Transfiguration:  Daubert’s Electronic Audio and Visual Installation at the Blue Line Gallery in Roseville, CA.

by Janet Norris

Chris Daubert traveled to Mexico a few years ago, perhaps on a mission of self-discovery, or, to pursue the wider goal of finding a method of understanding the “way” of life.  Maybe it was merely his vacation, but he relates that he stumbled upon a ruin in the hinterlands a few miles distant from Durango, Mexico, that obviously had not been recently visited.  He described to me his experience of watching the sun move over the top the crumbling walls, the effect on him which was to understand (have a realization in the philosophical/mystical sense) what it must have been like for the shamans who had once been responsible for the well-being of the local populace:  The ancient religious guides, transfigured by the “message” deployed through the energy of the sun, read the signs, the way was pointed to, and the instructions were followed – all to the good for those whose lives were lived under the benefices of the ancient shamanistic sect.  In a recent interview Daubert is quoted as saying, “I was struck by the beauty and ingenuity of the construction of the temples, and the architectural and cosmological precision by which they were designed.”

Energy Sensing Wall in Daubert’s Installation at Blue Line Gallery

The viewer completes the work is a standard art idea and it applies to the Transfiguration installation.  My impression of the work is that in developing the installation for the Blue Line Gallery, being the artist that he is, Chris took the leap from the moment of perception standing before the remnants of an ancient culture, and landed in a perceptual realm of his own.  Ignoring any possibility that in our culture the mystical is often generally denigrated, and, it seemed to this viewer, with the unmitigated energy of a mad scientist, one with sound mathematical ability, and more than the usual knowledge of electronic mechanizations, he proceeded to create an ambitious and intriguing project.  One could say he was following the creed Bruce Naumann adhered to when he said, “the true artist helps the world by revealing mystic truths.”  Is he being ironic (as Naumann is suspected of being)?  We aren’t sure, but the site-specific installation, besides being impressive on a technical level is also very beautiful, shadowy, mysterious and ritualistic in effect, so perhaps there’s no room for irony, a refreshing experience sometimes.

Chris Daubert: Shaman’s Clappers

To describe it simply, without using technical terminology, it is an audience-participatory, dimly lit space in which there are three “walls,” one of which serves as the activating force for the other two.  This first wall (the “performance” wall) is constructed of hundreds and hundreds of small white heat/energy-sensitive devices attached in a tight grid formation to an armature of about 15-20 feet wide by 4 feet high.  The participant moves along the wall at any speed in any style, from merely walking or running or leaping, to flailing about wildly, etc.  Such activity produces on another nearby wall a cacophony of clacking and clapping.  The “musical” wall is a construction of hundreds upon hundreds of 1-inch or so squarish metal pieces which have been attached to their support in such a way so that when an electric signal reaches them they rise up and clang back down in a variable sequence that seems to spread across and up and down like waves on the sea.

Scrim with Red Lights: Another moment of transfiguration

The last, and it seems, the most significant “wall” is a scrim of similar dimensions, suspended in the middle of the gallery, onto which tiny red lights have been adhered.  It is possible to partially see through it in its quiet stage.  When single “performances” along the white wall occur (or a pas de deux, as Chris points out, or even if his dog, Angus, is the active force) the scrim surface jumps around in a wild display of flashing red, and according to the artist, the resulting red patterns are unique to the individual doing the dancing and walking at the white wall.    There were a number of visitors in the darkened, shadowy gallery on the day I visited and at one point Chris set up a video camera, gave instructions to all who wanted to participate, and one at a time we went off to do our dance at the white wall, while the artist video-taped the unique flashing red patterns on the scrim, the camera, of course, also picked up the bell-like or bone-clapping sounds of the small metal “clappers”.  When my turn came, especially because I had been directed to move in a natural way, I personally briefly reflected on the postmodern dance of pioneers such as Yvonne Rainer and Trisha Brown as I “performed” my movement along the white wall.  The visual results so gathered, Chris said, are an electronic portrait of each individual.  Presumably, my future looks favorable.

Chris Daubert, about to tape Energy Wall

Chris Daubert teaches at Sacramento City College.  He also recently exhibited a group of paintings inspired by ancient Mexican temples at the b. sakata garo Gallery in Sacramento.  The Blue Line Gallery site specific installation closes on January 8.

Blue Line Gallery, 405 Vernon St., Roseville, CA 95678; Tel. (916) 783-4117; http:www.rosevillearts.org/

Janet Norris is an artist and MFA Graduate of San Jose State University where she and Chris Daubert were classmates.

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