four walls

Looking back, a year after this piece was completed, it seems to me that the work is not really, as I said at the time, about space, but actually about myself.

Or it's about a different kind of place - the space of the self.

It also references the original live work that I made in the period 93 - 98. In one of those strange circular forms that become evident after making artwork for a long time, this piece recalls those performances of the early 90s - solo, on a journey, open-minded, intense.

In those early works, the subject was clearly autobiographical but in this piece the content is more oblique - talking about the self as the me that we always project outside onto the world. So from London to Paris, Taipei to Tokyo, the story always remains inside.

The bubble of the self is everywhere.

The piece also looks towards atmosphere as the ultimate goal and sees life as a series of dusks or sunrises - both physical and metaphysical. In fact, the original title for the piece was 'dusk' and this quality of emergence, of merging that is evident at twilight is clearly present in the work. This is most obvious in Pt 4 of 'four walls' where I visit the Confucious Temple in Taipei.

I've often thought that atmosphere is a quality that is very undervalued in our culture. It's the thing that allows us to stay in a room, a park or a building for a long time, happy just to be there. This feeling of being here is something that I've tried to develop in my work, particularly in the large-scale 3-D installations '.sciis' and 'iamme', where very little visual material is shown on screen.

Q. What would make you stay?

It sounds simple but it's the most difficult question of all, especially in virtual spaces where the tendency is to overwhelm the user with sensation in order to encourage them to stay online. In 'four walls' it's this simple need for atmosphere that finally leads me to Ryogoku-Bashi Bridge in Tokyo, meditating on the little blue houses by the riverside. Rather than the spectacular man-made beach in the harbour or the high-rise apartment blocks, this is the experience of Tokyo that will stay with me - cycling alone down by the river, seeing a motorbike submerged at the water's edge, looking out over the vast reed plains, birds flying low.

These are the things that made me want to stay.

So perhaps this feeling of atmosphere is not predicated on buildings, time or even space itself. It's finally to do with ourselves. All architecture melts in the face of the self. No forms are real but are simply abstractions, conduits, patterns, narratives.

The self that begins this piece by walking down a road in Camden Town discovers, through a series of encounters, that the world is in fact indivisible, shifting, transitory, vulnerable.

It's this world of impermanent forms that 'four walls' accurately describes.

Michael Atavar 2004.

''I bring my own world into existence, live it out, and take it with me when I die' Kosho Uchiyama - 'Opening the Hand of Thought'

Credits - Michael Atavar - data, Mia Huang - screen animations.

Thank you to Martin Marshall and Mia Huang for their generosity in Taipei and to Ida Ryogokudo Zazen Dojo in Ichikawa City, Tokyo for their hospitality in Japan.

'Everybody welcome'

Back to four walls.

Close window