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World Upside Down

My favorite sculptor, Shirley Tse, invited me to create a video installation on top of her sculptures during her show at Shoshanna Wayne in 2012.

When researching my projects about medieval carnival I encountered the concept of "World Upside Down" or WUD, an anthropological term used to describe a function of medieval European carnival in which, for a day or two, everything is inverted: the prostitute becomes a queen, the donkey rides in the cart as the farmer drags it, the mice chase the cat, and so on. This inversion served to allow the peasantry to blow off steam, which averted revolt.

Shirley's ephemeral sculptures evoked a sense of horizon, of above and below, inviting the vision of a "world upside down," realized by the image of an inverted forest, whose colors are also flipped to the negative. These inversions are carried through in the audio, which is run backward. Reversing the audio happened to make whispering voices sound like chirping birds, perversely appropriate for our upended and inverted forest.

The backward whisperers are reciting a poem by William Butler Yeats, "The Stolen Child," the refrain of which entreats the human to go down, under the water . . .

Come away, O human child!
To the waters and the wild
With a faery, hand in hand
For the world's more full of weeping than you can understand.

The sculptures are illuminated by moving searchlights, reminiscent of Rodney Graham's "Edge of a Wood" from 1999, wherein searchlights scan trees at the edge of a forest, ineffectively penetrating the dark woods and envisioning the forest as a site of disappearance and mystery.