In Nowhere and Everywhere at the Same Time, No. 2, artist William Forsythe hung 80 pendulums in a vast museum hall and gently programmed them by computer to create a choreography. Viewers can simply watch the mesmerizing movement of the pendulums. Or they can enter the choreography with the proviso that they don’t interfere with it. To do that, of course, they actually have to negotiate with the choreography, which is where it gets interesting. As Forsythe explains,
By negotiating with it, you actually become part of it and in some senses you are choreographing your own role within the choreography.
They become part of the artwork itself.
The title of Forsythe’s work, Nowhere and Everywhere at the Same Time, is a reference to the blind French resistance fighter Jacques Lusseyran, who used the phrase to describe the boundless mental canvas upon which he envisioned forms and composed ideas; allowing him ‘to see topographies and project strategic movements of groups of people’ without the aid of sight.
The images from the video have stayed with us since we first viewed it: their sea-like movement with feeling of impending randomness threatening to upset the harmony of the movement of the “choreographic objects”. We couldn’t help seeing the people trying hard to anticipate and respond to the pendulums around them as a sort of metaphor for what we all often do day to day, navigating forces around us to make our way…
Here’s a somewhat different iteration of Nowhere and Everywhere at the Same Time filmed at 2011 Taipei Arts Festival. The pendulums are not programmed, rather, they are in a kind of quiescent motion, interacted with by a very expressive dancer, yet another view of navigating, negotiating, choreographing…
Forsythe’s pendulums also reminded us of the pendulum a friend had hanging in his room many years ago. He’d inherited it from his grandfather who used it in his engineering practice. Like Forsythe’s pendulums, it had the alive quality of a kinetic sculpture even when it was barely moving. It made us wish we had one. So of course we went on the hunt. Pendulums are also known as plumb bobs and they are indeed like sculptures. You can buy them new in all sorts of materials here. We’re thinking the Draper 130G Steel Plumb Bob is close to the beautiful lines of the pendulums in Forsythe’s work.
Vintage plumb bobs have an elemental beauty, like these from Etsy.