Sketches of Meteorological Phenomena
Art Basel Hong Kong, Discoveries Sector, with RaebervonStenglin, Zurich
Sketches of Meteorological Phenomena & Cairalience/Lighting (Three Ozone Notes)
Art Basel Hong Kong 2014
with ReabervonStenglin, Zurich
“[Weather consciousness] is something like a branch of astrology connecting the tiny human body to the cosmos at large...why is it that while we love to talk about the weather, what we say is so empty yet strangely satisfying? Could it be that what we mouth are the shreds and patches of previously vigorous magical correspondences? ...Hearken then to mana, the basis of magic, according to those early-twentieth-century anthropologists Marcel Mauss and Henri Hubert, who took mana, a Polynesian word, to mean a force and substance that magicians tapped into so as to accomplish their fine work, mana being something “invisible, marvellous, and spiritual...which cannot be experienced since it truly absorbs all experience.” This is most curious and certainly seems to match the enigmatic nothingness of weather talk today, that great something that is simultaneously such a great nothing. Could weather supply the model for magic?” (Michael Taussig, My Cocaine Museum, 2004)
Sketches of Meteorological Phenomena continued an investigation of phenomena at the edges of visibility and knowledge, through the reimagining of naturally-formed objects called ‘fulgurites’.
From Latin fulgur, meaning thunderbolt, fulgurites are created instantaneously when lightning strikes sand or particular soils to form glass tentacle-like objects. These unexpected forms freeze a temporal moment and give it solid form.
Much of Mitchell’s work is concerned with producing a tension between the seen and the unseen — both through suggested forces and experimental demonstrability. In particular, this work explores a form of ‘plastic invisibility’, investigating territories of transformation between different states of energy-matter and seeking to frame and invoke material and sensory qualities that are marginal, unstable, dynamic and durational.
The choice of material in order to investigate these territories tends to embody this logic — qualities immanent to a material’s nature or being. In Sketches of Meteorological Phenomena, glass: a shape-shifting material, simultaneously ancient and modern, liquid and solid or some alchemical in-between, was used to ‘draw’ glass fulgurites on and in undulating sand, by pouring hot molten glass directly on it.
These glass forms begun as an attempt to render weather concrete, yet enmasse they became/become many images: of frozen water; root systems pulled from the ground; rain-made-concrete; bodily fluids-made-fruitless.
The display method for these delicate glass forms quotes an exhibition at MoMA in 1934: Machine Art, curated and designed by Philip Johnson, which sought to value the aesthetics of objects created without artistic intention. A large platform lined with light-absorbing midnight-blue felt allows only just enough space for the viewer to walk around it. On this sits the delicate glass forms, laid out in an almost diagrammatic arrangement.
Alongside Sketches of Meteorological Phenomena, an accompanying work titled Cairalience (Three Ozone Notes) is comprised of a piece of paper with the aroma of ozone held between two brass strips on the wall. The odour is constructed through the fusion of three synthetically produced oxygen molecules used in the perfume industry. The scent is strong and particular — one that occurs naturally in the environment during a lightning storm — when ozone is indeed produced.