The Celestial Sea
February 16-March 16, 2013
Matthew Weinstein's upcoming exhibition at Sonnabend Gallery, The Celestial Sea, is a further investigation of his use of photorealistic computer animation programs to create films, paintings and sculptures.
An anchor drops down from the sky. It is attached to a chain. A sailor climbs down the chain. By the time he reaches the earth, he has drowned. The Celestial Sea is the sea over our heads, an upside down world; another version of reality. Visual technology is this sea. We visit the virtual and it visits us but to pass through the membrane of reality would be too great a transition for either state to survive; so we maintain a constantly shifting boundary between what is real and what is virtual.
In 'Cruising, 1980,' two ships pass each other on a reflective sea. They flash their lights at each other in a brief interval of mutual attraction and then pass each other by. In 'SCREENPLAY, 2013,' the text for a screenplay scrolls across a monitor. The screenplay is a long monologue, with camera angles, locations and performance notes, in which a woman discusses her experience of the Celestial Sea and her subsequent inability to connect to her former version of reality. The sculpture 'Celestial Sea,' is a giant reflective bronze anchor and chain that looks as if it has just fallen from the sky and crashed into the floor. A series of paintings depict the paths of virtual lights within a 3D computer program as they sweep across virtual space. They are paintings of the substance of the virtual; the medium of the celestial sea. The patterns formed by the virtual lights look like passages from Kandinsky, Kupka, Emma Kunz, and Delaunay suggesting that their visionary forms of abstraction had seen a piece of the future.
By Matthew Weinstein
2013. FADE IN. A TRAIN SPEEDS ACROSS A FIELD DOTTED WITH LARGE BOULDERS. IT HAS BEEN SAID THAT THE BOULDERS WERE DRAGGED THROUGH THIS FIELD BY A GLACIER. THE LANDSCAPE IS PULLED LIKE TAFFY INTO A CELADON BLURR, A COLOR THAT MATCHES THE SHOES, UNSEEN, AND SUIT OF A SLIM BLONDE WOMAN SEATED IN THE DINING CAR. IS HER BLUE FARAWAY GAZE GLACIAL OR MERELY SELF POSSESSED AS SHE STIRS HER TEA AND SPEAKS? I had been looking at the crumbling ruins of the old castle for many weeks. It was perched on the top of a steep hill. An overgrown path led up to it. Every day I would wake up with the intention of walking up to the ruins and having a look around, but every day, somehow, I avoided it. SHE SIPS HER TEA, SHE LOOKS OUT THE WINDOW, SHE IS SPEAKING TO THE BLUR. The castle was one of the attractions of the area where I was spending my holiday, but visiting it became a responsibility, a chore, something I began to dread. 'You haven't seen the castle?' the other guests at the small inn where I was staying would ask me, astonished. I felt that they were forming a negative opinion about me due to a perceived lack of curiosity and laziness on my part. SHE FACES US. PAUSES. HER PURSE IS CLOSED AND RESTS ON THE CHAIR NEXT TO HER. HER PURSE CONTAINS: A PACK OF CIGARETTES IN A LEATHER CASE WITH A SNAP CLOSURE, A SLIM GOLD CIGARETTE LIGHTER, A WALLET, A CHECKBOOK, A SMALL BAG CONTAINING A DISCIPLINED SELECTION OF MAKEUP, A ROLL OF MINTS, UNOPENED, A PEN WITH THE LOGO OF A SMALL SEASIDE HOTEL ON IT, LOOSE CHANGE (OUT OF CHARACTER) AND, CURIOUSLY, NO KEYS. To save face, I began to lie. I told them that I had been to the castle. I told them that it was really quite something. I described the sun on the old stones and the dark coolness of the interiors. I based my observations on my experiences of other similar attractions. Finally, breakfast at the small hotel became intolerable. All that was spoken of was the damn castle, and my lies created more and more anxiety for me each morning. So I headed up the hill to the castle. Just as I expected, it was a hot and uncomfortable walk. The drone of insects and the lack of breeze made me want to turn back many times. And, of course, it was a complete bore. SHE SNAPS OPEN HER PURSE AND PULLS OUT HER CIGARETTE CASE. SHE PULLS ONE OUT, SNAPS HER SLIM GOLD LIGHTER AND TAKES A LONG DRAG. SHE MAY HESITATE BEFORE THIS GESTURE. PERHAPS SHE IS TRYING TO QUIT, BUT THIS IS NOT THE TIME. A young man cleared his throat to get my attention. He was wearing a worn out black suit. 