Through its four giant ventricular spaces, the sculpture questions the essence, manifestation and order of the object in relation to perception and the individual’s way of representing the world and the spaces it occupies. As the viewer walks through the inner space, various associations with forces of flows and receding tides can be made, waiting to be awakened from their thalassic sleep. Kapoor’s sculpture is a process of emotional disclosure, as the depths seem to withdraw across the surface of the object, in a constant tension with the descending light. Dark shadows walk across the emptiness only to illuminate one’s presence inside these giant wombs. The material and the non-material vie with the ghosts of an unnamed, unspoken presence, as if the objects would duplicate to define what remains invisible within a substratum interceded with reality. As light pours inside this dormant beast, transparencies give birth to ghosts that walk the nightly structures, inviting the viewer to an outfield.
The dimensions of this installation create a feeling of material, vibrant force through which the artist communicates a transformed mental state, an archaic experience that challenges the symbolic interpretation of the visitor’s presence. A void seems to infiltrate between the frames, only to generate a beastly figure. The viewer apprehends the visual field as a contained, informing absence that comes to life along one’s movements; unchained, it disrupts the perception of space and time in a constant challenge of negativity. And as the light pours down along the wombs, the body loses its density to let our gaze hover beyond the form, within a deep lurid field. It is our body that turns into a living mechanism of interpretation, while it drifts intestinally and crosses the cavities of the installation in search for a momentum of understanding. It is this transitional phenomenology, of constant expansion of and beyond emptiness, that visitors experience when crossing the space. And it is the acolyte passage of time and movement that gives the Leviathan a phenomenological presence and experience. Sensations configure different perspectives that describe both the object’s geometry and the geography of emotions it generates. Their virtuality creates a reflection that gives the viewer a deeper sense of her/his perspectival distance, with subject and object in a fragile state of equilibrium, constantly reversing positions. As the visitor walks through the wombs, like Jonah inside the belly of the whale, the distance accumulates into a mental state the eye and body must accommodate. The subtlety of the artistic gesture can be seen in the way the object thus becomes perceptible and interpretable beyond its given materiality – the Leviathan is an object of intuition and a latent rememberance which gradually unveils its meaning. But to reveal this emptiness and let the light shine through is also an act of blinding, as if we’re asked to see with our inner senses, deprived of what the eye can see. It is a look through the void, the voiding gaze that penetrates material densities to restore the contradictions of an original state.
Kapoor's Leviathan is not an object, but the image of an object gaining on its form. It does not manifest itself as form until the visitor passes through and awakens it from its dormancy. The object is a living and vibrant organism trapped within the structures of the Grand Palais, pulsating inside it – awakened. Light makes the emptiness travel through the darkened form to attain the airy plenitude of presence.
The pulsation imagines the transitory nature of form as mediator between the present and the converging temporality of a permanent presence. This phenomenological transition, where space is given time to generate affects, also defines the transition of viewing. The visitor must constantly question the very conditions of visibility. How do we see the conceptual void? How does one gaze at the uproaring tides of material vibrancy? What name can be given to that which is not even perceptible? Light circulates through the empty intestines; it illuminates the dark peripheries of form and transforms the negative dimension of space to create a medium of perception that is simultaneously inside and outside. Through time, space manifests as an interior energy and vitality reverberating across the surface of the quasi-transparent membrane and gravitating in a state of calmness. The simplicity of the geometrical form challenges the complexity of the outside structure, as if wraiths would elongate their shadows to haunt our blinded vision. Kapoor’s play between the inside and the outside reverses our sense of presence – while the wombs seem to shelter the void, one experiences the void outside as well, as if the surface of the object would be a darkened, blinding, therefore visionary mirror.
There are no functions, there is no reality. The object transforms itself into a void through the pulsation of which intimate relations between the inside and the outside, the visitor and the immersive medium take form. Kapoor’s Leviathan is an artistic gesture of awakening – we see the dormant void sheltered within the material only so as to better apprehend its vibrant physicality. Space opens beyond form and time opens outside presence, in a permanent echo and an absolute emergence. It is this resident, residual mythology that gives shape to the void. Like an organism embodied within a steel and glass structure, the Leviathan is a dormant landscape; it transforms the architectural space into an emergent landscape of inner reverie and vision.
The sensation of a giant belly and the recollection of our first moments in life communicate not only with the past, but also with a future created through the complete derealization of the object’s materiality. It is the very difference between the inside and the outside that Anish Kapoor is able to make, it is their material and elemental difference that the artist brings to expression to challenge and displace sight, to turn our gaze inside. The obscure power of color seems to be an organic incursion within an ensanguined cavity, the reconstitution of a state of intimacy and familiarity suspended by our own gaze. Thus, Kapoor brings our own bodies into question. Could the Leviathan be the mother’s bleeding body? Is it the innocent body of a lover? Is it my own empty body? Could it be the father’s absent body? Where does the Leviathan lie in all of us? Where does it roam? Whom do we shelter deep within?
The play of shadows in Kapoor’s Leviathan is a play of the dual and the duel.
When light pierces through the object’s membrane, it duels with the darkness and calls it forth. The dual play of the inside and the outside is but a fold that transforms the object’s geometry into a fluctuating topology where the body welcomes the awakening of the Leviathan only to confront its own visionary awakening. This mythological condition of presence manifests parallel with the object’s geological force and the impression of a giant mechanics at work inside the empty space where the visitor confronts her/his own existence. The dual construction of outside and inside is the duel of moving forces – one which is blinding (the Leviathan) and one which attains vision (the visitor). The one who awakens the Leviathan from its dormancy is the one to make the passage from sight to vision and, therefore, to bring vision to expression.
Ultimately, Anish Kapoor does not create an object; he creates the illusion of an object through which we can negotiate our paradoxical presence and our paradoxical condition for seeing. The straight look becomes a diagonal gaze, moving across the surfaces to gain in-sight of its vibrant matter. The inner self is defined through a carnal reappropriation suspended within the void of its own materiality – it is this phenomenological transition, or ceremonial passage, between the material and the immaterial that unveils the unstable entity within, the giant captive in an ambivalent state of dormancy and movement, life in its process of accumulation, and the eye as an instrument that must close to point toward the locus of accommodation.
These fragments are part of Transitional Phenomenologies. An Essay on Anish Kapoor, by Sabin Bors. Various unedited parts of these fragments have been published as presentation text to Anish Kapoor’s Leviathan in Arhitext magazine, Spheres and Voids, no. 5 (231) / September-October 2013.