Here is a description of a recent seminar that I presented at the VISR (Vancouver Institute for Social Research) on April 1.
Crystals have both a literal dimension and a metaphorical presence representing both a thing – crystalline solids- and a way of thinking about multiple facets and transformation. Through the figure of the crystal, this talk brings together theoretical, scientific and art historical approaches highlighting a shared fascination with these resilient and always emergent formations.
‘The Crystal World’ refers to the 1966 work of fiction by J.G. Ballard and Cyprien Gaillard’s 2013 exhibition at PS 1 in Brooklyn. Both works navigate unfamiliar geographical sites and explore the relationship between desire, nature and erosion. In varied ways, the atmospherically lush and mysterious environments evoke crystalline images where time is compressed producing a profound effect of opacity and indiscernability. Gilles Deleuze takes up the figure of transparency and reflection in his work Cinema II: The Time Image particularly chapter four, “The Crystals of Time” where he considers Post WWII cinema in light of the time-image, fragmentation and internal limits. Through a reflection on various films he offers us images of a world full of doublings, mirrors and dynamic extension. Drawing out the simultaneously actual and virtual potential of the moving image, the concepts that he proposes evoke models for looking at unconventional and otherworldly expressions of space and time, literature and visual art, organic and inorganic systems. The crystal circuit or the compression of unfolding time brings to the fore recollection, memory (real and virtual) where “Ever vaster circuits will be able to develop, corresponding to deeper layers of reality and higher and higher levels of memory or thought.” Like crystals themselves, the metaphors that they call up inhabit border worlds between genres, lifeforms and rhetorical strategies not to mention the slow geology of molecular time and space.
Gilles Deleuze, “The Crystals of Time” in Cinema II: The Time Image (1989)
Mark A. Cheetham, “The Crystal Interface in Contemporary Art: Metaphors of the Organic and Inorganic” in Leonardo (Vol. 43, No. 3, 2010)
Supplementary Reading: J.G. Ballard, The Crystal World
Sookoon Ang, Your Love is Like a Chunk of Gold, 2011