'Would you like a tour of the castle?' He asked. 'No, Not really.' I replied. 'I'd much rather be at the beach, and I only came up here because the other guests at the hotel would not stop talking about the attractions up here. You must give an excellent tour. They talk about nothing but this castle.' The young man looked a bit confused. 'I haven't seen anyone up here in two weeks.' He said. 'And I'm the only guide up here. I've been waiting here, hoping that a group of tourists would come up.' I was completely perplexed. So the other guests at my hotel had not been to the castle either? Was I really the only person to come up here? I allowed the tour guide to show me about the grounds. He explained the dull history of the great family that had occupied the castle, until it was used for ammunition storage during the war and it was accidentally exploded from within. I tipped him generously and he went home for the day. I watched his head of tousled hair as it disappeared down the weedy path. SHE STUBS OUT HER CIGARETTE AND GETS UP FROM THE TABLE. WE FOLLOW HER FROM BEHIND AS SHE MOVES SLOWLY DOWN THE AISLE. PEOPLE TURN TO LOOK AT HER. A MAN WHO SQUEEZES BY HER IN THE AISLE SEEMS TO PASS RIGHT THROUGH HER. SHE FINDS HER SEAT AND SITS WITH HER HANDBAG ON HER LAP. A TINY SPECK OF BROWN WHIZZES BY IN THE CELADON BLUR OUT THE WINDOW. IT IS A YOUNG BOY HOLDING ON TO THE RUSTED POLE OF A SWING SET. THIS IS THE THIRD TRAIN THAT HAS GONE BY HIM TODAY. USUALLY THERE ARE ONLY TWO TRAINS PER DAY. THE BOY IS MILES BEHIND US BY NOW BUT HE IS STILL THINKING ABOUT WHAT THIS THIRD TRAIN MEANS; WHERE IS IT GOING AND WHERE IS IT FROM? MANY IDEAS POP INTO HIS HEAD AND THEY ALL INVOLVE IMPROBABLE AND CHILDISH SCENARIOS; THE TRANSPORT OF FROZEN ALIEN BODIES, HORSES FOR COWBOYS WHO ARE NOW KICKING UP DIRT IN A DUSTY AND FLAT TERRAIN THAT WAS ONCE THE BOTTOM OF A PREHISTORIC OCEAN. HER VOICE COAXES US TO LOOK AWAY FROM THE TRAIN WINDOW AND BACK AT HER. I looked into the sky and I saw a glint. It looked like a tiny daytime star. It was gold and as it enlarged I realized that it was an anchor and it was coming closer towards me, descending down towards the earth from the sky, and attached to the sky by a golden chain. The anchor touched ground and it hooked onto a giant stone that had tumbled off the ruins of the castle. I approached it and I timidly touched it's gold chain. It was very tight and it seemed as if someone was yanking it from above, attempting to dislodge the anchor from the stone. The anchor was firmly clenched to the rock. I knew that I was incapable of helping to dislodge it. I looked up the chain and saw a tiny black speck descending it. As the speck got closer to me it became clear that it was a man, lowering himself down the chain. I was afraid. I hid around the corner of the castle. The man stood on the anchor with his hands on the chain and he attempted to rock it back and forth. I could see him becoming more and more weary. He attempted to climb back up the chain but he did not have the energy. 'Are you alright?' I called to him, 'can I help you?' He looked at me. His eyes were full of despair. His face was white. He was gasping for air. He tried to speak. It was clear he could not. He was suffocating. He dropped to the ground. I rushed up to him. He was soaking wet. So still. I knew he was dead. I held the mirror of my compact up to his lips. No breath. He had drowned. The gold chain began to shake and tug violently. I jumped away as the anchor broke free from the rock and swung wildly away into the sky. I was left with this drowned man on top of a hill in the parched grass, and I knew that I would never speak of this as long as I lived.
