How We Fall
How We Fall begins with a 360 degree view of gravel-like concrete remnants which have been recently agitated as evidenced by the unsettled debris lingering in the air. From the first scene, the darkness of the piece is defined by the black background and grey, ash-like subject. With 96 cameras surrounding the subject, the audience is taking in every angle of the moment. The subject matter then shifts as a greater amount of debris is unsettled and the dust begins to fill the frame. The background noise is similar to the sound of a distant rockslide, as you can hear the movement and collision forces, yet the sounds are muted. Different moments appear on screen, some that are stagnant and can be analyzed through a 360 degree view and some that depict a flash of movement.
Artist Sophie Clements plays with the concept of time as the movements of debris are dramatically slowed down, then sped up. The background noise parallels the building movement as the noise depicts a collapsing building that remains muted, but feels closer than the start of the piece. As the cameras continuously capture the different moments of destruction, the debris begins to take on unique shapes in which portray a certain chaotic beauty amidst the moment of tension and unrest. The noise develops to give a certain texture to the piece, as we feel the crunch accompanied with large concrete pieces breaking, and the raining of debris when the screen is completely overtaken by the cloud of destruction. The movement of the subject is now constant as the audience watches the debris be unsettled time after time again. After this jolt of motion, Clement then plays with the moment before complete destruction, as the concrete chunks and debris particles jitter back and forth. This pulsating movement is caught by every camera angle before continuing on to new scenes with the same pulsating effect.
The audio has taken on a sci-fi like quality with a high-pitched, electronic hum to accompany the tumbling sound of concrete. The agitation of the subject matter becomes less and less to the point that only a few particles can be seen out of place directly before the explosion of matter that consumes the screen. The piece ends with the fading of debris into a black screen.
Through this detailed depiction of absolute destruction, Clements elongates the stress and chaos associated with dramatic change. As Sophie Clements stated in the Barbican Blog,
With the use of concrete, one might assume Clement is suggesting the consistent change associated with urbanization and gentrification. The life span of a building is sparked by its creation, with detailed plans and elongated executions. This creation, once considered new or revolutionary, will end its time greeted by a wrecking ball, making room for something newer and better.
This concept of capturing a moment of intense, emotional change leads to personal reflection. Change is a key concept within the human condition. In this piece, the audience reflects on a period of devastation, loss, and the feeling of emptiness that follows the moment of absolute destruction. In contrast, however, Sophie Clements’s “Shall I hold You,” presents the same cinematography techniques with a very different message. While this piece captures the 360 degree perspective at different moments of a smoke cloud’s formation, the white cloud along with the warm orange embers depict a liveliness not found in “How We Fall.” The growth of the smoke cloud depicts the beauty in change, and the elegant process of progress and development. The two pieces form the pain and beauty associated with change, and through their technical similarities one can identify the process of loss and regrowth.
When evaluating the social context of this piece, 2012 represents a moment of transitioning governments as violent protests erupted in both Egypt and Syria. Islamists quickly created Egypt’s new constitution, ending the rule of Hosni Mubarak, while simultaneously creating new problems as minority groups were not accurately represented in the new government. This transition is largely symbolized by How We Fall, as the concrete remnants represent the destruction of cities and governments. By exclusively capturing the moment of complete destruction, the audience is left with a moment of absolute emptiness. The black background consuming the dull gray subject scattered over the floor begs the question, “What now?” On this note it is important to consider Hurricane Sandy in which demolished the east coast in 2012. When buildings and homes crash to the earth, the prospect of regrowth feels distant and intangible. The immediate feeling after the loss of a home or a government, institutions characterized by stability, is the feeling of absolute disarray and emptiness.
The Smithsonian Magazine has acknowledged the movement in its article, “Damage Control: How Artists Destroy to Create Art,” describing the theme of destruction in contemporary art since the 1950’s. The theme of destruction has become largely prevalent as a reflection of natural disasters and war that seem to become more common with every passing year. In Ori Gersht’s Big Bang, we see the slow motion digital video of the explosion of the perfectly still image of the bouquet of flowers. This piece evokes the same emotions as How We Fall, as the audience is forced to consider the transience of all things in this world. As described in the Guggenheim’s description of the piece:
This 2006 creation sought to demonstrate the powerful meaning behind capturing a moment of absolute destruction, which can largely be linked to Clements’s work today.
This ongoing concept of destruction in digital art is largely representative of the 21st century. With improvements in architecture, technology, and the foundations of infrastructure, society is likely to experience the collapse of the known and the growth of the unknown. Sophie Clements zooms in on the moment of change in which causes the most pain, alluding to the emptiness and devastation that follows.