

Finally, one more video of the work with an interview with Ray Lee. it’s short, but will hopefully capture more of the work for those of you who did not see it:


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