SHE TURNS AWAY AND OPENS A MAGAZINE. SHE FLIPS THROUGH IT RESTLESSLY. ANGLE ON A MANICURED FINGERNAIL AS IT TAPS ON AN IMAGE OF HERSELF WEARING A BEIGE WOOL SUIT. SHE SCRUTINIZES IT, FURROWS HER BROW, SHE SPEAKS AS SHE STARES AT HER OWN IMAGE. I returned to the hotel. The other guests were having tea. They all stopped chatting the minute I entered. I self-consciously helped myself to some tea. I sat down. 'Been for a walk?' Someone asked. 'Yes,' I answered, 'I've been up to the castle.' 'My, you are an enthusiast.' Someone else said. Looks were exchanged. Tiny smiles were repressed. I placed my teacup down on an end table. I got up. I left the room. I went upstairs. I packed my bags. I called a taxi. As I left for the train station I thought I could hear laughter from the tea-room. My name was whispered. I thought of the Celestial Sea, a world upside down, and how clouds come so close to the ocean. SHE BREAKS OFF AS THE TRAIN PULLS INTO A STATION. SHE EXITS. SHE WALKS TOWARDS THE INTERIOR OF THE STATION. As I stood on the platform, waiting for my train, I became convinced that I was someone's optically corrected image of a person who was upside down, existing in a right side up world, which I was seeing as upside down due to an inability on my own part to optically correct it. My feet felt light as I looked up at the relentlessly blue sky of these parts in which I saw the ether on which I actually walked. As the train came towards me I perceived it as upside down for a brief moment, as I imagined it as it ought to have been, and as it ceased to correct itself it formed an aggressive steel spiral that rushed at me like an enlargement of the spinning head of an electric drill. I screamed and stumbled and slipped out of one of my mint green pumps which, though attractive, I felt, often, as I carelessly gazed at my ankles when they were not in use, turning my foot to the side, really very perfect, a nice snapshot of them would not be out of place as an advertisement in a shoe shop or magazine layout, but these shoes were not meant for my body's reaction to the perceptual chaos now being fed to me by my eyes. Uncharacteristically unfriendly, for the Southern regions, the others on the platform glared at me suspiciously. WHAT IS SHE TRYING TO TELL US ABOUT HERSELF? OPTIONS: 1)SHE WANTS SYMPATHY. 2)SHE WANTS US TO PROVE TO US THAT SHE HAS INTELLECTUAL AND SPIRITUAL DEPTH. 3)SHE FEELS THAT COMPLEXITY IS A NICE COMPLEMENT TO PHYSICAL ATTRACTIVENESS. 4)SHE IS SAYING ANYTHING THAT COMES INTO HER HEAD, AND IT IS ALL MADE UP, TO KEEP US WITH HER. SHE CANNOT STAND BEING ALONE. AND SHE IS ALWAYS ALONE. 5)SHE IS ACTUALLY LOSING HER MIND (SEE PERFORMANCE NOTES FOR GUIDANCE ON THIS OPTION, SO MANY ACTRESSES FAIL WHEN THEY GO DOWN THIS PATH). I slipped my shoe back on and fabricated a look of amusement, a well worn arrangement of my features that damned the curiosity of those around me by advertising the trivial nature of what was fascinating them, that also, unfortunately, reinforced any terror or embarrassment I was feeling at the time by being connected in my mind only to terror and embarrassment. I have no idea what my face actually looks like when I am truly amused as I have never amused myself in the mirror. I think it may look like a photograph in a magazine. I have been told that it does. I hoped that my current dissimulation had the same effect; to flatten and distance me from the others, so that I would not be real to them in my moment of panic, but frozen as an image that would soon slip from their minds. What is beauty but the ability to be unreal to others and to have the great opportunity to not be real to one's self, like an enlightened being who is born with a talent for states of grace who has made the most of it by experiencing martyrdom, or attaining Nirvana, or any other ideal state of existence that separates them from the sprawl of humanity. How sad to use one's propensity for faith for a life of cynical disappointment. How sad to use one's own beauty