People who are both blind and deaf may have installed in their houses instruments which spin to create a breeze. On feeling the current of air, the inhabitants can tell that someone is at the door.
Graham Gussin’s work reminds me of this, not only in its form, but also in its conception. He often creates a sense of arrivals and departures, of one world confronting another, of something on the threshold.
Gussin likes to bring the senses together, and even to see them confront each other and clash. Moving well beyond the simply visual, his works regularly suggest invisible or visible sounds and signals, received at first- hand or at a distance. His sense world may be both close to us, literally in our face, but referring also to something elsewhere, at one remove.
Coincidentally thinking about Gussin’s work while listening to experts discuss the philosophy of Bishop Berkeley (1685-1753) brought together two seemingly sympathetic systems. Berkeley’s insistence on the senses as our gauge of reality seems pertinent. Objects cannot be verified as such, but are bundles of qualities, experienced by us as ideas.
A humorous modern limerick, written by the cleric Ronald Knox, glosses Berkeley’s insistence on our apprehension of the tree being more real than the tree itself:
There was a young man who said God
Must find it exceedingly odd
To think that the tree
Should continue to be
When there’s noone about in the quad.
It was answered with:
Dear Sir, your astonishment’s odd
I am always about in the quad
And that’s why the tree
Will continue to be
Since observed by, Yours faithfully, God
Gussin’s work too rather often depends on sensation in relation to being, and asks us to consider objects as bridges between one place and another, or one time and another. These places and times may be more or less far apart: from the domestic to the inter-planetary, from just one generation to many.
This kind of dualism is at once humorous and serious, absurd as well as documentary. Perhaps I might loosely extrapolate from the notion of ‘dynamic realism’ as a means of focusing on the way Gussin combines the passive and the active, the sense of passage and carriage, the simultaneous and the delayed reaction. Though some of his objects are designed to move they nonetheless sit impassively, while others have movement almost relentlessly imposed upon them.
Gussin named one of his recent works News from Nowhere, and beyond this specifically British historical reference, the title reminds us of Gussin’s long standing fascination with Nowhere and Nothingness, while at the same time offering us proofs of somewhere and somethingness. His works talk openly about their own homesickness: their vertigo, their wanderlust, their nostalgia. He calls up or maps fictional horizons and wavelengths. Those proofs seem, semi-scientifically, to assert their truth exactly because they act in different ways, tracing, transposing or enlarging, moving randomly or constantly. Discs of all kinds spin or glow, small miracles seem to explode quietly around us. Gussin’s objects demonstrate their presence by demonstrating ours; we are more than spectators, we are their witness, asserting their existence.