BACKLIT presented Turner prize-winning artist Simon Starling in an exhibition that explored connections and migrations across time and space with two works Black Drop and Nine Feet Later. Simon Starling has been revisiting the history of forms and objects for over two decades. His works and journeys are based on acts of transformation or hybridisation, through movement and in-situ installations; which investigate the meaning of making and the making of meaning.
The film Black Drop, 2012 unfolds in a 35mm editing suite as an editor tries to bring structure and understanding to a varied array of material including footage made on location in Hawaii and Tahiti on the occasion of the June 2012 transit of Venus, archive material, and ultimately footage of the editing process. The film tells the story of the relationship between astronomy, photography and the beginnings of moving image technology. Predicated on the idea that the 2012 transit may be the last to be recorded on celluloid (the next transit will occur in 2117), Black Drop tracks the development of the French astronomer, Jules Janssen’s innovative photographic revolver – a device that was designed to counter human error in timing the crucial moments of Venus’ contact with the edge of the sun, and was influential in the development of Etienne Jules Marey’s photographic rifle and the Lumière Brother’s cinematograph. The sculpture Venus Mirrors (05/06/2012, Hawaii & Tahiti Inverted) consists of two large telescope mirrors that represent the 2012 transit of Venus as it was observed in June of this year from two historically significant observational sites in the Pacific Ocean. The small differences in the position of the transit – as observed when the viewer overlays the reflection of one mirror onto the other – were the basis for attempts to calculate the mean earth-sun distance, the astronomical unit.
Nine Feet Later 2015
The exhibition Nine Feet Later is an ongoing series that Starling began in 2014 in Casa Estudio Luis Barragán, Mexico and is a loose assemblage of affiliated objects that together constitute the makings of a time machine... Along with the image of fast-growing bamboo (some varieties grow at 90cm a day), sits the trace of a 15 million-year-old tree trunk, a nine-foot-long piece of petrified wood, turned to stone in something approximating a natural casting process. Somewhat younger is a plank of 45,000-year-old Ancient Kauri wood, pickled for millennia in a New Zealand swamp, and here transformed into nine feet of Gerrit Rietveld’s Zig-Zag Chair (a still-futuristic design from 1932-34). Together with an octagonal oak housing, a powerful reflecting telescope, and a copy of a birch branch – which, unlike the petrified tree trunk, was deposited layer by layer in a matter of hours in a high-tech 3D printing machine – this collection of objects – bound together by their desire to pull and push us through time – begins a conversation with the artworks.