Tears in Rain
As early as Greek civilization, man has wondered whether all physical events
are caused or determined by the sum total of all prior events. If this theory
holds true, our actions themselves must be determined in an everlasting sequence
of cause and effect. What then is the source of the free will possessed by
living things throughout the earth?
Pondering the question of free will's role in contemporary society, new media
artist Janet Biggs has produced a powerful video work that will premier at
Claire Oliver Gallery, November 16 through December 16. Like Tears In Rain
inquires of the viewer, What will you do with your time on earth? Our actions or
lack thereof will have a lasting impact on the world around us. Exploring power,
control, and obsession, Biggs proposes new relationships between aesthetics and
strength, as well as action and desire.
Installed in the Main Gallery, beautiful and compelling large scale images of
the Citadel's elite Summerall Guard drill team are paired with those of a
champion equestrian who has been blind from early youth. Juxtaposed behind these
elegant images, the viewer sees captive polar bears swimming obsessively in
their small pool.
Self-evident is the will of some; they refuse to let anything deter them from
their goals. So strong is the desire to belong that others will sacrifice their
own free will to become part of a community. And what of those beings who's free
will has been taken from them by force? Clearly the viewer feels empathy and
discomfort in these images.
The Citadel, steeped in two centuries of military history, has never before
allowed an artist to capture the Corps signature silent drill. Biggs has
captured the obsession and passion of the beautiful cadets as they move in
seamless synchronization from a high Prussian marching step to the fluid, almost
slow motion, "death march". Each member of the guard relinquishes his
individuality to become part of the choreography of war.
Fierce in her search for independence, the blind dressage competitor Anne-Greta
orients herself in the ring by spoken cues from individuals standing
strategically in the arena who verbally announce the rider's location. In Bigg's
piece, the rider performs complex dance-like movements on horseback, masterfully
creating a pattern in the arena from the spoken cues: "All those moments will be
lost in time like tears in rain."
Lee and Anana, two polar bears who have lived their lives in a contained
environment swim in seemingly synchronized patterns. Although a casual viewer
may see a beautiful dance, the bears are, in reality immersing themselves in
endless repetition in an attempt to transcend their physical boundaries. These
most aggressive predators of man have been known to stalk their trainers and zoo
While at first glance one may be confused and unsettled by the intensity and
divergence of Bigg's imagery, upon further contemplation the viewer recognizes
the obsessive commitment involved in the choices made by the human beings and
the frustration that is instinctive in all living creatures to have mastery over
their own free will.
The title of Biggs' work, "Like Tears In Rain", is taken from the movie Blade
Runner: "I've seen things you people wouldn't believe…. All those moments will
be lost in time like tears in rain". Science fiction writer Philip K. Dick
attempted to define what makes us human; Biggs work continues that quest. Is it
society or individual will that defines us?
Janet Biggs' work has been exhibited at important museums including The Aldrich
Contemporary Art Museum, Ridgefield, CT; Katonah Museum of Art, Katonah, NY;
Contemporary Art Center, Cincinnati, OH; and the John Michael Kohler Arts
Center, Sheboygan, WI. She is in the collections of the Herbert F. Johnson
Museum of Art at Cornell University, Ithaca, NY; and The Robert J. Shiffler
Collection and Foundation, Dayton, OH. Biggs is the recipient of prestigious
grants and awards, including a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship.