London, UK | 1988


The Shadow Theater came about in a rather haphazard manner and in retrospect (though it is perhaps anachronistic to look back on something that begs the deferment of its own completion) provided the most satisfactory way of bringing into proximity two disparate aspects of the previous work: the engendering plate with sigils and the cameo (root) plate. The fissures or gaps inherent, yet invisible, in the constitution of both plates were only manifest in the process of their making, or in a “close reading” of that process. In other words, the instability of the ground they establish is understood only by the knowing observer; the outward aspect, irregardless of the accidents of pattern and design present an appearance of unbroken continuity. A synthesis of the two plates was neither possible nor desirable. Instead a kind of “double mirror” would be inserted between the two faces of the work, which would serve to expose the instability of both. This mirrorlike interface was first suggested in an unsuccessful effort to “break down” and list the characters, objects, and actions described in the cameo (root) plate; with the naïve idea that this list would serve as a program for the design of a mechanism and figures (puppets) that would possess the order and mutability of a language. The attempt to construct such a mechanism failed, paradoxically, because the classical hierarchies always latent in the project would simply reassert themselves in a closed or seamless manner. It was therefore necessary to provide some means of access, a window as it were, between the cameo (root) plate and the engendering plate in order to effect a disclosure. The shadow elements provided this means for while they did partake of certain parts of the initial cameo (root) listing, they did so in a way that would foil any merely synthetic reading. Instead they participate in that process which in the words of Alfred Jarry, “Symbolically attributes the properties of objects, described by their virtuality, to their lineaments.” The “shadows” themselves pointed the way for they operated as a kind of cue card cum blocking (for those actors who always forget what to say and where to say it). They are the trace of everyday objects suspended between the cameo (root) and the engendering plate [now a screen door “every window needs a screen”] serving the double purpose of revealing and concealing that which we find closest to us and at the same time withheld from our grasp.

Project Info

Type: Installation


Project Credits


Jesse Reiser + Nanako Umemoto

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