I often feel that time is an unspoken quality of sculptural work. Of course, time is inescapable, and so any sculpture that we view must occur over time. The time we spend looking at the work, the time it takes to walk around the sculpture to see it from all angles, the time to sculpt it, which is inscribed in its surface and structure. Time does not stop affecting a work of sculpture, either. Eventually, any material crumbles to dust. Every solid substance is secretly in motion, whether changing form, decomposing away, or slowly moving through space, even as it adheres to the surface of our spinning planet.
Artistic collaboration MSHR’s installation Nested Transmuter Cycle, now at the Interstitial Theatre in Seattle, contains even more diverse kinds of motion. Not quite a kinetic work, MSHR’s assemblages are heavily wired with sound and light. Using sensors that detect this sound and light, the electronics act in various feedback loops, creating pulsing, echoing, strobing, spasming sound and lightscapes through the installation space, which then illuminate and vibrate cut panels of translucent material. One might call it electro-kinetic.
MSHR is known not only for doing installations, but performances as well. One might classify their work as time-based art, or noise music/art, as easily as sculpture. But for me, MSHR’s work is most powerful in the way that it shapes the space. Unlike even the most dissonant noise performances, where the focus is on the shaping of the sound itself, the pulsing feedback cadences of MSHR’s work affect my gut more than my ears, and my irises more than my optic nerves. Like a boulder heaved into a small pond, the waves of sound emanate outwards, enveloping the viewer’s entire body. It is not hyperbole to say that the effect can be time-distorting, because as one moves around in the space, surrounded by the sines of air pressure and photons, one can easily lose track of exactly where and when the sound and light begins, and where it ends. Looped back over itself in twisted loops, the entire experience of the room is woven into itself. Optical illusions hang around the walls of the installation, and spatial illusion writhes between those walls. And then, if that wasn’t enough, virtual reality adds another layer.
Whether the experience is pleasant to the observer, will likely be a matter of personal preference. But for myself, I find MSHR’s work to be overpowering, in the best sense of the word. In the blank space of a gallery, they fill the experiential dimensions completely, in a way that few pieces of sculpture can do.