Points of Life
It's becoming more common to see worlds collide in our day-to-day experiences, especially in the art world, but it's not too often you see Berlin in Dallas, Texas. Shane Pennington, the Texas-based artist whose expressive exhibition, Leaving the Shade, was featured at Sur la Montagne on Torstrasse, ushered in the opening of the Moody Performance Hall with a digital media installation that drew direct inspiration and visual material from Berlin's Alexanderplatz. Entitled Points of Life, the installation features a 15-minute loop of digitally abstracted figures who inhabit the performance hall's key element: a specially-designed stage curtain that is a fully programmable grid of LED lights.
Pennington, who was approached by the City of Dallas Office of Cultural Affairs to create a piece specifically for this novel technological platform, harnessed the pixilated condition of the LED curtain to abstract the figures he documented moving through Alexanderplatz. The result is an experience somewhat similar to that of A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte, George Seurat's definitive pointillist painting. Pennington, who used this 19th century technique as a conceptual link, similarly utilizes our smallest representational unit to express a more comprehensive, encompassing view of life.
Inspired by his travels to Berlin several months before, Pennington created Points of Life from the over 10,000 images he took in Alexanderplatz. The installation channels the core of the modern city, and projects a larger abstraction of a larger communal energy while simultaneously foregrounding individual figures. In Points of Life, a narrative emerges where collective life is linked to the eyes of the individual, where the particulars of culture, personal history, and perspective are evident moment to moment.
The project itself is positioned in an interesting way: not only is the curtain itself a boundary between the back-stage and the audience, but Pennington's installation also functions as an interstitial experience. Points of Life is experienced in between the outside, “real” world, and the performative world that unfolds on stage. In working with a medium that exists as a transitional element, Pennington has created an installation that is fluid, crossing functional, temporal, and spatial limits.
On its most immediate level, the piece allows us to indulge in the simple pleasure of people watching as we wait for the beginning of a given performance or concert at the hall. But it also makes reference to the intended purpose of the new venue as a hub of social gathering, as well as the magical, transportive quality of the theatrical space, the barrier between the audience and performers literally beamed in from another world.