He Yous installation was a continuation of his work in previous installations using a ‘laser line level’. A ‘laser line level’ is a tool usually used by architects and builders for construction, landscaping and civil engineering works. It creates perfectly straight red lines which form a cross, when calibrated it provides perfect horizontal and vertical red virtual markings on whatever it is directed towards. Essentially this is a tool for the reshaping of the natural world.
He You’s piece presented us with an image of foliage at twilight and red laser cross, suspended from the ceiling hanging at chest height, beneath this was a bench with a projector on top which projected a wide thin image of a desert scene at twilight, a dark red oscillating ridge of hills, dunes, and deep clear blue sky meeting it halfway. In the photograph the red laser level can be seen, although discontinuous as the scale of the scene renders the line invisible in places, whilst in other parts it stretches for some considerable distance, a distance and scale which is hard to discern due to the lack of any recognisable features or artefacts, a desert that leaves the mind confused. In the centre of this image is a white plinth, making the projected image wrap around it, with a metronome on top, clicking at intervals. The bench made a kind of barrier as the main image was in a 3-walled space, so it was not easy to get to the main image or metronome, you were looking in at it with the suspended image next to or in front of your viewing position. This hinted at slightly cinematic feel, the widescreen and expansive, exotic image of Morocco pulling you in but keeping you out at the same time. The image of the desert scene was made by stitching separate photographs together in Photoshop, this act had not been disguised but was visible if you examined a little. Daniel suggested this hinted at the result of the unfolding of a map.
Daniel suggested removing the plinth and the metronome, which did work to provide the image with the serene clarity that the image suggests.
The metronome was invented in the early 9th century by Abbas ibn Firnas and patented by Johann Maelzel in 1815 as a tool for musicians, who gave it the name. ‘Metron’ means ‘measure’, and ‘nomos’ meaning ‘regulate, law’. This is interesting as the source of nomos is the same as Nomad, meaning to divide up or regulate pasture lands or rights, so there is a significant correlation between rhythm, measurement and nomadic and landscape mapping.
Whether the metronome was absolutely needed or not is uncertain. Perhaps included but not within eyesight, certainly the projection was impressive enough without it.
The core concept of a laser line level, with it’s provision of absolutely accurate straight lines, and this relationship with nature is surely a fertile area for exploration.
It reminds me of the words by Hundertwasser; “Beware of the straight line… The straight line leads to the loss of humanity.”, and of the notorious response by the British and European Empires to the mapping of territories in the ‘New World and the Middle East, a challenge for the rational empire as the residents tended to be nomadic, to various degrees and the borders were often in flux or seasonal, in a frustrated response they took rulers out and simply drew straight lines on the map, regardless of any other concerns. This is also a interesting twist on the connection between the straight geometrical method of perspective line drawing as demonstrated by the architect, engineer and sculptor Filippo Brunelleschi in 1413 and the contemporary laser line level for drawing and marking out directly on nature is very effective, and as the execution becomes more refined I think this will be even more potent.