Sunday, March 26, 2006

35mm photos of my project at Boreal art/nature


Flatlander is a self-destructing project on land maintained by Boreal Art/ Nature in the northern Laurentian Mountains, north of Montreal. It's a skiing trail that doesn't go up or downhill and is marked out with 500 reflective thumbtacks (from the local snow machine shop) The tacks (which make points of light if you have a flashlight) are pressed into trees so that they are perfectly level with each other. The project is derived from skiing and the need to stay level so a part of this project is the idea of a contour line on a topographical map and the realization of such a line on the hard landscape. The direction of the flat path is limited by the height of one’s eye level at the tree and by the base of the tree at the ground. These tacks make a wide trail of reflective dots that is not a straight path but rather a winding ring around the top of the hill. A level line is maintained from tack to tack until the path returns to the begining wrapping it's way around a hill. Analogous with the rings of Saturn where rocks in the ring are points of light. When skiing near this artwork one feels the uneasy sense of something too flat; like a horizon or the surface of a lake. It's about 1km long.

All of this installation of tacks and levelness also works as the set for a film. The film, Flatlander, is a 16mm short (5 minutes) to be completed in 2007. With a light mounted next the camera lens; Flatlander simply follows this horizon of light tacks around the hill. With extra sensitive film, a full moon and long (2sec) exposures the film records the shape of the snow-covered landscape in contrast to the level horizon of light; kind of like a horizon of stars going sci-fi warp speed combined with the simple shape and beauty of the boreal forest. Flatlander is a silent film.

Also while in residency at Boreal Art/Nature I was reading much about modern quantum mechanics and was struck by one particular metaphor. The name Flatlander came from an old (E.A.Abbott, 1884) romantic idea that is now once again in the dialog of theoretical physics. It is a metaphorical idea of humanity’s inability to experience time and dimensions outside the tradition of four. The story is one of a fictional people who can experience only a two-dimensional world, a flatland populated by flatlanders. They have isolated the most essential scientific facts over the last one hundred years. So far they make separate puzzles. The pieces from which can been seen as series of disks and rings that fit into each other in a predictable way and form two distinct categories of puzzle in 2-d space; one from quantum theory and the other from relativity. One solution to their problem could be to assemble all the pieces in the third dimension since with that calculation the pieces make a resolved sphere. It is said that many problems in physics might be solved if we could imagine and calculate for other dimensions. So, to Flatlander the project, the flat ring in points of light, represents our capacity to experience other dimensions and the hill with trees represents the new multidimensional postulate about nature.

In general the project responds to the land. Simultaneously making a gesture to kinder traditions of land art as well as my spatial/ psycho-geographical based practice. It attempts to give the viewer a steady point of reference from which to see nature. The horizon of points of light in Flatlander gives us stable reference to the positively crooked nature of the forest.

Thanks to Boreal, Luc Beauparlant, Mike Jacobs, Eva Percewicz, Thea Pratt, Sebastian Lange, Sergio Kirby, Main Film, Gilles Castilloux, Cecilia Chen, Elisabeth Belliveau

Steve Topping

This project was produced while in residence at Boreal Art/ Nature.