Valérie Kolakis' installation, Between (t)here, is made up of 50,000 small, etched glass disks lining the gallery floor from wall to wall. Upon entering the gallery, the viewer first encounters what seems to be an empty white space. The array of glass disks, like a thin, rippled sheet of ice, completely coats, and replaces, the floor. The piece is part of the gallery's architecture, at once a surface, covering the floor, and a screen, reflecting the ambient light of the gallery. Through its invisibility, Between (t)here questions not only its own presence in the space but also the viewers' capacities to perceive that presence.
Between (t)here is made entirely of glass, a material often used for looking through, as picture glass and windowpanes, or looking into, as specimen jars and vitrines. But the glass used in the installation is neither to be looked through nor looked into. Between (t)here presents an opaque reflective surface. The glass disks that make up this surface are like the pixels that make up digital images. Together the disks function as a surface or a screen onto which images could be projected physically as well as figuratively.
To further experience the piece the viewer is encouraged to walk on the glass. By doing so, the viewer experiences further the precarious presence of the installation. The disks shift slightly under the viewer's feet resonating delicately in the space. Here the mobility, the displacement of the viewer, amplifies acoustically the presence of the work. The work likewise amplifies the viewer's presence and she is made aware of the corporeal subjectivity of her reception of the work.
The physical proximity of the installation (the piece extends to the gallery entrance) renders it impossible for the viewer to synthesise its component elements into an image. The eye is not able to scan the surface. It is like standing in front of a body of water, like looking over the ocean. We can make out the bubbles, the fluctuating surface patterns, but cannot form an image of the whole. In his book Suspensions of Perception Jonathan Crary calls the fixed gaze ...an Archimedean point of stability from which consciousness could know the world. Looking at the ocean with a fixed gaze, the viewer can observe the shifting temporal phenomena that constitute and construct our world.
Unlike the undulating restless surface of the ocean, however, Between (t)here is fixed, a frozen surface. In Crary's book he postulates that a more contemporary mobile gaze has replaced the fixed perspective as a means of observing and interpreting the world. The fixed immobility of the installation encourages the viewer to look at it while in motion, to move her eyes and body over the surface, and in doing so, render her perception of the work active.