Blindness - Speedwell's Disappearing Letters
NO NEW WORLDS
NO NEW S
“I’m sorry but what does this mean?”
“I thought it was gone, taken down, but it was just the angle.”
“Look…It’s doing its disappearing thing again.”
In the process of developing Speedwell, Martin, Léonie and I took our first test light high up to the field opposite their house. A bright white day limned the hedges from down below and the rumble of the generator coughed across the valley. Radio call-signs decided, we held our lollipop of light aloft and waited while the other drove back down the track to the road. “I can see it, okay, on…is it on? Oh…It’s disappeared…”.
This was our first premonition of the interplay and interference our sculpture might experience during daylight or when captured within the dazzle of the sea; that it is visible only in silhouette and vanishes when lit. The anticipated network of scaffolding poles and wiring led us to believe that a backdrop of hardware would support the visibility of the lights when Speedwell was finally built. The spider’s web of Speedwell’s filigree skeleton, however, was so unprecedentedly delicate despite its scale that this vast structure occasionally slips from view, hidden in plain sight, made invisible by its structural illumination.
As a metaphor for the themes our sculpture conveys, it is acutely apt, invoking the blind spots we as artists and many among the global rich are in danger of myopically perpetuating. For us, working within the anachronism of a commemorative structure that accords respect to a voyage that indelibly stained the pages of history forever, this slippage is a wedge with which to crack open the edifice of received histories, to afford space for other tellings, other worldings.
We can no longer turn a blind eye to the lived contemporaneous experiences of settler colonisation and the ongoing ecological or political impact. The ellipsis, the sleight of hand that the sculpture performs in certain light conditions has the effect of revealing while concealing; uncovering one telling while hiding another, inverting meaning and being open to multiple interpretations.
We have repeatedly had our blindness revealed in this creative arc. The learning process we still tread has been guided by the vision and generosity of others who have patiently held our precariousness while sharing their own vulnerabilities. We hope that by navigating this uncertain terrain so publicly, others might be minded to begin their own process of re-/de-/un-learning. The blinded sight, of reading this sculpture within its ghostly absence, of unintentionally perceiving through confusion repeats that role of opening a conversational space, of questioning one’s understanding, wondering what it really might mean.