Back in 2013, Nicholas Smith asked me to join a group of other writers in producing some catalog text for a series of sculptures by Roland Persson, to be exhibited at Örebro Konsthall in Stockholm as The phenomenon of materializing a dream. “Precipitation” is the piece I ultimately wrote.
Each of us was asked to choose a piece from the exhibit. But since there would be no way for me to travel to Stockholm to see the exhibit, I was given many materials to work with, sketches, other catalogs of Persson’s work. Everything except the exhibit itself. This is often the case when we write about things without presence but, this time, presence was at the center of the aesthetic experience, as “The entire exhibition is totally in silicone, walls, curtains, rugs, objects. Everything is casted and sometimes transformed into a second state. One enters the rubbery rooms without shoes and relate to the material perceptually.”
So here I was, with the daunting task of writing about an exhibit that was “about” everything that cannot be experienced from a far distance— tactility, aroma. It seemed to me that Persson’s exhibit would require the visitor’s nodal body to act self-consciously as the site of encounter with the sculpture. In this exhibit, what is familiar to the eye would also undeniably be understood as something else to the hand and foot.
Despite my distance from all this bouncy, rubbery, stuff, the idea totally freaked me out, and to calm myself I generated an exercise wherein I thought about what it would mean to try to conceptualize dreaming without translation, beginning with Persson’s insistence that, in his work, “the object that is being cast is given a narrative, whether false or true.”
“false or true”: I am reminded of the Mark Jenkins sculpture that Fox Harrell uses as the cover image for his Phantasmal Media book. On the one hand it can be read as a shrug. On the other, everything might hang in the balance of the “or.”
Is there a way to operationalize the “whether false or true”? And what would it mean to nonetheless embrace remediation as an act that denies origin while insisting on the new object’s own analog integrity ⇢ medium frames sensation: am I a dream’s media? And what would it mean to be cut off from that signal, or to plug into it?
Thinking about that still gives me a headache, especially if there may be no there there, and thus even less to stand in the face of our world’s continual sorrows. We need to be dreamed.
Regardless, “Precipitation” was my path to the question. This was originally written for paper, but the version I’ve published online is displayed so that it loads a bit differently every time. (It actually works better on smaller screens, though phones might be a bit of a challenge!) The images on the site work together with the text, so click the pix to connect them to their snippets…