Das Platforms / Contemporary Art

One & Other: Inhouse with Jake Sun

by Andi Halfpapp

06 May 2013

You walk in through the front door and are confronted with the back of a man who is playing piano, to his left, a white platform with rhythmic light movement; you assume covering stairs. The piano is not always the same. It feels as if it reacts to mood or movement in the space, the same way the images around the space move with deeper notes of ambient sound. You turn to your left to follow the next stream of light. On the wall is a large projection, pulsating and reflective of flesh. Across from you, a couple of meters apart are two doorways blocked with black fabric, obscured light trying to escape through the fold. You then have no choice but to turn to your right, where a softer mirrored image of the first wall projection floats on white fabric, blocking another point of entry. In front of you now though, two blue abstract projections. While distant, they make you hesitant to move forward and around them, in trepidation of the exit.

If one were to contextualise Jake Sun’s One & Other it would be somewhere in Luigi Russolo’s Manifesto L'arte dei rumori (The Art of Noises), his futurist paintings of saturated colour, and contemporary video-art’s phenomenological explorations of installation. Video-installation is unique in the way it is informed retrospectively by precepts of the past, yet it does not let its meaning be constructed by them.[1] For Sun, these retrospective influences can be seen in his use of a house as a found object in which to respond with an installation of abstractly foreign, yet familiar, combination of sound and vision. The medium then becomes simultaneously complicit with, and autonomous from consumerist and artistic discourse. Thus, Sun allows for a truly democratic viewership in an immersive environment that is capable of transcending both institutional and personal barriers.

It is clear that the projections are more than just effects, which evokes a desire to uncover what they may have been previous to their abstraction. This desire is further extended by the blockade of various entries and exits within the house, as they conceal and direct the experience within the space. As sound in itself is universal and omnipresent, in combination with such abstract visualisations it creates a textural physicality that embraces the viewer; activating the space with a strange expansive consciousness. The deeper ambient notes seem to tap in to alpha- waves, permeated only by the piano’s presence allowing gamma-waves to filter through the subconscious.  This contradictory combination of the meditative and over-active brain waves affords the viewer the opportunity to adopt an enhanced phenomenological consciousness of themselves and the space in which they are situated.[2]

While most installations tend to stay within the conventional parameters of the institution[3]; Sun’s video-installations create complex, layered scenarios that transform and dissolve components of physical space. The actuality of the space is routed in the audience’s perceptual understanding of it as a ‘home’, giving a perceptual awareness and direction as to what constitutes an entry, or exit. However, the realist and idealist expectation of a ‘home’ (which is informed by pre-existing social, historical, scientific, and aesthetic conceptions[4]), does not match the encounter, creating a paradoxical link between the objective known experience and the subjective felt experience. In their corporeal nature, the videos and the space that contains them exploit the viewer’s anxieties of perception with tentativeness for entry and exit. The screened doorways obstruct the viewer’s path; they are required to circumnavigate the space, feeling the way as they become aware of their attempt to find the ‘correct’ place from which to view the work. These forms liberate the passive viewer from their singular-axis gaze, forcing them to orientate space, image, and object, thus initiating a phenomenological experience and awareness of themselves and the work.

Whilst some of Sun’s works draw on the ever-present anxieties of human existence, One & Other seems to use this terrain for something more intimate and spiritually elevated. Sun’s work engages the viewer in a metaphysical sense, affecting them on a physical and emotional level. The reflections of the installation bathe the viewer in light while the sound encapsulates their mind, enveloping them in this physical and virtual space; allowing for a fictive discourse with the work and the artist.The spatial, audible, and visual elements of Jake Sun’s work combine to expand and affect the consciousness of the viewer through an alteration of their experiential ‘self’, changing them from passive spectators to embodied perceivers of the one, and the other.

[1] Scherwefel, Heinz. 1997. Bruce Nauman: Make Me Think. Artcore Productions. DVD.

[2] Parry, Joseph D. 2010, Art and Phenomenology, 103.

[3] Onorato, Ronald. 1997. Blurring The Boundaries: Installation Art 1969-1996. 13-29. San Diego: Museum of Contemporary Art.

[4] Toadvine, Ted, “Phenomenology and ‘Hyper-reflection’.”