Mask Filter Arc (2016)
Magic Lantern Slides : “West Africa – A Christian reading to a pagan” (1940’s) and “The Explosion of a Shooting Star” (1934), welding mask, mannequin head, lights, and Venus Flower Basket deep ocean sponges.
60cm x 30cm x 25cm
In the ‘Materials and Masters’ gallery at The Beaney House of Art & Knowledge, Canterbury, Kent, Adam Chodzko’s work, Mask Filter Arc, 2016, is inspired by the Venus Flower Basket deep ocean sponge exhibited within a cabinet of glass objects as part of the Beaney’ permanent displays. Chodzko connects this beautiful, intricate, nanostructured glass form (the remains of a dead animal, capable, when alive, of focusing bio-luminescent light into its fibres to attract prey in the dark ocean depths) to two ‘found’ Magic Lantern Slides, one captioned “West Africa –Christian reading to a pagan“ (made in the 1940’s) and the other, “The Explosion of a Shooting Star“ (1934), both mounted as a dyptich in the visor of an arc welder’s protective mask. This constellation of elements appears to create something – ‘a materialised thought’ – that is simultaneously a costume, mask, armour, lantern, and projector, all developed from the idea that flashes of light in the darkness are evidence, or symbol, of the processes of inspiration, expiration, combination, vision and blindness, ugliness and beauty.
Chodzko is interested in ideas of remoteness and proximity, and distance and intimacy both in our relationships with the world and each other. There is a physical gap between the “Christian Reading” and the “Pagan” in the magic lantern slide image. But there is also an emotional gap between these two figures, that we can read in their body language and expressions. A gap between story-teller and listener (just as there is in a magic lantern performance) that can be closed or opened. Equally there is a gap of time between this 1940’s image and our viewing of it in 2016 where our political, moral, and religious values have changed. There is an immense spatial gap between the two natural lights referenced in Mask Filter Arc; the sponge in the blackness of the bottom of the ocean and the exploding meteor in the blackness of outer space. Arc welding, joins two different pieces of metal together through an electrical discharge across a small gap. Electric arcs occur in nature in the form of lightning.
Left side of tryptich: The hand-coloured Magic Lantern slide, with the hand written caption in its margin “West Africa – Christian reading to a pagan 31” was possibly issued by the British & Foreign Bible Society.
Right side of tryptich: The date, 1934 August 12 is scratched onto the image of The Explosion of a Shooting Star. (Wikipedia lists the following entry for the day before: August 11, 1934 William Beebe and Otis Barton broke their own deep-sea diving record, attaining a depth of 2,510 feet in a bathysphere eight miles off Bermuda, Beebe reported seeing strange deep sea fish equipped with “headlights” that gave him an impression that “stars in a black sky twisting around crazily, had suddenly gone mad.”)
The caption under the image on the Magic Lantern slide reads : The Explosion of a Shooting Star; With the formation of a luminous cloud: a remarkable photograph obtained in Czechoslavakia by Professor Sykora- Only his third record of a big meteor since 1901.”Below this caption, in reverse and partially obscured is some very small text that reads: For obvious reasons it is extremely difficult to observe shooting stars with…[ text obscured ] European time in the constellation of Perseus, its luminosity increasing, until it… [ text obscured ]”
Chodzko’s Mask Filter Arc temporarily replaced a statue of Luna – the ancient Roman goddess of the Moon – (by Henry Weekes, 1866) that sat in the vitrine Mask Filter Arc now occupies, Chodzko’s sculpture, having ‘displaced the moon,’ now stares, transfixed, mesmerised, in awe, towards the source of its inspiration, the sponge, in the cabinet opposite.
Installation images from Stories in the Dark: Contemporary Responses to the Magic Lantern at The Beaney House of Art & Knowledge, curated by Ben Judd (with Jordan Baseman, Adam Chodzko, Benedict Drew, Louisa Fairclough, Dryden Goodwin, Haroon Mirza, Lindsay Seers, and Guy Sherwin.)