A perfect, four metre square opaque cube hangs towards the center of the exhibition space. Without any pedestal or any easily visible attachment to floor, wall or ceiling, it appears to float about 25cm above the gallery floor. A suspended ramp leads to the only opening at one corner of the cube, through which the observer barely perceives flickering lights and faint sounds, drawing them inside. Upon entering, their experience of the piece, and the gallery, is transformed. Outsized, distorted human figures – in fact the transformed movements and gestures of the gallery patrons who approach and examine the exterior of the cube – circle the observer, threatening, challenging and enveloping them in a chaotic blur of movement and sound. What appeared perfect – invariant, transcendent, timeless, remote, private – from the outside, upon breaching the physical threshold of the object and breaking the taboo of distance that separates observer from art-object, becomes chaotic, transient, proximate, public and audible: the object is only perfect until one touches it.
‘Shattering the frame,’ the proposed installation, is an attempt to explore notions of perfection / imperfection in the experience of art by challenging traditional modes of artist / art-object / observer relations. Even today, these relations are often dominated by relatively inflexible cultural conditions, expectations and taboos, which determine (among other things) when and how to move through the exhibition space, how to interact (or not) with the object and the other patrons, and above all the physical relations of observers to objects and to each other. Under such conditions the ‘perfect’ art-object is framed as timeless yet potentially fragile, encouraging an attitude of distant reverence.
A city of perpetual human motion, noise and chaos, Istanbul is the antithesis of such an attitude. It cannot be viewed from a comfortable distance or with remote reverence; inhabitants and visitors experience an inescapable physical connection with their immediate environment, literally buffeted by the many frustrating yet life- giving imperfections of the city. Two central nodes of this physical interrelation are kinetics and sound. As both in their own ways are ever changing, difficult to predict and impossible to apprehend, movement and sound run counter to notions of perfection in traditional Western arts cultures and tend to be de-emphasized.
Reconnecting viewer with viewer through the breached surface of the art-object, via the ‘imperfect’ nodes of sound and motion, ‘Shattering the frame’ reminds the observer that art, like the city, can also be kinetic, transient, chaotic, and sometimes even loud; and that in the milieu of the gallery, just as in the city, s/he is never merely a viewer, but also an auditor, and above all an actor.
The technical execution of the project is possible with readily available motion capture and PC based audio-visual processing hardware / software. The interior light condition of the cube enables a cost-effective yet dramatic video display / audio solution.
MANR is an Istanbul-based design collective comprised of Turkish and foreign resident architects and digital artists.