Present to See the Fall: Thoughts on Aeneas Wilder’s Kick at Temporality

With a kick Aeneas Wilder’s sculptural installation “#156”, nearly two stories tall, collapses in a loud, eerie decent. It is as if in the moment of collapse we are interacting with the death of a thing, but it’s just atoms shifting place. The opening for Wood, Paper & Fiber was unusual even in contemporary art standards. It offered both an opportunity to see new, vibrant work, and the opportunity to experience a larger spectrum of what a show is beyond mere observation. There is something enthralling about the destruction, the temporal and being part of it, even as an observer. Students, faculty, artists and patrons all lined up to watch in their respective ways. As encounter, something more than a performance, the moment lacks any substantial verbal dialogue. There is a grace to it, a meditative quality. I’m tempted to argue that this is a meaning of visual art, or that this is an interaction between the material world and the world of aesthetics, but the Greeks have hashed that argument out enough (Plato’s Republic, Book X in particular). I can’t help but feel that more importance must be given to the questions this piece, this moment conjures: why are we drawn to these dialogues? Maybe not everyone is, but those who were present to see the fall seem to carry a little that moment even after. What seems most strange is the premeditation of the whole event. The pieces may or may not outlive the time it took to construct them and for the most part that is premeditated. Aeneas exudes a Zen-like state while constructing these pieces. He has his music (an epic grouping of eclectic and worldly songs and sounds), a careful and mathematical layout; he measures with precision and care. He keeps the lines straight and level. When it’s done and time to let the pieces submit to gravity there is a tense silence. The divide between the artist and his work seems to resonate and expand. Maybe the performance speaks as allegory for life, chaos and uncertainty. Maybe I’m reading too much into it. It’s a moment I carry around and think about every time I see the circle-pile of wood outside the Gallery office. I wonder if it’s the lack of dialogue that brings me back to that moment, trying to decipher why it feels so important and why I trust that feeling.

– Rachel Carstens
MFA student, Creative Writing