In his latest exhibition, Delphi_Essentials at Mid-Wilshire’s ACE Gallery, German-American photographer Philipp Lachenmann takes inspiration from two radically different yet similarly future-centric sources to better understand the concepts of vision and time. One of these inspirations is the ancient Greek Oracle at Delphi. The other is the Geneva-based CERN particle accelerator, which is famously tasked with finding the elusive Higgs Boson or “God particle.” This combination seems an odd one initially, however, the two together create a highly-imaginative and surprisingly informative viewing experience.
The artist visited and extensively photographed the ruins of the historic city of Delphi in preparation for this presentation. In antiquity, visitors from all over the Mediterranean would make this pilgrimage to the Oracle in hopes that Pythia, the priestess of Apollo, would answer their questions about the future. She would typically answer in cryptic riddles, leaving much open to interpretation. Built on a sacred spring, this hallowed site dates back to 1400 BC and was widely-considered to to be the center of the world.
Since 1954, physicists and researchers from 22 countries have been working tirelessly at both CERN and the European Organization for Nuclear Research to recreate the conditions of the Big Bang. In direct opposition to Delphi, with all of its modern technology, the CERN particle accelerators are looking backwards in time to the very beginning. In their attempts to do so, these researchers have named one of the particle accelerators Delphi after the ancient Oracle. As humans cannot see subatomic particles with the naked eye, they often have to guess what happened based on traces and clues. These temporal notions are crucial for Lachenmann in this exhibition as several of his photographs explore these themes.
Photography is often relied upon as the most objective method of immediately capturing a scene, but Lachenmann’s works resemble traditional, subjective oil painting with hints of brush strokes. As the viewer moves closer, however, these brush strokes seem to vanish, as the silver leaf surfaces reflect more. Perhaps Lachenmann chose to include this effect in this collection because the search for the Big Bang relies on older and older reflective light and radiation left over from this cataclysmic explosion.
In all of the idyllic landscape photographs, the candid portraits, and particle accelerators close-ups on display here, we are seeing a mere moment captured in time, just like the collision of subatomic particles and the starlight of long-dead heavenly bodies we gaze upon in the night sky, begging the question: can what be see be trusted in the face of inherent ephemerality?
Philipp Lachenmann: DELPHI_Essentials
Through December 16, 2017
ACE Gallery Los Angeles
5514 Wilshire Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90036