Lamp Lightning

Karen Kedmey
Oct 1, 2012 12:13AM

I grew up in the Midwest, watching wild, bone-rattling thunderstorms sweep across the plane of our fenced-in backyard. I've been missing these storms for a decade now, living in New York with its toothless thunder and lightning. I never would have thought that Katie Paterson's Streetlight Storm (2009), which I stumbled across during a recent visit to Storm King, would so effectively evoke the wonder and thrill of watching lightning and transport me to a smaller version of myself, seated crossed-legged in front of a picture-window, staring out at the electrifying flashes in the sky. And she manages to do this in the tame space of a lamp, in this case, the ones mounted on the outside of Storm King's Visitor Center and easy to overlook. The wall label near the window in the stairwell alerted me to the lamps. Their softly glowing lights were continually flickering as they registered transmissions of actual lightning beamed to them (somehow) from a giant antenna in Great Britain. For me, it was the scale of the work and the unmistakable, inimitable, real-time lightning rhythm of the flickering that made it so affecting. Ray Bradbury writes about a day that contains all summer; Katie Paterson contains all lightning in a lamp.

Karen Kedmey
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