Kyle’s Metaprimer #2: L is for Light
As a child, any time in my parents’ house or in my grandparents’ apartment when the stove’s light was not turned on, I would turn it on. These amber lights fascinate me, and still do until this day.
In Virginia Woolf’s novel To the Lighthouse, Mrs. Ramsay, the work’s heroine, exposes her vulnerability in the dark, immersing herself in her own microcosm, a place wherein privatization engenders self-actualization and self-regeneration. This sublime experience with the lighthouse’s light evinces her intimate relationship therewith:
Losing personality, one last the fret, the hurry, the stir; and there rose to her lips always some exclamation of triumph over life when things came together in this peace, this rest, this eternity; and pausing there she looked out to meet that stroke of the Lighthouse, the long steady stroke, the last of the three, which was her stroke, for watching them in this mood always at this hour one could not help attaching oneself to one thing especially of the things one saw; and this thing, the long steady stroke, her stroke. Often she found herself sitting and looking, sitting and looking, with her work in her hands until she became the thing she looked at—that light, for example. And it would lift up on it some little phrase or other which had been lying in her mind like that—“Children don’t forget, children don’t forget”—which she would repeat and begin adding to it, It will end, it will end, she said. It will come, it will come, when suddenly she added, We are in the hands of the Lord. (Woolf 63)
The light consoles Mrs. Ramsay, akin to how she cares for her family. The beam’s oscillation enables her to transcend reality; her mind’s movement parallels the light’s. Mrs. Ramsay’s near divine, celestial presence throughout this novel—even after her death—reinforces how her power and care affects everyone within the Ramsays’ household. Physically and spiritually fostering harmony for all holds primacy.
Peter Murphy’s eerie fascination with the dangling light bulbs, Daniel Ash’s obscure guitar playing, and Kevin and David Haskins’s plodding rhythms establish the gloominess that wholly subsumes the viewer. The absence of light fosters the abundance of disquietude. Nonetheless, the video editor’s work, particularly in the use of grayscale, enables the viewer to experience the performance in black and white binaries—a component of the starkness in Bauhaus’s music. The members’ near looming, ethereal body language parallels the song’s conflicting mood: heaviness paired with weightlessness.
When seeing Tim Hecker, an ambient composer, live, the person who uploaded this video states, “It was completely dark so yeah not much of a visual treat.” We must ask why this individual feels this way.
The near complete absence of light allows the viewers to entirely immerse themselves in the music. Why do the viewers even have to see the performer for it to be a “treat”? Is not the notion of the performer himself therein playing his music enough? Strangely, my friend informed me that Tim Hecker is performing in Queens on this Friday: I will be going and look forward to the near absence of luminosity.
I did not major in art history during my undergraduate career, and therefore I do not have the proper ‘terms’ to analyze the following photographs and paintings properly. (I only took one course in art history, which changed my life, but have forgotten the terms ideally.) Nonetheless, I went to the MET about four weeks ago, and I discovered three works that really struck me, particularly on account of how the artists employ light therein.
This haunting work does not do justice on a digital platform. In person, this photograph transfixed me: The unsettling wonder of how the artist distortedly composes his subject’s face and hauntingly utilizes light remains etched into my memory. I might have never had a similar physical experience with a photograph in a museum hitherto.
The unsettling ambiguity of these nineteenth century paintings has me wondering what occurs in this scene—a space devoid of life—but not really. Light infiltrates these works and almost serves as the only acknowledgeable presence therein. I found myself examining the works’ starkness and desolateness. I found myself introspecting and imagining myself in this place. Imagining when I have felt this stillness illustrated. Essentially, these two works nearly and unsettlingly implore the viewers to partake in the former’s narratives, ones subjectively and precipitately composed by the latter.
In contemporary photography, Alison Scarpulla’s work intrigues me:
Scarpulla still uses film, an unfortunately dying medium, where she employs various methods of exposure in addition to staining the photographs intentionally to create the etherealness present in her works. Perhaps in contrast to the stark coldness of Edward Steichen’s photography, which I ardently adore, Scarpulla’s works, which differently affect me, have this consoling warmness that thematically recurs.
I discovered her work when she provided artwork for the album Celestial Lineage, a work by the Cascadian Black Metal band Wolves in the Throne Room; some illustrations therefrom are below:
I bought two photographs from her last year. I still need to frame them. She is so sweet!
See more from Scarpulla here:
Herein, as I sat entranced in Le Possoin Rouge last June, I did not recognize that Grouper, Elizabeth Harris’s musical project, plays an adaptation of one of my favorite songs “Heavy Water/I’d Rather Be Sleeping” and then a short rendition of my favorite song “Moon is Sharp,” which I did recognize. This misrecognition elated me inasmuch as it upset me, primarily on account of the fact that I unconsciously smiled during the time “Heavy Water…” was playing. The interrelation between the subconscious and aural stimulation fascinates me: This particular instance epitomizes the complexities of our minds.
The lighting and music, particularly between the times 4:52 and 8:20, capture one of the most sublime experiences that I have ever had with art. Ilyas Ahmed, Harris’s friend who joins her for the show, strums his guitar in ebbs and flows, allowing the subsuming ambiance to emerge.
I purchased this lamp that emulates and projects the constellation of the Milky Way around a year ago. The light emitted therefrom generates introspection, tranquility and, sometimes, given the context, warmth. You can get lost in the patterns of stars as they reflect upon your ceiling—upon your skin.
For more on the Milky Way:
As a child I would sometimes stare at the sunlight that the window’s blinds would splice.
I could still see the illumined particles in the air though.