PACE inverts and superimposes massive structures representative of two countries: Egypt's Great Pyramid of Giza and the United States' Washington Monument. The Great Pyramid of Giza is the oldest of the Seven Wonders of the World and the only one to remain largely intact. The Washington Monument ls both the world’s tallest obelisk and its tallest stone structure. Originating as early as 2613 to 2494 BC, around the time of the sun cult of Ra, ancient Egyptian pyramids remain marvels of technology, past or present. Their shape is thought to echo descending rays of the sun while smaller obelisks embody petrified rays. Built to honor the sun god, their polished faces shone with reflected sunlight and their names referred to solar luminescence. The obelisk’s elegant form was chosen to honor the USA’s first president, more than a century after his birth. After extended funding challenges, engineering obstacles and political interference, the Washington Monument’s original design was eventually altered to conform to the proportions of Egyptian obelisks and completed in 1884. The connections between past and present, east and west are embodied in this case of architectural influence and homage.
In PACE, these two massive structures swing back and forth like an upside-down metronome, in tense relationship to one another and unstable in their power. The sound bounces between two speakers, combining an invented “ticking” of the metronome with the whirring of an oscillating fan that blows from left to right as the pyramid and obelisk rock. The escalating and diminishing pace of their rhythm echoes the fluctuating pace of change -- of regimes, institutions and mindsets. The balance has not been struck.
Both the pyramidal form and all-seeing eye occur in ancient and modern art, and inform PACE. Man Ray’s Indestructible Object was originally made in 1923 and titled Object to be Destroyed. It is a wooden metronome (another obelisk form) with a photograph of a lover’s eye attached to the pendulum that could beat insistently and infinitely, like human desire. At a Paris Dada exhibition in 1957, a group of protesting students took Man Ray’s title literally and destroyed the sculpture; the artist eventually reconstructed and renamed the work Indestructible Object and created an edition of 100, stating ‘it would be very difficult to destroy all hundred.’
The all-seeing eye in Man Ray’s work may be the omnipotent eye discussed in Freud’s essay The Uncanny where it is associated with anxiety and fear of an external power that we rarely regard as benign. An Eye of Providence crowns the pyramid in the Great Seal of the United States, printed on the U.S. dollar bill; its source can also be traced to the Egyptian Eye of Horus, also known as the Eye of Ra, a symbol of protection, royal power and good health.
Before the 2011 Revolution, Egypt was the second largest recipient of U.S. aid after Israel, so connections between the two countries are more than symbolic. The current limbo of Egypt resembles the shifts in Man Ray’s titles: was the tyranny of Mubarek’s regime an Object to be Destroyed or, in a sense, an Indestructible Object? Will the old tyranny persist, be replaced by another or dissolve altogether? Is the people’s will (in any country) to be destroyed or is it indestructible?
This video is ideally projected on a wall, from floor to ceiling in height, to enhance the physical sensation of instability.