Installation View: Glasgow Science Centre, Scotland | Exhibition: Maurice Doherty, Glasgow International Festival (2008)
Life, Death And The Meaning Of The Universe
Format: Video Installation with sound
Duration: 11 minutes (looped)
Cigarettes were hung from the ceiling using thin thread. The cigarettes were then lit one by one and then the lights were switched off. Pinpoints of light emitted by the burning cigarettes formed different constellations. While being filmed the camera panned around the cigarettes, which produces footage that gives a feeling of traveling in space when the work is exhibited. After a few minutes the cigarettes started dying out and the space becomes completely black.
The video is viewed on a monitor in a light sealed space.
Life, Death And The Meaning Of The Universe (Video still) 01:12
Life, Death And The Meaning Of The Universe (Video still) 02:44
“In a separate dark room Life, Death And The Meaning Of The Universe (2001) runs for some fifteen minutes. It opens with Doherty walking in a fully lit room amongst suspended cigarettes, lighting and smoking each for a second or two. After the lights are switched off the burning ends populate the lens’s frame in a slow motion, some brighter than others, forging a view of a night sky or of satellites circling from left to the right. The red dots do not look like burning cigarettes any more. An alchemist would take something base and hope to change it into a higher value. Doherty selects something accessible and badly addictive, and transforms it into something adorable and unreachable and beautiful. Plato considered the universe as both imaginary and fashioned by the ultimate craftsman, the Demiurg by cutting, measuring, weighing…. Hinduism offers a belief that the universe is Brahma’s dream that exists only when he sleeps. Both philosophers and religious thinkers represent attempts to solve the great puzzle of creation. Doherty deflates that by making the link to the harm smoking cigarettes inflicts on its adherents. Nevertheless, the personalized difference of the switch from light to dark, from burning cigarettes to a night sky, posits the work into the matrix of conflicts and paradoxes of art, knowledge, and the existence.
The role of time changes according to the subjects “appropriate paradox”: the Self is governed by the natural law, the athlete’s time is artificially prolonged, and the universe’s eternity is cut short by the dying out burning cigarette ends. Organisms die, skills prolong, and dreams may or may not succeed.”
Circa Art Magazine ‘Maurice Doherty’ – Slavka Sverakova.”