Art & Development

Points of Reference, new addendum

My studio, filled with several light-based art works and light boxes, made me think of the cellar in Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man.

jeff wall after ralph ellison
Jeff Wall
After “Invisible Man” by Ralph Ellison, the Prologue 1999–2000
Transparency in lightbox 1740 x 2505 mm © The artist. From the Tate Modern website, Exhibitions section, Jeff Wall page.

“Light confirms my reality, gives birth to my form…. Without light I am not only invisible but formless as well; and to be unaware of one’s form is to live a death…. The truth is the light and light is the truth.”
—Ralph Ellison, “Invisible Man,” as quoted on the Hammer Museum website, Hammer Projects section, Jeff Wall page.

When I first read Invisible Man, I was too young to understand the lead character’s agony and rage. But Ellison’s words above strike a chord now… The character needs light—something that we think of as immaterial—to have form.

I am afraid that my interest in optimism and pessimism is mistaken for a scratch at a simplistic duality. But Daniel Spoerri too articulated the need to oscillate between form and formlessness, the “two poles of the inseparability” of the container and contained.

Herbie Hancock in an undated photo
Herbie Hancock double-majored in music and electrical engineering. (undated photo)
From the Herbie Hancock site, media section.

Scene from The Prestige
Alley (Andy Serkis), Tesla (David Bowie), and Angier (Hugh Jackman) in The Prestige, 2006, directed by Christopher Nolan. From the Andy Serkis site.

David Bowie as Nikola Tesla, an incandescent giant and a giant incandescent.

Phone archives animation from Arcade Fire’s
Screen grab of a neon rose window. From The Arcade Fire’s The site in its entirety is so beautiful. Gothic but not goth, disenchanted and achingly beautiful, with abundant neon and filmic use of light.


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