The Future Stands Still But We Move In Infinite Space

Submitted by Joe Thurston

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Client: Urban Renaissance Group / Regional Arts and Culture Council

Location: Portland, OR, United States

Completion date: 2016

Artwork budget: $210,000

Project Team

Lead Artist

Joe Thurston

Site Specific

Artist

Sean Healy

Public Art Manager

Kristin Calhoun

Regional Arts and Culture Council

Overview

This large exterior work was created to activate a full block of the 6th Avenue bus mall in downtown Portland, Oregon. There is a total of 36 etched and illuminated mirror boxes integrated permanently within the structure of the building. The reverse etched imagery within the artworks begins with a view of the building from above; as the viewer walks down the street the boxes reflect a progressively distant perspective of their location, ending with an image of our galaxy from afar. The piece, titled after a line in Rainer Maria Rilke’s Letters to a Young Poet, engages the concepts of time and space with the hope of providing grounding context for modern city dwellers who so often are looking down into increasingly micro universes. This installation instead attempts to draw the viewer not only to look up and engage with the piece itself, but to reflect on the human experience and our place within it all. Whether encouraging the individuals to later stare at the stars, or to stare deeply into each box where the images are reflected infinitely, this piece hopes to slow the lives of passersby and perhaps remind them of our place in time and timelessness.

Goals

This piece was informed by the Regional Arts and Culture Council’s desire to reference the site’s visual history. The outdoor street-level windows once looked down into a vast underground print shop, so the committee desired the pedestrian experience of looking into an alternate world and a feeling of visual vastness. We achieved this through large back-lit infinity mirror boxes that take the viewer on a journey upwards from their precise geographic location out to the edges of our galaxy.