On many levels, in our bodies and minds we instinctively feel that there’s a basic divide between ‘inside’ and ‘outside’, that comes as a crucial part of the human condition. Among other things, our building solid walls around us, to define ‘where we live’, with respect to ‘everything else’ can be seen as a quasi-literal physical expression of this: a means to represent how, as human beings, we want to relate to the broad reality that surrounds us. Most countries, however, prescribe laws for mandatory provision of fenestration as part of the definition of what ‘habitable’ space is. Windows, therefore, present a ‘compromise’ which is deemed essential to our inhabiting the world by enabling a finer-tuned, ‘incomplete’ detachment from the world outside. They are a measure of allowance. A means of negotiation. Moments of exception to the rules that bind the rest of the building (solid walls). In terms of connection and detachment, windows also present a small totem to a connection that was once more total (before the wall existed). They are described, defined, given shape, by their physical antithesis: the walls that surround them.
Windows are valves of equity. One opens and closes them to modulate how similarly two adjacent environments behave. They are often thought of, and devised architecturally, as a perfectly transparent, abstract light-transmitting solid element in a building. However, their broader material nature defies these expectations, and it is probably these unintended phenomena that most prominently lend them the familiar visual characteristics we’ve come to recognise in the fabric of cities, our visual interaction with them, and with each other. As the day goes by, they go through punctual cycles of part-reflecting, concealing and exposing elements on either side – the coming together of surveillance, vanity and wonder: they hide onlookers, and unknowingly expose those who only gaze at their own reflection. This makes windows, in effect, biased gatekeepers of visible light and human vision: throughout the day, they express the difference in luminance between the outdoors daylight cycle and that of interior spaces. The materiality of glass in windows actually expresses this continuum of off-sync luminance, as a byproduct of their intended abstract purpose.
The optically reflective component of glass which lends windows their appearance to the human eye, is often seen as a measure of its ‘imperfection’ as a material with respect to our needs. The less reflective glass is, the ‘clearer’, the more expensive it is. The material nature of windows therefore also pronounces this social currency, when light bounces off, in borrowed shapes, on neighbouring urban surfaces.
Windows invite daylight into manmade spaces, lending it their own form and texture. Once partly inside, since some component of light always bounces back out, trapped light traces the passing day by drifting across interiors. It reflects diffusedly off the smooth surfaces, mingling with spots and washes of electric light, devised to mimic all but daylight’s most defining quality: perpetual motion.
Photographs taken in 2019 – Santa Monica CA / Cleveland OH / New York
16.06.2021 – 14.08.2021 _ BLINK _ Valletta Contemporary ( Valletta, MALTA )