“The Spasm Between the Infinities”


Artist’s Statement About the Installation


The title refers to the video artwork presented at the hotel entrance. The artwork inside the hotel includes pieces related to the title theme along with artworks curated by Ken Rollins as a representative selection of my art from the past several years.


The video artwork examines our infinitesimally brief spasm of life between the apparently infinite amount of time before birth and the infinity of time after death. That little spasm between the infinities is viewed from a perspective that compares the scale of a human lifespan to the countless billions of years on either side of living. In contemporary life we are consuming time in fractions of milliseconds to best utilize work and leisure schedules. The installation’s viewpoint makes our entire lives appear as brief as a millisecond in all of time. Through that view I hope that we can see the enormity of value in the short time that we have.


I use the motif of three lines grouped together to represent the spasm of life. The three-line “spasm” motif is derived from the basic perception of pattern where one element alone has no meaning. Two could be a coincidental arrangement. But three elements related together is a pattern.


I’ve used the spasm motif in my artwork since 1983 to define space and create moods or rhythms. In the video the spasms are also used to symbolize different ways of living. There are images of spasms melting or burning like candles to represent how lives continually drip or melt away towards death.


There are three people in the video that have spasms over their eyes. They see the world through their lives and they talk about their frustrations, anger or joy in knowing that their time is limited.


The artworks in the hallway were created along with the video for this installation. Many of the images are directly from the video and all utilize the spasm as a symbol for life, lives or living. There are three self-portraits amongst the hallway photographs.


The sculptural heads are part of a series that explores how each person has a particular way of seeing life. Some are paranoid, looking desperately behind or ahead or below. Some are blissfully happy through ignorance. Some are incapable of seeing anything but their own life as represented by the spasm images over their eyes. There will be many more heads as I expand this series.


While I was in the middle of creating this installation that examines the brevity of life, my mother was suddenly diagnosed with terminal cancer. I had a studio filled with symbols of life fading away when she began to die. Before I learned of her illness I had already written the script for the character in the video who talks about watching a loved one die. In my career I’ve often seen how aspects of my art become life but this was too close to my heart and the borderlines were too blurry. I went to her home near Chicago and was holding her when she died in October. She had hoped to see this show but in many ways she was already in it.


Jeff Whipple