Thursday 23 June 2016

shuttle 7: there is a moment

'There was a moment in prehistory when a large animal slumped down with its last breath and thoughts to leave its bones in the earth that the researcher is carefully sifting through in the fossil pit.

There was a moment when the Cro-Magnon artist lifted the pigment-dipped natural-fiber brush to the walls of the cave that one now enters with electric light to view the image of the ancient bison on its walls.

There was a moment when your father died, and his before that, and the same moment when the impulse and attraction between two human beings fused into the one that is yourself, as you will do / have done so many times in the past.

There is a moment when the newborn first lets out a cry into the dry air, when the pressure of light first falls on the virgin surface of the new retina and is registered by some pattern of nerve impulses not yet fully "understood".

There is a single moment when the flash of insight busts into your unguarded mind, when all the pieces fall together, when the pattern is seen or the individual element uncovered ... when the breath of clarity opens the mind and you "see" for the first time in a long while, remembering what it was like again as if suddenly jolted from sleep.

There is a moment when a single neuron fires in the darkness within the brain, when a threshold is reached and a tiny spark jumps the gap that physically separates one cell from another, doing the same shimmering dance when the heat of the flame touches the skin or when a deep memory replays on the surface of the mind.

There is a moment, only truly known in anticipation before it happens, when the eyes close for the last time and the brain shuts down its circuits forever (the end of time). 

There is also the moment of recognition, the return of the familiar, the second-time perception that releases the latent energy and excitement of the first. It can be in a face, in a landscape, in a desire.

Then there is the moment of awareness of the other, embodied in the physical separation of mother and child, and restated from the first conceptualisation of persons and objects in a space outside the skin, to the first encounter with an animal in the wild.

The power of the gaze crystallises these moments, and the eyes become the conduits of the exchange of energies between the organism and the environment, between the observer and the observed. A line of sight can just as easily slice through the separation between subject and object as it can define it ...'.

From Bill Viola (1995), 'I do not know what it is I am like', in Reasons for Knocking at an Empty House: Writings 1973-1994, London: Thames & Hudson / Anthony d’Offay Gallery, 142-3

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