Lichtzwang
– Edmund de Waal

You put a breath down, and then another one.  

There is only daylight here, through the great double doors. And it comes in through the skylight and ebbs and flows across the walls, changes. As it moves shadows gather and disperse. Why should everything be lit, pinned against walls in the dead light of a gallery, held for the moment when you pass by? There is a beauty in the fragile, contingent moment of seeing only what you can see.

On the wall opposite the doors are two huge vitrines. They hold hundreds of small porcelain vessels, no more than a few movements, glazed in a spectrum of whites. Some have a touch of silver on their rims or bases. They are placed like words on a page, or people passing through a building, or a glimpse of a musical phrase. This installation, Lichtzwang, takes its name from the title of a book of poems by Paul Celan, a man for whom language was a necessity and a terrible response to silence. It is a neologism, a new word, a bringing together with pressure of different sounds.  

Vitrines pause the world. You put something into one, close the door and let it rest. They are also a line drawn in space, a graphic way of describing a particular volume amongst all the other volumes of rooms, or houses, or landscapes, or spaces in a city.

Lichtzwang is my attempt to see if I can draw in the air, hold collections of porcelain vessels in this particular way. It is the gamble of making something out of a fragile material and then the act of putting it into the world as an installation, a collection, a breath holding together these objects that can so easily be scattered. It is taking a bet on people, family, history, that it will stay together, but knowing that it often does not, cannot. Putting these small porcelain objects into a vitrine in a shadowy space in a complicated place, held only by Lichtzwang – the pressure, force, compulsion of light – is enough.