Saturday, June 14, 2008

Writing for Alexandra Savtchenko's Ω


Recently I found myself at a café, drinking a hot beverage, chatting to an inquisitive stranger, who drank a cool one. Pierre - a Parisian, as I found out - had arrived in the country a day or two prior to our encounter and was enthusiastic to engage people he met. A few minutes into the conversation however, it became clear that Pierre and I would have trouble in communicating more than rudimentary concepts, as his English was mostly utilitarian, and my French close to non-existent.

In astronomy, the symbol Ω – omega – is used as a hypothetical variable to express the possible density of the universe. The ramifications of the value of this density parameter inside of these equations are vast. Assuming a zero vacuum energy density, if Omega is larger than unity, the geometry is closed; the universe will eventually stop expanding, then collapse. If Omega is less than unity, it is open; and the universe expands forever.

We are all fluent with our own thoughts, but to express them so that others can hear what you mean it is always necessary to mediate your ideas through a system of universalised abstraction – language. In my conversation with Pierre, our ideas and opinions and all the things we sought to express had to be conveyed using much simpler words than we would usually use. Using simpler words reduced the space between what I meant, and what he heard, and visa-versa.

In her work ‘Ω’ Sasha has made a gesture of abstraction. She has removed a letter from the middle of two identical signs. She has placed these objects inside a gallery. One of these signs – sans ‘C’ - can be seen from the office of the gallery. The other sign is also without the cipher and can be seen by many others, as it faces away from the gallery.

Having been tempted by the cool beverage Pierre had been drinking, and having finished my coffee, I decided to buy myself a beer. It turned out that Pierre had been similarly influenced, as he returned to the table a short while after with a coffee.

In communicating with Pierre, I had tried to reduce the space of concepts by fitting them into less complex words, so that they became compact, concrete, and could travel between us with a lesser risk of misinterpretation. In communicating with us through her artwork however, Sasha has done the exact opposite, she has purposefully exaggerated the distance between a sign and it’s meaning.

Fundamentally however, Sasha has not used this gesture as way to destabilize the weight of either the sign on the building, or the sign in the gallery. The meaning of the signs and of the gesture remains in flux, the act of the artist becoming something in definitive. What the artist seems to be doing is presenting us with a chance to each decide on a value for Omega, a theoretical concept based upon ideas about material reality and with ramifications that encompass the universe.


For Images, and to download the catalogue for the show, please visit:

No comments:

John Ward Knox. Curriculum Vitae