DRAWING THE HORIZON WITH THE SUN
Light sculpture. Reflected sunrays, 5km long.
Thira, September 23rd 2019. 7.10am-1.10pm.
Documented by photo performance (6 hours exposure) by Stefano Urani. w/ Mamiya RB67 analogical medium format camera with 0.30mm stenopeic pinhole. On Ilford Panf PLUS b/w, 50 ISO film. Developed with contact print. 40mm x 50mm.
a six hours ephemeral light sculpture
On September 23th 2019, I positioned the camera on a natural tripod in the beach of Vilchada, on the Greek island Thera. It recorded the reflections of the rising sun made by using a mirror mounted on a local fisherman boat. The mirror reflected the light during the 6 hours journey, from dawn to zenith, while the boat was crossing the horizon line, 3 kilometers off the coast. Thousands of little flashes were transmitted to the film of the camera by continuously adjusting the mirror in order to follow the sun‘s path, with the light increasingly growing whiter. This ephemeral light sculpture was recorded by a photographic image, which exposure lasted as the performance duration.
Drawing the horizon with the sun is an project based on the idea of non-authorship linked to Land Art‘s cultural heritage. The historical references for this project are numerous, but the main representatives are: Giovanni Anselmo‘s La mia ombra verso l‘infinito dalla cima dello Stromboli durante l‘alba del 16 agosto (1965), Vija Celmins Long Ocean (1972), Robert Smithson‘s Monuments of Passaic (1967) and Robert Morris‘ Observatorium (1977), Agnès Martin paintings. These examples have in common a cloud of concepts that seems to float and flow between the pieces. They are different responses to both a common need and a theoretical background shared by a generation of artists: reflections, limits, mirrors, replacements, grid, borders, deplacements, time as matter. These elements shaped and informed my own project When the rising sun…. Digging into readings, lectures and documents of this precious heritage, a missing piece started to appear from this nebula of artworks, carrier of a sense of foreboding. At the beginning it was a simple feeling that became an insisting and inexplicable evidence of an absence. A void of presence seemed to emerge, a piece that was forcefully screaming its necessity. What if an artwork forget to exist?
The possibility of making a fiction from an absence tickled my interest.
So I draw a line, it was graphite on paper from the right to the left. As simple as it was, it directly connected to the idea of horizon and the possibility of having on paper a representation of a division, both a separation and a limit. When I drew it again on another paper sheet, I noticed the tension involved in my movement, tension necessary for keeping alive those images and sensations during the execution of such a simple action. The act of drawing a line that can be at once a horizon, a landscape, and the description of time as progression was a basic and powerful one. I was surprised how much effort this basic and conscious act could entail.
I felt connected to the original act of representation. Thousands of years ago a woman or a man for the first time drew a line maybe in sand, maybe with a piece of wood and they saw a landscape appears. Neolithic, ancestral, luminous first movements. Probably the first of many forgotten acts, but really, who cares where and when it happened the first one? I could compared this powerful feeling only to the reverse of the action of causality of an event. It was as if the landscape had created the line, time leaving its trace, as if the sun was a moving point on the paper surface. It looked like it was possible to draw the horizon with the sun. But how to draw the horizon with the sun? What kind of sculpture will this act create?
I pinned an old black and white picture of an empty sea horizon on my whiteboard, near a drawn line. I wanted to find a way to create a piece that could act as an index of my experience, so that others could also share it through such a record.
After a few years, the pieces of the puzzle started to come together. My search for a clean sea horizon where to draw a line by using a mirror on a boat began when I found a pinhole camera that can record 6 hours event. In all its simplicity, the implementation of such an idea was hard, and slowed down by the friction of reality: in the process of its realization, the idea had to cross the resistance of matter, and many unexpected contingencies.
I started to search a Mediterranean sea map, looking for a suitable island. Considering the geographical features needed for this undertaking, the candidates started to be not that many. I ended up focusing on Thera. What better candidate for a historical fiction that the island thought to be Atlantis? I heard Robert Smithson laughing and I agreed it was extremely funny. So I had an island with 2 spots ( one north one south) that could offer the horizon I needed. Now, what was left was to choose the right time to perform.
I realized that the solution was quite simple and corresponded to the Autumn equinox, which is the day when the sun rises exactly on the East and dies exactly on the west, creating a perfect straight line. Bravo the sun.