The Geometry of Uncertainty and The Construction of Crisis
Through a simultaneous construction and deconstruction of meaning, the reading of well established signs and symbols are deliberately obscured in the work of Kasper Sonne. Common signifiers – deployed to achieve instant recognition in the viewer in order to create an autonomous entrance point to the works – are manipulated to reveal and expose a shift from the familiar, rendering the obvious ambiguous and prolonging the process of decoding – something that Sonne refers to as ‘extending the narrative of the singular cliché’. Much interested in dualities, Sonne often investigate, invent and reinvent, words, phrases and objects that are capable of representing oppositional stances.
For ‘The Geometry of Uncertainty’ the artist had two regular heptagons laser cut from large sheets of aluminum and then painted and machine-polished a high-gloss black by a professional car painter. After being send to his studio, Sonne then cut lines on these high-finish industrially manufactured objects with a screwdriver, connecting the seven sides of the heptagons to create the geometrically form of each of the two possible regular heptagrams – more commonly identified as seven-pointed stars.
Geometry being an ancient science part of mathematics, is concerned with questions of size, shape, and relative position of figures and with properties of space and is thus a representation of the build world, the logical and the known, and the heptagram is originally a sign thereof. But throughout history this scientific creation has also gained a much different meaning. Appropriated by various religious groupings, from Christianity to Judaism and occult organizations like the Ordo Templi Orientis, the seven-pointed star is also a representation of the unknown, the mystical and magical. In many Christian religions the heptagram is a symbol of perfection – or God – and the seven days of creation and is believed to ward of evil. Some pagan religions believe the heptagram to be of magical power and the infamous occultist Aleister Crowley – dubbed “the wickedest man in the world” – used the heptagram as the star of Babalon, a goddess found in the mystical system Thelema, established in 1904 from Crowley’s writing of The Book of the Law. In her most abstract form she represents the female sexual impulse and the liberated woman, although she can also be identified with Mother Earth, in her most fertile sense. At the same time, Crowley believed that Babalon had an earthly aspect in the form of a spiritual office, which could be filled by actual women—usually as a counterpart to his own identification as To Mega Therion – The Great Beast.
From afar the lines cut by Sonne look quite precisely executed, but up-close it becomes clear that this is not the case. Cutting through the perfect surface of the heptagons with a screwdriver as his tool – reminiscent of hard manual labor or perhaps even vandalism – proves incontrollable by various imperfections. From differences in depth and width of the lines, to the breaking of the paint and small traces of slips of the hand, the otherwise sublime fabrications are no longer flawless. And so, in Sonne’s work it is not only the meaning of the heptagram itself that is uncertain, but also the very outcome of its formal materialization.
This is also the case in another series of work titled ‘The Construction of Crisis’, inspired by Ovid’s version of the ancient Greek myth of Narcissus and Oscar Wilde’s famous novel ‘The picture of Dorian Gray. In Ovid’s tale the handsome youth is punished by the gods for his vanity and the spurn of his admirer – namely the young nymph Echo – when made to fall in love with his own reflection in a pool of water. Not daring to drink from it in fear of shattering this image of absolute beauty, Narcissus eventually dies of thirst gazing at his own mirror image. In Wilde’s much later story the young and beautiful Dorian Gray is doomed by a similar self-obsession, when his wish that the portrait painted of him grows old instead of himself is granted. Plunging into extreme hedonism and cruelty, Dorian’s portrait serves as a reminder of the effect that each act has upon the soul, with each of the young mans sins being displayed as a disfigurement of his form or through a sign of aging. In the end Dorian tries to destroy this evidence of his immorality, but ends up destroying himself instead.
Ovid’s story is likely to have it’s roots in the old superstition that the reflection seen of one’s self in water, was the reflection of one’s soul and thus the subject to harm should anything happen to damage the reflection. The Romans, who were the first to make glass mirrors, later attributed the superstition of the seven years of bad luck when breaking a mirror, to their belief that life renewed itself every seven years. This superstition – handed down in history and still widely believed today – laid the foundations for Sonne’s construction of crisis. After creating a mirror by laminating black mirror foil on a piece of ordinary window glass, Sonne then breaks another piece of window glass with a hammer, before laminating it on top of the mirror. And so it is essentially only the top piece of transparent glass that is broken and not the host of reflection. By this manipulation – the construction of the illusion of a broken mirror, one of the most exhausted of clichéd images – Sonne questions our notions of belief, myth and superstition, as well as our notions of art. With reference to Nietzsche’s theory in ‘The Birth of Tragedy’ of the ancient dualism between two types of aesthetic experience, namely the Apollonian (identity, order, regularity, and calm repose) and the Dionysian (intoxication, forgetfulness, chaos, and the ecstatic dissolution of identity in the collective) Sonne orchestrates a similar conflict in his work through the deployment of tactics similar to both Conceptual Art of the 1960’s – the highly planned execution that stems from a carefully conceived thought – and early Expressionism in the 19th century – the act of coincidence and carelessness. Dualities are ever present in Sonne’s work, be it in contradiction of terms, the reduction of color to black and white, the hand made and the industrially produced or in this case the rendering of an act of violence into something poetic, destruction into beauty.