The bright shore hypnotizes the dark one.
–– Tomas Tranströmer
My scenarios for video-installations emphasize their theatricality of means and, many times, ends considered more the province of the playhouse. This preoccupation is easily explained by my experience as a playwright. The installations I conceptualize are likely to treat the spectators as an audience, viewing a dramatic action (the video or film projection) from the other side of a proscenium arch. Indeed, my schema will sometimes include in the site design a proscenium arch, however stylized, to frame the action. Such a strategy will confer upon the objects shown – on stage or in the moving images projected within the theatrical space – a significance well beyond their intrinsic worth. The same can be said of a found poem, the ‘snare-pictures’ of neorealist Daniel Spoerri, or the subversive strategies of Duchamp. In The Balcony of the Moon, drama has been reduced to essence: a space consecrated to an event made meaningful by the space itself and its power to evoke sensations and thoughts, regardless of how unformed or inconsequent.
The Balcony of the Moon allows the spectators to invade the stage – the installation space – as they enter the proscenium, pierce the implicit proscenium arch, and walk through the moonlit colonnade onto the balcony – there, to witness the otherworldly spectacle of our Earth rising against the lunar horizon.
Note: Ours is an image-making age, and we may be suspicious of images that appear faultless in their execution. By image, I mean not only the sensuous effect of the moving images but also of the video-installation as a whole. In its creation, there ought to be something deliberately impoverished, unfinished, or imperfect in order to deny and critique the appropriation for commercial use of images belonging to private mythologies. Neither a set for a music video or television ad nor a theme-park attraction, The Balcony of the Moon is conceived as an engine of wonder – even awe. Its meaning is ambiguous, the questions it raises, unanswerable. It is, in other words, a poem.
A colonnade leading to a balcony on the moon’s verge. Cast-iron, black and slender, the columns stand in two ranks arranged so that each will be visible from the entrance to the installation, i.e., they simulate, in their arrangement, a perspective view whose lines would, ultimately, converge on the moving image of the rising Earth, projected onto the cyclorama. Of identical material and construction, the balcony’s uprights and rails form a semi-circle or bow thrusting into space. Rhyming it is the curve of the lunar circumference, inscribed in darkness beyond the balcony’s rail by projected (or fiberoptically conducted) light. The iron surfaces of the columns and balcony, when seen up close, are pitted as if by the collision of particles during time’s immensity. Columns and balcony are of art nouveau design. They are distinguished by their color from an otherwise dark gray set: floor, walls, and a ceiling as high as possible. The columns seem to vanish into the darkness above the stage.
Ideally, the set will be raked, inclining toward the balcony with its vantage of the lunar horizon, night, and Earth. (Opposing ramps paralleling each line of columns, to carry the spectators from stage floor to the balcony’s either side, is an alternative.) The floor – to reiterate – is dark gray, as would be the ramps.
The black iron columns and balcony are bathed in a soft white light – very little of which falls onto the stage floor (the lunar surface) or escapes into the surrounding and omnipresent darkness. The columns gradually fade to black at their uppermost reaches, i.e., where their capitals would ordinarily be seen.
The Video or Film Projection (the Action):
We see, projected onto the cyclorama that forms the back wall, the moving image of Earth rising above the moon’s gently curving horizon. Its measure, majestic, taking what time it needs to captivate the spectators who stand on the balcony and watch its distant prospect.
A profound silence suitable to that airless, windless place. If such a silence is impossible at the installation site, then perhaps an electronic score reminiscent of Morton Subotnick’s The Silver Apples of the Moon can be devised.
Norman Lock’s newest book is Love Among the Particles, stories published by Bellevue Literary Press, New York City. His play The House of Correction will resume its Turkish-language production in Istanbul, in the fall. The House of Correction is presently being translated into Polish; The Monster in Winter, into German. His new radio drama, Mounting Panic, was recently produced in Germany by WDR. Lock won The Paris Review’s Aga Kahn Prize and a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship. He lives in the U.S.