Myths are a source of meaning. To understand the roots of our behaviour or the etymology of words, we need to return to their origin, held in the complex web of the innumerable myths of all cultures. Historical ruins are fragments of our material history, traces of our civilisation. History is composed of memories of human experience and memory encoded in light is video. I work with light, in particular, I am interested in the way it interacts with matter and am fascinated by the contradictions inherent in different materials.
Ruins of Kasch (2008) was made as a dialogue with the NASA scientists who used Aerogel to collect interstellar dust particles. It is a fragile and difficult to manipulate material - working with it made me painfully aware of the relevance of fragmentation, not simply as a consequence of natural entropy, but as a contemporary social disfunction. Collaborating with a NASA chemist, I made Aerogel cones, onto which I projected moving images taken while travelling in different countries.
Now, this immaterial substance, made of only 2% silicone and 98% air, is essentially an empty web. Therefore, the Aerogel cones dissolve the moving images of the world into constantly changing strata of colour and light, blurring and erasing our carefully constructed meanings.
Temples are enclosures built to propitiate and connect with invisible forces and similar forces are at work in contemporary industrial transformation of materials. On a recent visit to Greece, I filmed and photographed the Sacred Way, a road leading from the Parthenon to the centre of the most important ancient mysteries, the temple of Eleusis.
This road and Eleusis itself is now mainly industrial. I was struck by the tendency to transform formerly sacred sites into the hubs of heavy industry. What do they hold in common? To find out, I managed to get permission and filmed inside a large steel mill and an oil refinery both situated on the Sacred Way.
Studying the Piranese watercolours of the basilica and temple of Neptune at Paestum in the Sir John Soane Collection, I thought of relating them to my images of the transformation of scrap iron into steel. The Paestum Collages (2011), look at the imagery of ruins as fragmented memories and offer them as an unending residue to the god of fire.
Much of my recent work is concerned with the pervasive fragmentation of memory and meaning in our culture and the associated need to continually shift focus and attention.
- I was torn from an early age between writing and making, the conceptual and the visual or language and sign. Recently, the two areas have been merging when I began creating text-based works that dissolved into light.
Poemdrums (2009-2011), are related to my Poem Machines (1962-68). They are cylindrical and text based works and, like the Poem Machines, they spin, disengaging words from the composed text. Each Poemdrum consists of three nested cylinders rotating in opposite directions and at different speeds.
The words of a chosen poem have been laser cut around the circumference of each cylinder, so that, in order to read the text, the viewer has to change focus, gleaning the inner words through the letter openings of the outer words. This is possible because they are lit from their centre. Seen in a dark space with eyes partially closed, the text on the Poemdrums appears to dissolve into strange luminous hieroglyphs.Liliane Lijn
Video: Dark Matter Poemdrum, Liliane Lijn, at the VERY magazine 16 Launch during the Liliane Lijn and Klaus Wehner exhibition 'Light Years' at Riflemaker, London