In the Theater of the Sun
As the ultimate number one, the Sun is the obvious role model for the aspiring tyrant. A solar economy configured in a totalitarian model works by fostering a heliotropic relationship between the energy-deprived masses and their energy-endowing leader. His mythic singularity transforms him into the source of all metaphor. Stalin followed this path, nourishing his subjects with “the glow of paternal generosity” while also “reducing them to ashes in the pitiless rays of his ‘just’ wrath.” This is the reason that overthrowing the “fascist institution of the sun” is the basic “dream of all great revolutionary moments in history.” While the configuration of the solar economy is mostly no longer totalitarian in the Sun-god fashion of twentieth century dictators, it remains coursing as an active circulation of hazardous energy nonetheless.
In the midst of this circulation, the two-part exhibition Were the Eye Not Sunlike takes hold of and expands on the heliocentric metaphor. One part of this exhibition takes place on ACRE TV, an online video streaming network, for which a broadcast of moving image work by sixty-two artists has been organized into three chapters, Sunrise, High Noon and Sunset. The program tracks the optical, energetic and emotional fluctuations experienced throughout the day. The second part, an exhibition at Fernwey Gallery, shows the work of three artists, Assaf Evron, Danny Giles and Lauren Edwards, whose works take up the solar tropes of time, transcendence, power and subservience. They are joined by Danny Floyd, whose essay “Looking at Nothing” unfolds from an understanding of how our senses meet the world halfway, and Mia Nolting, whose artwork and design grace this publication.
Revered as a divine force in and of itself, the Sun has long been associated with political or spiritual potency. Ancient civilizations in Mesopotamia and Mesoamerica built pyramids in an attempt to concretize the tiered hierarchy of the cosmos. The Pyramid of the Sun in Teotihuacan, for example, is believed to have been a space for spiritual devotion to the elements of fire and water . The structure is celestially charged as well, its site and orientation determined by the path of the Sun and functional as a calendrical marker. The pyramid form is the ideal merger of horizontality and verticality, a stepwise coupling of the earthly plain and the sunsoaked sky. Assaf Evron’s pyramidical Untitled (Richard the III, Leopold Jessner, Emil Pirchan, 1919), 2015, is a model for a different monument, the 1919 Berlin State Theater stage setting for Leopold Jessner’s Richard the III. In the play, the tiers of the stage served as temporal markers on which different scenes played out in the story of Richard’s ascent to power through murder and manipulation. The piece nods toward the heliotropic upwardness of the politically ambitious while slyly revealing the theater as the foundation for all political and spiritual leadership.
It so happens that the Sun has quite the stage presence, transfixing the audience’s eyes while maintaining a vigilant gaze itself. Danny Giles evokes this circulation of seeing in his two-piece work, Late Romance I and II, 2014-15. The two sculptures reclaim the convenience store surveillance mirror as a surface for an image. Spray painted on its face, almost as an act of vandalism, an orange and purple sunset redirects our gaze upward. The surveillance mirror asserts its presence as a solar overseer, but also becomes a space for contemplative looking, a space that is directed upward. Nearby, Giles’s As Above, So Below, a bright white hand-twisted rope of synthetic hair, furthers this perpendicular relationship. A comment on the escape to be found in self-stylizing, the rope promises a reverse-Rapunzel getaway, recalling the poet Velimir Khlebnikov’s promise of transcendence: “When I get tired of myself / I’ll fling myself into the golden sun.”
Escapes from or into the Sun recur throughout Were the Eye Not Sunlike. The hypnotic rays of the banal yet captivating star provide such an escape in Lauren Edwards’s contribution, Three Suns, 2011. Central to the work are the ubiquity and sentimentality of a sunset and its reproduced image. Collapsing both time and space by superimposing two found images of the Sun on the horizon, Edwards’s work evokes a nostalgic, impossible place. In their intentional misalignment, the grassy horizon of one image eases into the orange clouds of the other. Are these suns rising or setting? A subtle debasing of the singular helios, she creates a scene in which the printed sun, the projected sun, and the projector flow together in a circuit of collapsing images. Bodies passing between the projected sun and the projector create a staccato rhythm and an illusion of passing time, but it’s just an illusion. Here the Sun only ever hovers in the offing.
Recently, efforts have been made on the part of political leaders to reinstate or reclaim the relationship between the body, time and the Sun. In 2007, Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez set the country’s clocks back half-an-hour through a presidential decree, citing, as he put it, “the metabolic effect where the human brain is conditioned by sunlight.” In 2014, Bolivia began running its congress building’s clocks in reverse, a symbolic, indigenist embrace of Bolivia’s hemispheric relationship to the sun. In these gestures, the solar circuits are channelled, the gaze drawn upward, and the cosmic cycle translated onto the terrestrial plane. Statecraft has not left the theater of the sun, and neither, as the artists of Were the Eye Not Sunlike attest, has the work of artistic production.
Third Object would like to give sincere thanks to all of the artists in thisexhibition and video program for the many ways they contributed ideas and materials to this project, as well as to ACRE TV and Fernwey Gallery for their generosity in collaboratively hosting this exhibition.
 Victor Tupitsyn, “Civitas Solis: Ghetto as Paradise.” The Museological Unconscious,(Cambridge: MIT Press, 2009), 18.
 Sam Kriss, “Manifesto of the Committee to Abolish Outer Space.” The New Inquiry. February 2, 2015, <http://thenewinquiry.com/essays/manifesto-of-the-committee-to-abolish-outer-space/>.
 Reza Negarestani, “Solar Inferno and the Earthbound Abyss,” Our Sun, (Milan: Istituto Svizzero di Roma, 2010), 3-8.
 The series begins with Sunrise and its thematic associations of stillness, ritual and intimacy. Reflecting the course of the earth-bound day, the following program, High Noon, salutes the warmth and optical energy of a bright, full sky. Sunset, the final chapter, evokes impending darkness, melancholy, loss and reflection. See back cover for program lists and air dates.
 Department of the AAOA. “Teotihuacan: Pyramids of the Sun and the Moon.” Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History, (New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2000–),
 David Summers, Real Spaces (London, New York: Phaidon Press, 2003), 161.
 Quoted in Tupitsyn, 13.
 Rory Carroll, “Chávez turns back hands of time by half an hour,” The Guardian. 9 Dec. 2007.
 Sam Jones and Sara Shahriari, “Bolivia turns back the clock in bid to rediscover identity and ‘southernness,’” The Guardian, 25 June 2014.