June 11, 2008

Reverse Rapture

by Nick Montfort · , 1:38 pm

Paul Chan's 1st Light at the ICA Paul Chan’s 1st Light (video from artreview.com) (video from YouTube) is now running on the floor at the ICA in Boston. The work was also shown at the 2006 Whitney Biennial.

1st Light is a looping fourteen-minute digital animation projected down and aslant, as if the image were cast from light coming in a window. As it plays, shadowy forms show people being cast down from the sky. Birds flit by and land, untouched, and various consumer goods, large and small, float upwards: cell phones, bikes, a train, and eventually a SUV. The animation is framed by a cruciform telephone pole with cell phone antenna attachments – a very apt retrofitting. The overt reference (supplied by Chan and mentioned in the curatorial text) is to the Rapture and to a particular day in September 2001, but perhaps the heaven for devices that the piece suggests is also what would be left after the detestation of a neutron bomb. What if our earbuds and smart phones don’t rise up and overthrow us in the paroxysm of the singularity, but instead are saved and taken up – when our names are nowhere to be found in the iBook of life?