Bruna Mori

A line etched onto a page is liberated from it, transformed into a three-dimensional banister.  It has been elevated and looped onto itself, placed on its side to create a more horizontal relief, and made to string together trees.  It disappeared altogether for a while.  Now, the curving metallic rail circles freely above and around dozens of interconnected 16-foot, resin-coated sheets at Suyama Space.  The banister is both a trajectory and partial amnesiac.  It is pensive in its travels through the translucent echo chamber, well above the heads of viewers, re/imagining its past in Dis-place in Time.

Visual archaeologist John O’Brien is responsible for drawing the “line to banister.”  In the late twentieth century, O’Brien used passé partouts at the margins of his prints to focus a viewer’s gaze.  Similarly, the emerged banister tracked movement imprinted onto its waxed handrail.  In subsequent shows, it became progressively unrecognizable from its original form, mutating from mapping to memory device.  This reflected O’Brien’s shift in focus from an artcentric view to that of everyday objects.  As the eighties gave rise to semiotics discourse, he similarly traded fine art for semiology, studying how objects moved from specific denotations to personal connotations—from function, to memory, to fantasy.

Memory seems impossible at times to escape, but perception may be more imagined than truly accessed.  It may be as eclipsed as the white walls of Suyama Space, when day recedes through the cold partitions of Dis-place in Time and the skylights above.  At that hour, alone in the gallery, a banister might turn to ritual to remember.  It might begin with two items to commemorate that which is no longer present—to emulate the process of memory through which objects themselves are used to reconstruct the past.  The banister conveniently chooses itself, then the home upon which it rests—a structure frozen, while melting within the amber tones of the gallery.

Two more ancient objects are brought to bear, mimicking the idea of art historical precedents.  They are comparatively diminutive display cases, each containing laser-cut silver and stainless steel rings set in velvet and tags mired in wire mesh—an entangled, miniature version of the banister.  The shrinking displays provide a contrast in scale that facilitates a spatial interpretation of displacement of time and increasing distance from the event recalled.

Something old, something new; something borrowed, something blue.  Why I like resin=polar ice caps, casino towns, designs on the road in-between destinations.  The visitors today were graced by partitions, piping, and wire, all enhanced from light overhead.  They were encircled and became part of my environment.  They became my memory.  The most distant point at the tiniest gem was where they looked closely, perhaps to try to understand.  Charting drifts is poetic, but there is a need for orientation.  Finding a way to address this need for orientation is a motivation to create.

The clack of heels.  A gallerist working late interrupts the banister’s recollection, introducing the show to a critic: “Overall, the objects function as placeholders for memories of things and people who are no longer with us.  The display cases provide a notable relationship of scale that will facilitate a viewer’s imaginative understanding of this displacement of time metaphorically through the creation of delicate bulwarks against loss.”  Bulwarks against loss . . . the banister agrees, but only if only it will disclose the mystery; it wants to meet memory head on, not just contain it.

Yet, Dis-place in Time gives in to nonexistence in reaffirming existence, i.e. something happened.  The route to accessing or fixing memory is circuitous, evoked through ceremony or things, imbuing them with meaning.  Memory may be evoked in the present through signifiers, represented by jewels, initialed insignias, or lines on paper, but Dis-place in Time does not disguise formidable absence.  The center of the most giant resin jewelry box, a space opening to the sky, remains empty.  The sweeping banister itself is hollow within, and though movement is suggested, it is fixed in its search.  The breathing moment eludes.

            Bruna Mori is a poet who teaches Humanities at the Southern California Institute of Architecture and Art Center College of Design in Pasadena.