I'm writing from the basement of Morley Gallery where we're halfway through rigging Post Truth and Beauty to the wall.
This piece is a labour of love. The install takes two people three days. Each space needs its own wiring plan. And after five years, wires need resoldering. Coming in at 3.2 metres, the aluminium rods are just too long for a normal courier, but eventually I found a company willing to transport them 800km from Glasgow to London.
The software is a patchwork of different bespoke applications sending messages to each other: tracking, sound, rendering and communicating to the LED strips. Software should work just the same as the years go by, but new bugs have materialised from the various updates Windows has since rolled out.
Returning to code I wrote five years ago is like returning to an old journal. It revives a way of seeing the world that belongs to someone I remember being but no longer am. Some of the code driving Post Truth and Beauty I borrowed from This Floating World, so I'm writing it in 2014 with a dancer performance in mind. In other parts, I'm wearing a hard hat in a shopping mall in Chengdu, China, ironing out timing bugs for a client installing huge sculptures of animated light.
I collaborated with Aphra Shemza to design and build the piece in early 2017. Aphra creates beautiful luminescent sculptures, and our practices slotted together easily.
But the title, Post Truth and Beauty, I came up with in 2016. I still don't know if it was the right one. I liked the ambiguous way it parsed. Post (Truth and Beauty)? Or (Post Truth) and Beauty?
In 2016, Oxford Dictionaries declared “post-truth” word of the year, relativism seemed lost to extremists, and everybody left, right and centre seemed hooked on simplistic explanations of why others were so wrong. For me, the piece is about the limits of a single perspective. As the viewer's moves their point of view, the work changes. Some of these changes, like the illusion of sounds floating in space, follow the expectations of our physical intuitions. But it's in those that don't, the unexpected, where a sense of a life can emerge.
It's challenging to write the description of an interactive work. You're trying to put into words an experience whose essence is embodied and ephemeral. Looking back, I wonder if the political concept of Post Truth and Beauty got in the way of the work more than it enhanced it. Perhaps we should have stated less and let the work speak to people on their own terms. But then again, it's authentic as a response to a moment when the collective narrative turned in on itself, and for that I'm glad. You have to follow your instincts in this business.
In any case, I am fond of this work. I think the interaction creates a rich and unusual experience, and it's all just from tracking the position of your head. If you're in London 6-17 June, you can drop by Morley Gallery to experience it yourself.
London, 31 May 2022