Synchronicity (East Lansing)

Robin Meier and André Gwerder 2017
Exhibited at MSU Broad Museum East Lansing, Michigan
Group exhibition: The Transported Man, April 29 – Oct 22 2017
Curated by Marc-Olivier Wahler
Supported by MSU Federal Credit Union, the Swiss Arts Council Pro Helvetia, Audemars Piguet, the Eli and Edythe Broad Endowed Exhibition Fund and the MSU Broad’s general exhibitions fund

Synchronicity is a series of installations exploring the emergence of natural cycles and synchrony inside an artificial biosphere. Live fireflies and crickets are made to flash and chirp in unison with two synchronising pendulums by manipulating the insect’s behaviour through lights and sounds. Inspired by this synchrony an array of electronic devices join the chorus and start to flicker, buzz or move in unison.

In East Lansing, we used specially bred fireflies from a lab in Bangkok. They seemed less ready to synchronise than their brothers in the mangroves, maybe the stringent import restrictions or the absence of the artists put them in a more arrythmic mood? We were nonetheless happy to refine our research of behavioural manipulation through gentle lights and sounds. And what a pleasure to be part of Wahler’s inaugural exhibition The Transported Man at the Eli and Edythe Broad Museum MSU.

Inspired by a magic trick described in Christopher Priest’s 1995 novel The Prestige, The Transported Man exemplifies the three phases of a magic trick, wherein a magician appears onstage (the Pledge), disappears through a door (the Turn), and reappears immediately through another door (the Prestige). But how can a magic trick help us understand an artwork? The spectator of a magic trick wonders what happened in the ineffable moment when a magician disappears and reappears at the other side of the stage, in the same way a viewer might wonder what happened when a piece of soap, a mirror, or a shoe reappears as a sculpture.

To be efficient, a magic trick, like many other illusions, relies on a system of belief cultivated between the magician and his or her audience. The wider the gap between what the audience sees and what it is asked to believe, the more efficient and spectacular the trick can be. A good trick works only if the spectator can navigate between these two poles—between the feeling of witnessing pure magic and the impression of seeing an ordinary scene. If the spectator decides to consider only one of the poles (a simple fact or pure magic), the trick won’t work. The belief they attribute to what they see acts like a cursor in a field implemented not by category but by intensity, wherein an object can be transported between various states of presence while gaining the power of embodying multiple identities.

The Transported Man is organized by the Eli and Edythe Broad Art Museum at Michigan State University and curated by Marc-Olivier Wahler, Director. Support for this exhibition is provided by the MSU Federal Credit Union, the Swiss Arts Council Pro Helvetia, Audemars Piguet, the Eli and Edythe Broad Endowed Exhibition Fund, and the MSU Broad’s general exhibitions fund.