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The ancients built Valdrada on the shores of a lake, with houses all verandas one above the other, and high streets whose railed parapets look out over the water. Thus the traveller, arriving, sees two cities: one erect above the lake, and the other reflected, upside-down. Nothing exists or happens in the one Valdrada that the other Valdrada does not repeat, because the city was so constructed that its every point would be reflected in its mirror, and the Valdrada down in the water contains not only all the flutings and juttings of the facades that rise above the lake, but also the rooms’ interiors with ceilings and floors, the perspective of the halls, the mirrors of the wardrobes…The twin cities are not equal, because nothing that exists or happens in Valdrada is symmetrical: every face and gesture is answered, from the mirror, by a face and gesture inverted, point by point.

-Italo Calvino, Invisible Cities

In Untitled, John Ward Knox probes the surface of our user interfaces, drawing out the pointer convention and shifting it gently from instructor to mark-maker. Unfolding twice, four, eight times on itself, each gesture is flipped and inverted, a reversed movement playing out in another screen-space. The result is a type of multiplication of self, a kaleidoscopic mirroring of our screen avatar. This multiplication engenders new potentialities, as our intentions are extrapolated ten fold, but simultaneously increases the significance of each moment to the same degree. Like the intertwined lovers above the lake in Valdrada, our focus shifts away from the immediate, instead we become acutely aware of how our shifting, produced image appears in it’s multitude of variants. The implication of each gesture is given still more weight because it produces a permanent mark – each action, movement, hesitation, or even stillness creating a fixed image.

Knox often employs the materials and transient phenomena inherent in a space, fashioning works such as “a projection of light” which employed light rays moving along the surfaces of abstract photographs, viewable throughout the course of an afternoon. Melding and shifting – coaxing rather than co-opting – his works reveal hidden forms inherent in surfaces and spaces. Indeed, viewing work such as Untitled Project, where the gentle arcs of a silver chain and steel wire trace a delicate wave at the Dunedin Public Art gallery, Knox sets up a gentle ebb and flow of the gaze. A constant shift occurs, focus drifting from the work itself outward, beholding anew the rectangular crevices and glassy reflections of the space surrounding it, before centering once again on the inscribed contour of the sculpture. With each cycle, each dialogue, the work seems to reveal something new, not so much about itself, but about this re-presented space it hovers in. As in Knox’s physical work, Untitled subtly renews it’s surroundings, highlighting screen space and our movement through it.

-Luke Munn


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