Once More Again...

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“…the stillness of the light is the first hypostasis of the mind, undecided on the threshold between the immaterial and the material, the medium used to represent everything that is other, without being that other.”
Harmut Böhme, “Das Philosophische Licht und das Licht der Kunst”, Parkett, 1993

In Once More Again (Again) by Kah Bee Chow, a sequence of quartz crystal images taken over a day are re-activated differently with each user and page visit, playing back in a light-filled poetic which ultimately captures, doses, and manipulates time itself.

The work opens with a quartz crystal cluster, often used for and associated with notions of healing, “capturing and changing bad vibrations”. Yet the object here seems more a conduit or catalyst for light vibrations than for those of the bodily kind. As the suns rays strike the planes, peaks and points of the cluster throughout the course of its daily journey, our gaze receives the full aesthetic spectrum of light qualities: hushed, enveloping, blinding, shadowed, piercing and radiant. In this sense the object is stand-in or placebo, illuminating the phenomenon of vision, time, and the passing of light through a space. As in Akio Suzuki’s “Hana”, where the Japanese artist simply placed a vase of flowers in the room, the central object is both crucial and unimportant, providing the catalyst which shifts our perception away from the concrete and physical, to the phenomenological and the transient, to our own perception. “The space no longer appears to be empty, or rather, the surrounding emptiness now seems to signify something quite different… giving the impression of being more active, much tauter somehow, charged with an immanent vitality.”

Light itself, and its inextricable twin time, become the focus of the work, as well as the means by which we perceive the subject. As Danish-Icelandic artist Olafur Eliasson asserts, we all become light projectors when we view an artwork, projecting a reversed image with our eye in the active process of looking. “This is how the piece can, so to speak, look back at us.”

Unlike a painting however, this subject is constantly shifting, revealing new variations and permutations. Curiously, the work encapsulates elements from this medium and others, while evading definition as any one in particular: sequential in some respects as a film but with no fixed form, experientially focused as many installations are but screen-based, responding to user ‘input’ like an interactive but with no control mechanics or goals, comprising a photographic series but restructured using code and variables.

When accessing Once More Again (Again) the sequence begins based on the viewers system time. This engenders a newly construed “day”, bringing together the original light cycle from Sweden with a Coordinate Universal Time value to form a hybrid form of variable duration. The sequence ticks along on a wholly different time structure, calculated not by orbits or diurnal cycles, but instead the potentialities inherent in the media and the wishes of the artist. To complicate this day period, the work further engages a different light source to present the series online – the fiber optics of the Internet. Each image in the sequence is loaded from the web, triggering a string of complex dependencies – variables such as constantly shifting server loads and the location of the user according to network geographies. The result is an alternate ‘delay in glass’ (fibre), where the image signifying each moment is requested, spliced, transported and reassembled on the viewers screen, an RGB depiction arriving finally in our gaze. In this fashion, a constellation of small technical failures and delays shift temporality from a precise, metronome-like phenomenology to something more tidal; ebbing and flowing as data packets are exchanged and bytes retrieved. Rather than a chronological ruler then, Once More Again (Again) seems to present a constantly fluctuating stream.

“No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it’s not the same river and he’s not the same man”
- Heraclitus

Kah Bee’s previous work consistently demonstrates an ability to re-articulate broad, perpetual themes with a contemporary practice, and it’s this unusual contrast – and the dialogue arising from it – which lingers as well in Once More Again (Again), as time and light are captured, repackaged and represented conceptually as well as technically.


Emily Gems, Quartz Crystal Cluster

“Hana”, Akio Suzuki at Blank, Via Reggio 27, Torino,
23 2 06 – 23 3 06, introduction by Carlo Fossati

Harmut Böhme, “Das Philosophische Licht und das Licht der Kunst”, Parkett, 1993

Daniel Birnbaum in Conversation with Olafur Eliasson
“Olafur Eliasson”, London 2002

Olafur Eliasson, “Your Lighthouse: Works with Light”
Kunstmuseum Wolfsburg, 2004

Greenwich Mean Time and Coordinated Universal Time
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Greenwich_Mean_Time and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coordinated_Universal_Time

Δεν γίνεται να μπει κανείς στο ίδιο νερό του ποταμού που κυλάει δύο φορές.
Fragment 41; Quoted by Plato in Cratylus

The works title references a series of watercolour paintings of quartz crystal clusters by Isobel Thom, “Once More Again” (2004)



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