Around Now
Noel Sheridan

Grace Weir has regard to certain writings of Gilles Deleuze that shatter, deconstruct and atomise conventional ideas of reality in order to locate a volatile flux within which the centre is moving all the time and things set about transforming each other within beautiful chaos. Shifting moments, as with clouds when new meaning seems imminent; brief, but eternally recurring and as difficult to trap as instants within the changing forms of moving clouds, comprise this world. Our awe is fleeting, as memory, reason, and habit close down on what looks and feels like expanding consciousness to smother the anxiety implicit in any unlikely transcendence or possible sublime epiphany.

Burke’s Sublime is ‘a terror held in check’, but there is also the general sense of sublime as ‘some marvellous experience’, and Weir, reversing the trajectory of Burke’s aesthetic springing from anxiety to delight - stages delight first (those clouds and soft landscapes) to evoke pleasure, and then gradually she may destabilise the situation of the spectator, by intimating softly ‘ where are you, exactly, in all of this? What is going on here?’ And where exactly is ‘here’ - and when?

Well, here; the ephemeral is forever; the peripheral is central; real time is perpetual; time past is replayable. This is video. This is an installation.

In representing an event that is unstable, where past and present are as elusive as forms in clouds and where two points of view (Weir presents images from a helicopter that gives us, on one wall, a view of clouds and on another, the clouds’ view out!) become divided planes that offer us a perspective that includes observer and observed. Weir elicits a gallery space that reflects, as intervening gap within an infinite continuum, elements replayed as ‘spectator views art work’.

Perhaps this ‘ nature as culture’ idea is too exacting a freight to load on this art work in the air which, quite simply, is a ‘trip’. Here, suspended, we may sense the heaviness and imprisonment of language which has little or nothing to beat against to forge a meaning in this space. Placement gravity and location, how we ground the body in reality, how we anchor most visual art, are not getting traction here. We have no way to recode what this is -but only for a split second. We soon offer screens to this smoke. Nice, art, blue, skies, perspective etc. but clearly these habitual and customary ideas cannot begin to take its full measure.

But why take its measure in the first instance? While systems must have new information - added energy - in order to beat entropy, these clouds sustain themselves. Or, they are sustained by fresh energy, sufficient, at least, to allow them to be. To be clouds, that is, but not yet art. That takes us.

The effort the artist has made, travelling, researching, hiring equipment, renting a helicopter etc. is, for her, an essential condition in the process that is required to recode something from nature into video installation. For it to be art requires someone to sense that history and to experience and recode it as something else.

This is not Berkeley's solipsism - for it ‘to be’ it must be seen - but an address to the Deleuze idea that a force among or against forces - and the lead up activity, for this artist, is critical to the historical strength and complexity of some forces in this work - has the potential for transformational capture. From an imagined engagement of forces; representer, representee and spectator, one may extract meaning. Or instinctively grasp for meaning within the unfolding complexity. But meaning is only the sum total of the graspings to which a work lends itself. There remains, at some ‘central periphery’, a ‘limbo’ in between, where essence offers the extreme possibility of itself. Vertigo.

And where better to make dizzy distinctions than up in the clouds to reside with paradox and listen to the eternal laughter of the Gods.

There is an element of playfulness in Weir’s work running in tandem with her serious intent. This is the ‘play’ that is at the heart of the open ended experiment. ‘If I do this what will happen?’ rather than ‘I will do this to prove that’. An artist’s take on philosophy or science may seem tangential and ‘the moment of adhesion’ (Deleuze) odd. For instance, in establishing the nature of the colour ‘red’, a philosopher may propose that a Martian, a man from a Clapham omnibus, a woman who has had her prefrontal lobes removed and a blind structuralist consider ‘red’ in order to communicate its essential nature. For some artists this scenario may not serve what philosophy demands. The art content may be the characters and what an interesting performance/installation/story that would make.

Who would devote time and energy to that impossible project? Weir, whose practice is informed by science - the formal aspects of her work deal with the possibility of an alternative perspectival paradigm better suited to the deep structural languages beneath the digitised virtualities made possible by the new technologies - would! For instance:

What adhered for her in reading Einstein was his proposal that in order to reach the centre of a cloud to establish with certainty its height from the ground, he would erect a rod. This rod could be marked off against an earthly unit as the only certain way to settle the issue. So Weir went to Berlin where Einstein first got this idea. The video she made shows a bustling development, contrasting the force of ambition with the invisible force of someone prone and thinking. What is the content? Again, Weir’s work is open to levels of reading. A level may have it that through digital manipulation Weir has brought the phallocentric desires of Einstein to closure. But, then again, meanings like clouds are elusive.

Weir’s work seems to encourage that kind of dreamtime; that immense Rorschach in the skies taking you up and playing you back, weightless and blissed, to yourself.

To attempt the impossible - to make immanent the sublime; to render invisible spaces is the required visible readable of an artist that is more than the calm acts of sight and reading. Jean- Francois Lyotard


I wrote the above text some time ago; many months prior to September 11th. In reading it again I see I made much of an elusive, non-signifying quality of clouds. There was a vague implication that Burke’s Theory of the Sublime as ‘terror held in check’ might apply to Grace Weir’s construct in the sky. Those ideas could only act invisibly as part of the charm and delight of the work. Now time and chance have changed things utterly. I wonder if art knew about that? I wonder if Weir, unconsciously, made a work that preserved for us an idea of an Arcadia that, now, has been lost to us forever, except as art’s memory.

N. S.