Oct 28, 2011

REVIEW | William Lamson: A Line Describing the Sun, Gallery II TSU, San Marcos

A Line Describing the Sun, 2010, Two-Channel HD Video, 13:35.

William Lamson, a Brooklyn-based artist, is featured in Gallery II in the Joann Cole Mitte Building at Texas State University. Referred to as a 'performagrapher' by Texas State University Gallery Director, Mary Mikel Stump, he combines several different styles of art into one work. This theme is carried out through much of his work, and done so in a manner that amplifies the significance of the individual styles. In "A Line Describing the Sun", those styles are performance and video.

As you walk into the gallery, the room is blockaded by a wall with a small screen playing a video of another of Lamson's works, 'Untitled (from The Brightest Form of Absence). Just around the end of this short wall is an open expanse with two screens, end-to-end, in an L-shape with the video projected onto them. I noticed something interesting about the way that this set-up caused the viewers to stand in the room. Instead of the traditional screen at the end of the room with the viewers standing in a uniform group at the other, this L-shape was mimicked by the audience. I have been to several different openings in this gallery, and seen several video works displayed as well, but the atmosphere created by this arrangement supersedes any I have witnessed. It seemed so much more inviting, more encouraging to experience a moment created by the artist for each individual standing in dark room as the video flickers on the screens before them.
A Line Describing the Sun, 2010, Two-Channel HD Video, 13:35.
The video, 'Untitled', playing at the entrance gives an accurate impression of what to expect from the main event in the exhibit. A half-filled plastic water bottle is dragged across desert sand, attached to a kite by a string. This follows a recurring concept throughout Lamson's repertoire: capturing the action of nature in art. 'A Line Describing the Sun' does just that. With a tricycle-like machine built to carry a large lens, Lamson follows an arc in the Mojave Desert, scorching the earth along the way. The two screens display the same moment in time while simultaneously giving two different perspectives, alternating throughout the 13 minute video, on the performance as it is carried out. The performance is ended, cut short according to Lamson, as the sun is eclipsed by a coming front of clouds and dust carried by the evening winds.
A Line Describing the Sun, 2010, Two-Channel HD Video, 13:35.
I encountered a curious situation that proved to hold more than just the simple answer that I was expecting. As you can see in the first image included, an excavated section of the burned arc of earth is included as a part of the exhibit. This particular aspect was absent from the gallery at TSU. After a series of emails between the artist, gallery director, and I, the mystery is solved. The original exhibition of the work was absent the arc, as Lamson considered his work to be fleeting, leaving only a temporary mark on the earth. Says Stump, "The videos were originally intended and showed without the sculptural element.  It was only on the second exhibition and at Will's gallerist's request did he re-enact the performance on a smaller scale to provide the earthen sculpture." Initially I assumed that the only reason that the arc wasn't included was due to gallery space, but, given this insight, I consider it a perceptive decision to preserve the original impression, or lack thereof, of the work. On the other hand, the limitations of a gallery are exposed through this display, as Lamson informed me that ' the ceilings are not high enough to light the sculpture with a projector from above', though this proves inconsequential to the integrity of the piece.

-Blake Knox


  1. I hadn't noticed the crowd mimicking the piece itself until I read this and I must that is a very interesting point that brings me to wonder if the piece would be just as effective in a traditional set-up.

    -David Davis