One evening late in the war..., 2008

Installation view: Cerith Wyn Evans – The What If?... Scenario (after LG), Thyssen-Bornemisza Art Contemporary Vienna, Austria, 2013
Photo: Jens Ziehe | TBA21

Mauve neon, steel structure
110 x 472 x 10 cm

One evening late in the war… quotes from The Changing Light at Sandover (1976–80), a 560- page poem written in three parts over the course of more than twenty years by James Merrill and his partner, David Jackson. The poem is a transcription of supposed supernatural communications recorded during Ouija board séances. Considered to be a postmodern epic par excellence, it is an assemblage of voices that represent the self by means of an unbridled polyvocality. The excerpt selected by Wyn Evans is set in simple, everyday lettering, fabricated in neon tubing that emits a poisonous mauve glow. It is formatted into a readable paragraph that appears to be a suspended, translucent excerpt from a book. Hung at a comfortable distance from the wall, the neon paragraph narrates a short encounter that can be situated and approximated in time and space, featuring distinct and seemingly stereotypical characters and delivering a dénouement of sorts. It functions as a narrative “scene” in a cinematographic sense, but most surprisingly and much in accordance with the formal appearance of the work, it describes a queered character shift, a transposition from one identity to another and a contradiction of appearances. The erosion of certainties that is performed in the text on a literal level is repeated on a semantic and formal level as well. As a text the sequence tends to be seen and read materially; as a neon work it is perceived as translucent and immaterial. It literally seduces the viewer into various forms of participation and perception: reading, sensing, looking through, perceiving as light and/or color, while drily outwitting conventional concepts of identity, persona, and representation.

*1958 in Llanelli, United Kingdom | Living and working in London, United Kingdom