Elisabeth Molin

Nightwatcher (2016)

Performance for exhibition at Westminster Waste, London

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Footnotes

The purpose of a decoy is not always clear; sometimes it purports to attract its prey, drawing it closer to the hunter’s ground; whilst in military usage, it stands as a dummy military equipment, a decoy canon for example, which appears dangerous from afar. What all decoys do is to attract in order to divert someone or something’s attention or lure them off their course. A decoy stands in for what it represents, however its crude realism breaks down the closer you get. Certain types decoys attract their own set of avid collectors. Decoys are inherently self-aware objects, not dissimilar in ways to a work of art.

Crows (and ravens) are exceptionally intelligent animals. Of great importance in traditional myths and cultures, the crow is a trickster, a mediator between the dualities of life/light and death/darkness according to Claude Lévi-Strauss. A consequence of this close relationship to the Gods or Heavens, his plumage has been turned black. Interestingly, in philosophy, the raven paradox was put forward by Carl Gustav Hempel to bring to light the discrepancy between inductive logic and intuition in positing an argument.

Black was the first pigment used in art, in ancient cave painting. It’s the darkest colour; as such it is always a relative term. Whilst both black and white are achromatic colours, they are seen as universal opposites. Why is a black coffee or tea a purist’s beverage untainted by milk, but something that is blackened is stained? The sky always seems black as you step out at night, but as you get used to ambient lights and start discerning the Milky Way, your perception shifts as night vision opens up to you. A sartorial symbol for conservatives, intellectuals and radicals, are these melanophiles the ones who can help us look beyond the visible?

Just as black absorbs the light and removes it from our vision, it can also be seen to hide things. Something that is hidden has not disappeared, it is just momentarily removed from our vision. Yet, if you are not sure if something is hidden is doubly disconcerting. To know the world is to understand it, through vision and cognition. Is philosophy a process of revelations of the truths that are hidden? Artists are in a unique position, with their visual enquiries to assist, collaborate, facilitate, orchestrate, coordinate, and accelerate our understanding of the hidden world around us.

How do I know what I know? How do I know what I don’t know? How do I know that I don’t know? How do I know that I know what I know? How do I know that I know that?

Strobe light fragments our vision. It makes action seem as though it is taking place in slow motion, almost as if it were in a trance. By breaking up the speed of action into a regular rhythm, into a specific set of visual sequences, ready to repeat. The world appears to us almost like in a zoetrope; strobe action gives us an understanding of these actions within a cyclical or entropic order of things. It’s is a useful antidote to the frenetic pace of post-capitalist life, and always fun on the dance floor.

Vision and visions are two different things. A vision entails being able to see something clearly, that is, being able to perceive at the same time. Visions imply a higher state of perception and understanding. From being able to see something of exceptional nature, absolute beauty, or celestial clarity, this clairvoyance or excess of lucidity can easily be seen to tip over into mysticism, hallucination and delusion. It is not generally known for example that René Descartes developed the basis for his Cartesian or highly rationalised view of the world as a result of a series of visions. Whereas the plural of a vision offers a chance for second sight, foresight is only appreciated in moderation.

Travel can be a necessity or it can be a luxury; one would say the first is migration and the second is tourism. Those are two extremes, however it illustrates a point, that in a globalised world; whilst in theory we don’t need to travel much since everything is a click away, actually, in actual fact it fires an insatiable desire to experience more. Yet, we’re not the only ones to travel; animals, objects, nature, and all the molecules and atoms that make up the world are constantly interchanging as we speak.

Time unfolds endless ahead and behind us. How can I claim any portion of it as mine?

There exists somewhere something called reality. We are all looking for it in our waking, daily lives. It has nothing to do with how we are online, or asleep, or daydreaming, even simply thinking for that matter. It has nothing to do just with me, or you, or even the social structures around us. It is the opposite of fiction supposedly; it’s not just fact either. It is independent, it is not false, it is recurrent yet unpredictable and concerns everything around us. Most importantly it has always been that way. I sometime think I have come across it, through observation and perception, but as I keep reminding myself, it’s not about me, so for now I’m still looking for it.

