a water strider calculus: the video work of Dennis Hlynsky
If you’re fascinated by patterns in nature — and you should be — then the videos of Dennis Hlynsky are for you. I’m not sure what techniques Hlynsky, who teaches at the Rhode Island Institute of Design, uses to create the tracer effect in his videos, but it’s a truly impressive effect in terms of revealing the diachronic patterns that emerge when large groups of animals interact through time. I’ve written about the swarms of swallows and bats that congregate near my house before, but Hlynsky’s videos add another dimension to the act of watching the shape of creaturely consciousness at work in the world.
Hlynsky’s videos remind me a great deal of the work of Hitoshi Nomura, an artist who catalogs the patterns he finds in nature in an attempt to reveal the unseen forces and forms that surround us as they are transformed across time. An early work from Nomura’s career, which spans 40 years or so, is his “Tradiology” sculpture — a giant cardboard tower intended to melt in the rain and slowly disappear as natural forces wear it away. While this early work — commonly lumped in with work by other artists associated with the Mono-ha tendency — examines the physicality of decay, his later works become more interested in the transcription of natural patterns into various artistic media. In his “Moon Scores” series, Nomura photographs the movement of the moon and transposes a five-line staff over the images to create musical notation. He produces similar works later by creating musical notation from the natural patterns formed by groups of birds flying through the sky. My favorite of these is a work called “Grus,” which was created by tracing the patterns of migratory geese. The music made from these patterns is played on classical instruments and sounds startlingly composed, as if it were a lost Phillip Glass score.
But what do all of these shapes and patterns ultimately add up to? They leave me with the same feeling that the Madelbrot set always does: they are patterns loaded with a meaning that is entirely ungraspable to me. They fill the world with meaning without allowing me any closer to the meaning itself.
There is one thing I’m sure of after watching Hlynsky’s video of water striders, however, and that’s that whatever hidden calculus runs the universe, it’s the water striders who clearly have the answer.
Filed under: art, Japan, music, nature, video | 4 Comments
Tags: bird flight, Dennis Hlynsky, 野村仁, Grus, Hitoshi Nomura, Mono-ha, Moon Scores, patterns, patterns in nature, water striders