On The Conditions Of Production Of The Mirrored Floor Works (2009–)
Material Composition and Production:
The mirrored floor work consists of an expanse of shatterproof, mirrored glass placed over the floor of a gallery or institution’s exhibition and/or administrative spaces, which slowly cracks as the public and staff move across it (such as Untitled (LAXART: Los Angeles, CA, March 21–May 2, 2009, see pages 43–5, 96). The panels are installed wall to wall in the space. The glass panels are installed unbroken, and as the space is “used,” the work is produced by the movements of people across its surface. The progressive cracking of the floor alters the image cast within it, while also indexing the movement of a “public” through the space. In short, it is a work that is made by being seen and does not exist as an artwork in the absence of an audience to walk on it. Beyond this, there are secondary effects that occur, such as the audible cracking of the glass, the casting of reflections that change with the time of day and weather conditions, and a progressive transformation of these light effects as the mirror is repeatedly walked upon. Because of these variables, the work is never the same from moment to moment.
The floor panels are comprised of one sheet of mirror and one sheet of glass with a laminate between each layer. From bottom to top: 1/8” mirror > laminate > 1/8” glass > laminate > 1/8” glass > laminate. A 3M clear industrial safety laminate (3M Scotchshield Ultra SCLAR400 – 4 mm) must be applied to the surface of the mirror. This protects the floors from surface fractures and glass dust spreading throughout the space. This surface laminate protects the audience and installers from loose shards of glass and glass dust, and will keep the surface of the panels intact throughout exhibition, installation, and deinstallation. It is also a clear non-slip surface. Exhibitions of a longer duration may require an additional layer of glass and laminate, to be determined in collaboration with the studio.
Viewing as Production:
The mirrored panels on the floor do not constitute a work until the work has been walked on through the course of an exhibition. In essence, the work is made by being seen; the cracking of the glass acts as a material analog to the incremental accrual of meaning that occurs through the participation of individual viewers in the experience of the work. With a conventional work of art, each viewing constitutes a renegotiation of the meaning of a particular object. In the case of well-known works, this redefinition of the meaning of the work is minor when held in comparison to the accumulation of responses and perceptions of the work present within the social field. With unknown works, each moment of reception has a greater impact on the total accumulated reception of the work. The mirrored floor work functions analogously: the first viewer effects the work a great deal, while each subsequent viewer’s effects on the work are less legible than the last. The mirrored floor work changes form as these incremental processes occur, refracting and reframing its surroundings as it is experienced. As viewers traverse the field of the work, their movement constitutes a materially based exploration of the meaning of a work of art. The work’s appearance is highly contingent, depending on its architectural surroundings, the people in the space, the time of day, the season it is being viewed in, and the part of the world in which the exhibition space is located. Furthermore, because it is constantly cracking, these contextual dependencies are further complicated by the work’s material transformation, which alters the phenomenological experience of the work. The work itself cannot be seen independently of its context (as its surroundings are reflected in its surface), the time of its exhibition (as the effects of time and place are instrumental in the phenomenological effects of the work), or the audience that visits the site of exhibition (who change the work not only by their presence, but by their movements and their numbers).
Handling and Installation:
Before installing the panels, padding must be laid down covering the entire area where the panels will be installed. 1/4 inch Neoprene is the ideal material. This padding protects the glass from surface fractures (splintering) and allows the glass to crack according to the paths of those walking on the surface, rather than along the contours of the floor that lies beneath it. This material must cover the entire floor from edge to edge in the space where the panels are installed (a centimeter of space between panels can cause surface chipping).
The glass floor installation must cover the entirety of its exhibition space, without space in between the panels or gaps near walls, and should flow through all contiguous spaces. It should never arbitrarily stop, but must fill the footprint of a single architectural elevation, stopping only when there is an architectural break. The panels should be oriented based on the proportions of the space (the longest side of panels should be parallel to the longest side of the exhibition space). The US standard large panel size is 60 x 96 inches. These are used for areas of large coverage. The remaining area must have custom cut panels to fit into these remaining spaces. Any curves, angles, or niches in the space must be covered with custom cut panels. The panels should be placed as close to each other as possible and appear as seamless as possible. Any space in between the panels can cause surface fracturing and misalignment of the panels throughout the exhibition space. The fitting of the panels is the most difficult component of the installation and requires a great attention to detail. It is best to continuously consult with the glass company throughout this process. These panels, comprising the full installation, though interactive by concept, should be considered delicate works of art and should be handled and treated as such at every point in the installation and exhibition. As they trace the movement throughout the exhibition, they should never receive any unusual stress or breaks other than what is intended. Guards should continue to enforce normal behavior in the exhibition space; jumping, intentional pounding, or using foreign objects to impact the floor should be prevented just as they would during any other exhibition.
Upon deinstallation, the panels should be brought upright the same way they were placed horizontally onto the floor. At this point, they should be treated as artworks that will be displayed on a wall. The panels should not sustain any breaks or fractures after the close of the exhibition. The panels must be crated and shipped to Walead Beshty Studios no matter their condition, and no matter their size, custom cut or standard. They should be packed like framed artwork and protected for shipment as any other work of art, so that the panels do not sustain any further breaks or fractures.
The title for the mirrored floor work includes the place of installation, the city and state of installation, and the dates of exhibition. An example title might read:
Untitled (LAXART: Los Angeles, CA, March 21–May 2, 2009), 2009
Untitled (LAXART [place of installation]: Los Angeles, CA [city and state of
installation], March 21–May 2, 2009 [opening and closing dates of the installation]), 2009 [year of installation]
—Walead Beshty, 2009/201