Canada : Barbara Steinman


Lux is a reflective piece which mirrors both the structure and the texture of time. The installation conjoins two elements - an Empire-style chandelier suspended from the ceiling and made of plain interlocking links of steel chain, and 52 metres of crystal chandelier strands piled on the floor beneath the light fixture.

The inspiration for Lux came out of a river room in Prague - a white stucco-and-glass cube of a modernist gallery nestled in the crook of a sooty Renaissance water tower. There, half-attached chains of distant history pointed downstream dredging up light; in Lux, as if in response, looping reflections form the intricate cage of a bell-shaped chandelier. Draped steel strands cling to polished metal rims as a link between continuity (a temporal quality) and contiguity (a spatial-temporal transfer). Curtains of steel threads cascade toward the floor in a movement at once restrained, but ultimately irreversible. As they rub against the past, the steel ligaments shed parchments of light like an outer skin onto the ground below, heaping the raw elements of crystal ropes - joined, but detached from their baroque form - in a narrowing mound of layered coils.

Time contrives the weight of our experience, out of which memories - linked, sonorous, and piercingly present - reflect back upon the experience itself. The tumulus of crystal strings illuminates the deep inverted vessel from beneath in a shaft of translucent light. The metal chandelier, curiously lighter in weight than the corresponding crystal of its discarded envelope, binds the flux together; gives it rhythm and structure; measures duration; secures a form. The resulting image conjures a feeling akin to what T.S. Eliot wrote in "Burnt Norton," the introductory poem of Four Quartets:

"By a grace of sense, a white light still and moving
Erhebung without motion, concentration
Without elimination, both a new world
And the old made explicit, understood
In the completion of its partial ecstasy,
The resolution of its partial horror.
Yet the enchainment of past and future
. . ."
(T.S. Eliot, "Burnt Norton", Four Quartets, London, Faber and Faber, 1959, p. 16)


Steinman's Lux, like Eliot's "enchainment of past and future," situated in a world that "moves/in appetency, on its metalled ways," creates a deliberate passage between two stages, two recordings of time. As well, the material substitution of metal for glass, employed in reverse in earlier Steinman pieces, such as Houdini's Case (1999), memorable for its glass hammer and nails, creates a cognitive dissonance that enhances tension within the installation itself.

The transformation of temporal elements, their material interaction, isolates memories and situates them in relation to others. By juxtaposing the suspended, detailed, carefully polished assemblage of "time present" and the luminous drift of the past in which "time and the bell have buried the day," Steinman summons forth light as movement, creating a third temporal form - pellucid and immaterial - in which the notion of "time future" is almost effortlessly contained. Time's arrow points in all directions at once, thus bearing out Eliot's poetic observation in which:

"Time present and time past
Are both perhaps present in time future,
And time future contained in time past."
(Idem., p. 13)


Irena Zantovsky Murray
Montréal, June 2000



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