I. The Blue was Beating
II. Sinking to the Surface
III. Widening Circles
Location: Mullen Gallery
Hannah Rindlaub, Video Projections
Musical Composition, Tyler Ollanik and Lillian Krovoza
Dancers: Michelle Dibattiste, Jack Baker, Shira Barlas,
Mary Atyemizian, Becca Rich, and Lillian Krovoza
Three separate videos complete this instillation, a visual rumination on the color blue. The videos are projected, flowing from one another without margins, bending around three walls. Each video is comprised of underwater footage of figures and cloth in curated motion. Blue aims to immerse viewers, attuning them to their own contemplative experience with the color.
My affinity to blue stems from a childhood on an island in the Atlantic Ocean. Water is my blue. That being said, I had never considered blue to be my favorite color, I had never contemplated its intricacies and depth. Not until two years ago, when a close friend, Mason Norton, dove into the ocean and was paralyzed from the waist down. He was not expected to walk again. A year later, Mason held onto the edge of a pool and walked in water. These events and everything in between catalyzed this work.
Propelled by this personal experience, I gravitated towards two believers in blue, filmmaker Derek Jarman and author Maggie Nelson. Both use blue as an anodyne to navigate suffering. Derek Jarman, in his later years, deteriorating from AIDs related complications including the loss of his sight, created a feature length film called Blue. The film is comprised of an unchanging cobalt blue screen with voices, his own and his friends’ reading excerpts of Jarman’s diary and poems. This void of visuals gives perplexing power to Jarman’s Blue. He states in the film, “In the pandemonium of image, I present you with the universal blue. Blue protects white from innocence. Blue drags black with it. Blue is darkness made visible” (Jarman, Blue). Jarman is speaking of the universality of human suffering, offering his own meditation on the color through his perspective, empty of images, diverging from traditional narrative. This divestment in narrative allows the film to become a meditation; the viewer is not grounded in visuals, or carried by plot, but rather suspended in this blue screen and faceless voices.
Similarly, Maggie Nelson wrote Bluets in a non-narrative form, a book that traverses the loss of a relationship and witnessing a friend become a quadriplegic. She weaves the color blue through numbered vignettes of both mundane and profound moments using stream of consciousness. Again, the reader is not propelled by plot but rather suspended in her consciousness. Informed by these works, I aim to suspend my audience in blue to initiate a meditation. The three walls of projections engulfed the audience contributing to this aim. Unlike Jarman’s Blue, I have favored the visual. While Nelson and Jarman tread deeply in spoken and written language, I have chosen to use movement as a form of language. This movement is consistent with Jarman and Nelson’s non-narrative form. The power of the body’s voice was revealed to me through Mason’s accident. Collating movement in water, liberated from gravity, unaccompanied by words, give honor to the voice of movement.
The videos are conceived from these specific notions and embody their titles with literal translations into movement that reoccur in different forms throughout each. Nelson describes first seeing her friend in the altered state of quadriplegia, closing the scene with the line “The blue was beating.” I have titled the first video, on the north wall, with this line. I believe it speaks to blue’s intrinsic fluidity; even when life is seemingly halted, it is still stirring. I think of pulsing cells in mitosis, rebirth in moments of loss. I think of Jarman’s describing his presentation of blue as a “pandemonium of image” even though his visual is seemingly imageless and still.
The second video on the east wall, “Sinking to the Surface,” ponders the transformation of suffering into strength. The video utilizes shifts in perspectives, flipping the view upside down so the surface is on the bottom, so subject matter that is descending seems to be ascending. Although rooted in despair, both Jarman and Nelson reveal a deepened understanding of what it means to be alive; they have sunk to the surface.
The third video, on the west wall, is titled after the poem “Widening Circles” by Rainer Maria Rilke from Book of Hours. The poem speaks to the openness of both doubt and belief, echoing Bluets, which talks about believing in the unknown (Nelson, Bluets, 89). The video consists entirely of footage taken underwater of the surface, a circular view. This video culminates with a repeated clip of ripples. The ripples move outward than reverse inward several times with the final clip spanning outward, an evident reference to the title.
While distinct, the three themes traverse each video. This ripple sequence, other repeated clips that alternate reversed, and stop motion footage continue the idea of “Beating” behind the first video. Circular motions and descent upwards take place in all the videos. All the videos include footage of a figure whose face is veiled in blue cloth, symbolizing blue becoming a figure or a figure harnessing their own blue, suggesting the process that the viewer could undergo in experiencing the instillation. While propelled by my synthesis of blue, this instillation does not intend to prescribe meaning to the color; it does not aim to project my blue onto others, but rather provide a space for the viewer to be within the color. Perhaps the space awakens the color within the viewer. Perhaps this process reveals a “universal blue”.
A line from Jarman’s Blue:
“Blue transcends the solemn geography of human limits” (Jarman, Blue)
Nelson speaks of her quadriplegic friend:
“She is too busy asking, in this changed form, what makes a livable life, and how she can live it.”
“As her witness, I can testify to no reason, no lesson. But I can say this: in watching her, sitting with her, helping her, weeping with her, touching her, and talking with her, I have seen the bright pith of her soul. I cannot tell you what it looks like, exactly, but I can say that I have seen it.”
“Likewise, I can say that seeing it has made me a believer, though I cannot say what, or in what, exactly, I have come to believe” (Nelson, Bluets, 89).
I am a believer in blue. What this means exactly, I am not sure.