And Between Us, An Ocean

And Between Us, An Ocean by Caitlind r.c. Brown & Wayne Garrett (2022). Commissioned by PIKOU Culture for WAVELENGTH Exhibition at Times Art Museum, Beijing.

And Between Us, An Ocean is an optical installation evoking shifting perspectives, reciprocity, and distance. 30,000 repurposed eyeglass lenses create a curtain of polycarbonate plastic and delicate chain, shimmering like sheets of falling water. From afar, the installation appears to bisect the gallery with an undulating surface. As you draw closer, an opening in the curtain reveals itself, beckoning you through a narrow channel surrounded by tall glassy walls.

From a distance, your body appears to warp and shimmer as you move, transformed by the optics of prescription lenses. The true nature of the artwork is participatory, inviting a relationship between one side of the shimmering curtain, and the other.

Above: audience perspective photo by Arizona Sun (left), 黄晓丹 (middle) and 旻歌 (right)

Above: audience perspective photos by Brandy Liu (left two) and Barbara Yang (right)

Above: audience perspective photos by Shasha Liu, chatelaine & art collector.

Drawing from objects of the Anthropocene, lenses were sourced through a combination of factory defects in Beijing and unusable glasses from the Canadian Lions Eyeglass Recycling Centre in Calgary. (Learn more about the materials and process here).

And Between Us, An Ocean speaks to points of connection and separation; despite thousands of prescriptions, each one tailored to one person’s particular eyes, the installation invites an examination of our collective vision. What faint ghosts are carried by such intimate objects – windows on the world for the audience of one? How is our shared reality shaped by so many perspectives of the same place and time? Removed from their original purpose, the eyeglass lenses implicate something specific about the mass and scale of our human experience, and the power of our desire to see the world (and each other) more clearly.

The title of the installation conjures a narrative about yearning across distance. From a literal perspective, And Between Us, An Ocean references the physical and cultural distance between Canada (the home of the artists) and China (the site of the exhibition). From a more metaphysical point-of-view, the name evokes the distance between us, always, from the scale of atoms, up, and our many attempts to transcend this distance in search of closer relationships, interspace, and togetherness.

Photos captured by PIKOU.

Our sincere thanks to CLERC (the Canadian Eyeglass Recycling Centre) for contributing eyeglasses, and the WAVELENGTH team (especially Liya Liu & Yuqi Wei) for coordinating, fabricating, and installing the artwork. Thanks also to Pera Museum in Istanbul for commissioning the first eyeglass artwork in this series in 2015, sea/see/saw.

You can visit And Between Us, An Ocean at On the Edge of Senses (a WAVELENGTH exhibition) running until September 12, 2022 at Times Art Museum, Beijing.

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