As a continuation of his remarkable In the Roaring Garden video which ingeniously re-envisioned Henry David Thoreau’s iconic cabin and the watery landscape on Walden Pond, William Lamson offers In the Roaring Garden (Rotation), a video which turns and transforms his previous work upside down – literally and figuratively. To place the new work in context, the first In the Roaring Garden (previously exhibited at Robischon Gallery), was originally commissioned for the deCordova Museum’s introspective “Walden Revisited” exhibition which examined Thoreau’s experiment of living a life of self-reliance in concert with, not against, nature – a notion with thoroughly contemporary and even life-altering implications today. In the Roaring Garden involved the creation of a floating camera obscura, in this case, a cabin-like room that served as an optical device where light passed through an opening to illuminate an interior surface as it projected an exterior image, upside-down in color and in perspective to record a video of the landscape as it moved over the 1:5 scale model walls of Thoreau’s cabin reimagined by Lamson as an artist’s studio. In the resulting previous video, the projected image of the Waldon Pond landscape moved ceaselessly over the interior of the one-room cabin illuminating the walls, furniture and tools within the space. Lamson captured mesmerizing sparkling sunlight reflected off water, meditative clouds and swaying green trees as they crept across his imagined interior; all to the sound of lapping waves, rushing water and birdsong over the course of the peaceful eighteen-minute video.
In contrast to the sublime stillness of watching the projected images of the changing landscape move across the static objects of the imagined artist studio of the first video, In the Roaring Garden (Rotation) disrupts Lamson’s illusionistic space by closing off the aperture to the natural world outside and physically rotating the model upside down. The forces of Nature are seen through a different lens, one of disruption and gravity, as they play out in characteristic poetic Lamson fashion where overwhelming physical forces meet a kind of objectness symbolic of human endeavor. In contrast to the languorous passing of virtual days and nights of the In the Roaring Garden video, an uncanny choreography of In the Roaring Garden (Rotation) offers a tumbled view, one disconnected from an ordered nature to something at odds with it as furniture slides up walls in non-conforming disarray. Shafts of light pierce the windowless, rotating interior through the narrow cracks between the floor, walls and ceiling in a strangely different presentation from the clear, expansive landscape of illumination which manifested in the earlier work. The entire set, model, props and rotating armature floated upon a raft on the Hutchinson River in the Bronx, New York, located at the edge of the northernmost borough where numerous transportation networks and a massive public housing infrastructure reside. The landscape remains entirely invisible in the video, yet its undercurrent is felt through the drone-like sound of passing cars and the chaos of the never-ceasing urban activity. By exploring two videos through a singular inspiration and more broadly moving into the investigation of equilibrium itself, Lamson makes clear the contrast between the condition of being in harmony or in direct opposition to it. As in most all of Lamson’s work, what is explored is the pursuit of the everyman to harness Nature, but what is ultimately revealed is something wholly uncertain.