When we look at a stick in water, it appears divided into two disconnected parts. Rationally we know this cannot be, yet our immediate perception tells us another story. It is this gap between what we sense and what we know where doubt can creep in: in many ways, the whole of Western thought is predicated on the worry that things are disconnected, displaced when they should be whole.

In 1641, Descartes wrote: All that up to the present time I have accepted as most true and certain I have learned either from the senses or through the senses; but it is sometimes proved to me that these senses are deceptive, and it is wiser not to trust entirely to anything by which we have once been deceived. Because we sometimes cannot trust the knowledge that the senses haveprovided, Descartes reasons that we cannot trust them at all. Our vision displaces objects that our reason cannot back together again. But what does it mean then when we live in a world where everything has been displaced? Where homelands are destroyed, lives are exiled, labour is exploited, identities shaken and the environment is definitively separated from any notion of balance.

Molin’s Nightcleaner shows a man in workwear, alone, perhaps late at night or early in the morning, at a blurry, dark time when everyone else who uses or works in the building is asleep, vacuuming across an off-white floor, perhaps an art gallery. Because the activity is so repetitious – backwards and forwards with the vacuum head, stepping towards and away from the dirt, at first nothing seems to be wrong – and yet, in the slight off-flickers, the tiny odd jumps of the cord, and the fact that the fluff appears to be emerging rather than disappearing, we realise that everything is happening backwards, or perhaps cyclically, the endless regeneration of other people’s mess. Here the displacement of the object, the flint, hairs, dead skin cells, particles of unwanted detritus are doubly displaced, dropped and then dropped again by the reverse-vacuum. Our senses deceive us but certain realities stay the same: the unseen labour that structures the reality of cities remains. As Nighttcleaner reminds us, alienation cannot be displaced by a simple reversal but only by a destruction of the entire system that otherwise reproduces itself, forwards and backwards, ad infinitum.

In Syntagma and Kamran, Molin examines global asymmetries by reflecting on the coexistence of multiple realities. In the first piece, video from the day of the ‘No’ vote in Greece is projected against a sombre, burnt-out building in Germany, the sparklers and cellphones of the Greek footage excitedly pointed upwards, only to be met by cold indifference and the extinguishing of hope. In Kamran an Afghani cab driver describes the history of military incursions into his country, a story of relentless violence and grotesque destruction: ‘they were firing this rocket everyday – imagine you live in London and there’s a rocket coming from a couple of hundred miles away’…and then, suddenly he stops, calls for some music, puts on an old Carpenters song, ‘why do birds suddenly appear…’ Here displacement as a mode of belonging, belonging to the moment, to the shared experience of the cab journey, where the separation has not vanished but is somehow still contained in the encounter itself.

Every time I try to show you what it looks like here, but I’m struck by all the gaps I find. Not just between one day and the next, but between all these things that my camera sees that I don’t see. For in stance I found scratches from the crows that I had not noticed, and when I filmed the fluorescent yellow shirt it appeared to have lost it’s luminosity. The corridors are too slim even for a wide angle lens. I went into the garden to record the sound of the neighbours but the sound of the wind on the camera dampened their noise.

Underneath a table I found colour blind images, notes from the boy who sleeps on the bus, letters from a frozen protagonist, books about red eye effect.

When I took a break on the floor I noticed a hole in the ceiling. Like a spotlight it alters the object positioned underneath it. When it rains it creates a puddle, the shape of which transform with time.

The guard is standing so still I’m not sure if he’s acting.

Every time I try to show you what it looks like here, but I’m struck by all the gaps I find. Not just between one day and the next, but between all these things that my camera sees that I don’t see. For in stance I found scratches from the crows that I had not noticed, and when I filmed the fluorescent yellow shirt it appeared to have lost it’s luminosity. The corridors are too slim even for a wide angle lens. I went into the garden to record the sound of the neighbours but the sound of the wind on the camera dampened their noise.

Underneath a table I found colour blind images, notes from the boy who sleeps on the bus, letters from a frozen protagonist, books about red eye effect.