One and Three Obelisks



One and Three Obelisks features three representations of an obelisk which I purchased through Amazon.com: a light sculpture built from the obelisk, a simulation of that sculpture, and a document which traces the historical lineage of the obelisk. The piece is a contemporary take on Kosuth’s One and Three Chairs; my interest in his piece is inspired by Graham Harman’s interpretation of DeLanda’s Assemblage Theory. Kosuth’s set of chairs forced the locus of his piece to be the chair that wasn’t present, the Real chair which is never captured in representation or reification. My extension of his logic uses a specific Egyptian obelisk. Instead of focusing on object, image, and definition, I instead chose to focus on commodity, simulation, and historical document. This was an attempt to extend the locus of the piece to not just include a Real object, but also the temporality of that object.

The object has been presented as a commodity. A commodity object is the Actual reified, in both the sense of actualization and Marxist objectification. I chose the obelisk as my specific object because of its prototypical characteristics with respect to the history of sculpture. The light sculpture aspect is meant to exemplify the mythological roots of the obelisk. The luminosity of the piece was achieved by shining an x-shaped laser through a tube of liquid which is periodically rotated with a microcontroller.

The image has been presented as an historical document. The history of an object is a trace of its Indices, the set of its Causal relations with other objects in time. I chose to use text annotated with images due to Krauss’ statement that “a meaninglessness surrounds [an image] which can only be filled with the addition of text.” The historical research is documented within a museum-like poster titled Artificial Dissemination which takes from Derrida’s discussion of the pharmakon in terms of the latent phallic nature of the obelisk. This psychoanalytic latency throughout the text is included to confuse the Krauss’ dichotomy of physical Index and representation as filtered through a privileged conscious observer in order to stress the flatness of object-oriented interactions.

The definition is presented as a simulation, both being virtualizations of a Real object. This simulation was achieved by painstakingly recreating the liquid tube within a fluid simulator and then simulating the caustics of an x-shaped light source through the fluid inside a sphere within the computer. The looping aspect of the video is meant to point towards the “large (often infinite) class of images” (Jackson, Algorithmic Allure) possible through computer-generated simulations.

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