– Spring/Summer 2000

Fade Away and Radiate

Graham Gussin

Tags: Land art

1. Field of Vision

I am listening to Eight Lines (1983) by Steve Reich and it is like looking at a field of activity, a terrain with many details that appear and disappear at intervals. What starts out as sound becomes plane, surface and distance. The work envelops us and then releases us. We are vaguely aware of its boundaries or limits as we travel through its structure, they are out there on the periphery somewhere, as inevitable as a coastline.

The piece begins as suddenly as it ends, leaving us with a definite sense of before and after, the silence which precedes and follows is like a demarcation. The experience of listening becomes like observation, we find ourselves watching as the boundaries between aural and visual become confused.

Reich has said that he wanted his music to be like standing in the sand and watching the tide come in and then retreat again. Our sense of continuity (spatial and temporal) is affected as the music washes over us but at the same time we begin to seek ways of measuring this effect, looking for points of reference which enable us to orientate ourselves and to stop the world from spinning too fast. These kinds of experiences can be hypnotic; through the repetition or the gradual variation of a theme we lose ourselves (or is it find, I am never quite sure?).These logics and structures are like mantras, they grant access to other dimensions through the observation of a system which is precise and demanding in its detail. I am drawn into this state of mind when I look at works by Walter De Maria.

  1. Edgar Alan Poe, Mesmeric Revelation, The Complete Tales and Stories of Edgar Alan Poe, London: Penguin Books, 1982

  2. Ibid.