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29 November 2014 - 5 January 2015: 92 Million Miles from the Sun

This is the approximate distance of earth from the sun in mid-November, around the second or third week. Most often this time of year the mornings are dull with cloud, perhaps damp, too, with mist or drizzle. But sometimes there is a brightening, maybe only for two or three mornings during these weeks.

Then the sun casts its rays low across east London, through the windswept leaves of a tree and on to a grey bedroom wall. For about 35 minutes, a chiaroscuro illumination moves across the wall until it slowly but inexorably closes down to a thin needle of light and then disappears.

Susan Butler’s new video work records this simple physical event. It is a visually very beautiful experience which, at the same time, offers the possibility for meditation on the fragile and ephemeral coincidence of the sun’s movement, the tree’s last foliage, the resulting shadow’s duration and its framing by the surrounding urban architecture.

The piece also reflects a wide range of visual phenomena produced by fluctuating intensities of wind and sunlight, partly in relation to the recording medium. These include reversals of figure and ground, the apparent dissolving of solid forms, constantly shifting tonalities of colour, and contrasts ranging from starkest chiaroscuro to the faintest, and finally invisible, traces of form.

Shadow is a phenomenon that is immemorial yet immediate. As old as our solar system itself, it underlies, almost imperceptibly, our daily lived apprehension of time as the rate of movement in space.

Observing shadows allows us to recapture a sense of time, and of being in time, in the present moment. Yet meditating upon a shadow can also induce a drift into subjective reflection, and the unbounded time of reverie. It is this play across differing temporalities, unique to each viewer that 92 Million Miles from the Sun invites.


Birkbeck, School of Arts
43 Gordon Square
London WC1H 0PD

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