to attempt to be more authentically human that one actually is. How sad I am, constantly stirring my tea in the most banal and unornamented way and only being truly beautiful when I am alone, gazing at my crossed and resting ankles in the compartment of a train to an obscure destination, in an attempt to have companionship and only encouraging the glib punishments of others; jibes and glances, things I hear as I leave rooms; the friction I produce by being. SHE TURNS AWAY AND CONTINUES WALKING TOWARDS THE STATION. SHE POINTS TO A POSTER OF THE MATTERHORN OUTSIDE THE TICKET OFFICE. SHE TAPS IT GENTLY WITH HER FINGERNAIL. This winter I plan to travel to the mountains. The new appeal of the mountains, for me, is that their proximity to the Celestial Sea makes them waterfront property. I will look up into the sky and try to see the bottoms of ships. No doubt people will think me odd and distant as I continue to gaze upwards; as I wait for another glint in the sky like a daytime star; as I wait for another brave man to descend into the air; as I wait to save him this time. SHE BREAKS AWAY FROM THE MATTERHORN. AS SHE GLIDES THROUGH THE STATION. SHE CUTS THROUGH IT'S CHAOS. SHE BECOMES CHATTY, SHE KEEPS TURNING TOWARDS US. IS SHE HAPPY THAT THE INTERVIEW IS OVER OR HAS SHE WARMED TOWARDS US. When I was a child, I came across my goldfish floating upside down in his bowl. 'He's drowned,' I said. Everybody laughed. 'But why is that funny?' I asked. 'Because you can't breathe to death,' my mother said, sarcastically, as she inhaled two lungs full of smoke from her cigarette. A man was killed by a falling coconut as he sat under the only tree on a tiny island in the middle of the ocean. The tropics are overrated. So is verticality. Horizontality can make one feel like she is doing nothing but rubbing tracks into the the ground; like a pen tracing random lines on a piece of paper. But the disasters of verticality in the forms of falling coconuts and drowning on dry ground make our horizontal paths seem lyrical in comparison. We meander. We leave lines like doodles until we board a train and travel in perfect arcs and straight lines. We have something of a composition when the pen lifts and we stop moving due to a visitation from above or a misstep in a journey to below. There may be some hope in the diagonal, but I have not yet traveled in that direction and, to be honest, I do not yet know how. SHE MOVES OUTSIDE THE STATION TOWARDS A WAITING TAXI. SHE GESTURES FOR IT TO STOP AND IT WAITS FOR HER. SHE IS SPEAKING MORE QUICKLY NOW AND SHE KEEPS GLANCING TOWARDS THE CAB. And I don't want to sound gloomy even though melancholy is a great additive to the impregnable nature of beauty, and cheerfulness comes free with every beam of sunshine. Those old tumbled stones from that crumbled castle. Is anybody really interested in them? Inevitably, someone climbs up that thorny path in the heat instead of going to the beach. And inevitably that person thinks, 'what the hell am I doing here?' When that person is you, you may laugh to yourself or you may sit in the shade of a ruined wall and regret more than just the present moment. You may put an expression on your face that looks like amusement when you see another tourist or a guide offering his often subjective interpretation of the facts surrounding this site. Or the look of amusement may be for the self that you have projected inside the tower of the castle; the self that is watching you stumble over a rock or smack your own face in an attempt to kill a fly. Somebody or nobody or I once said, that the difference between us and ourselves is greater than the distance between us and other people. The problem with human life is velocity. We should be born as statues, looking wonderful, always. SHE GIVES HER HANDBAG A CRITICAL STARE. I wish my new handbag had a pocket to hold loose change. I am always dropping coins when I pull out my lipstick. People seem to pity me for that. SHE CLIMBS INTO THE CAB AND IT SPEEDS OFF. FADE OUT.