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FINITE INFINITY: a sculpture and light installation by Richard Harrington featuring sound performances by Forrest Larson, Phil Van Ouse

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Richard Harrington, Form

Richard Harrington, Form

FINITE INFINITY

A sculpture and light installation by Richard Harrington featuring sound performances by Forrest Larson, Phil Van Ouse.

To begin with, the word infinity needn’t be capitalized as I’ve done here. Infinity is everywhere―which is the key to understanding what this show is about. In the 1980’s Douglas Hostaedtler in Goedel, Escher, Bach, devoted an entire chapter to why infinity ought not be capitalized, that may be why we decided to name the show finite infinity.

Infinity can be a very intimidating word surrounded by cryptic, ambiguous religious and spiritual connotations. Our caveat is to suggest that most of those connotations ought to be left at the door. The title for our collaboration could just as easily have been Sensing Infinity, and it almost was. It is our hope to demonstrate sensing infinity with this exhibition.

The alchemy of Larson and Van Ouse’s collaborations features the controlled selective sounds that are everywhere and that seem to encapsulate infinity so clearly, that they need almost no introduction…listeners will likely understand that from the outset. There is improvised, sophisticated, mindful mischief in their work…like catching the bioluminescence of fireflies with sound―if your net is ready. While listening to Larson and Van Ouse’s collaborations we are alone with the seeming infinity of our finite sense of sound.

As for my own mischief, though the end results of what I make may or may not change from year to year…the means and interests of light, color, geometry, and perceptual illusion, have remained the same for as long as I can remember.

For the brief few seconds or minutes that we look at optical illusions and try to sort them out, we are alone, except for the seeming infinity of our finite sense of sight.  

I once showed a mathematician a Sierpinski Sieve sculpture that I’d built. He said that he and his colleagues referred to its character as finite infinity. It is a property of the contiguous interior and exterior of surfaces. It is an evocation of Flatland, the 19th century “romance of many dimensions” where our limited perception of higher dimensions was parodized by Edwin Abbott. The progression of pyramids where each efficient reiteration gets progressively larger is also a characteristic of all fractals.

This exhibition contains sculptures that are intercepting the path of a diffracted color spectrum. It is a personal homage to Isaac Newton’s 17th century demonstration of the breaking of white light into its component colors in a darkened room. In 2015 that may be a cliché to some, but I hope that hasn’t happened here.

There is also a deliberate emptiness that I’ve sought to maintain for partly practical, partly philosophical reasons after spending the long winter of ’14, ’15 studying horror vacuii and its relation to redundancy in design. Less can often be more, and emptiness, I’ve concluded, is fullness. Some of the works are unlit, letting them rest in a benign state until it’s their turn to shine, or to be minute receptors to the sounds coming from the instruments of  Larson and Van Ouse.

Richard Harrington Berkshire County, Massachusetts 2015

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