Annenberg Community Beach House, Santa Monica

Light the Barricades

We were distracted. We were stuck. We were cruel. We wanted to reflect and atone, but we found only billboards shredding our attention and screens destroying our dignity. So we sought new rituals for sitting side by side while contemplating the barricades within.

Light the Barricades reimagines the wall as a site for contemplating our inner obstructions in an age of distraction. Shining a light on the difficult emotions that thwart our progress, this public installation is inspired by the ancient I Ching, a philosophical system of diagrams first carved into the wall of a prison cell three thousand years ago. Believed to be one of the oldest books in the world, the I Ching provides a guide for weathering the flux of life, particularly the emotional obstacles of resentment, judgment, and doubt—qualities that increasingly seem to dominate American life today. Emphasizing the value of communal as well as personal introspection, the I Ching reminds us that “keeping still when faced with obstruction provides an opportunity to turn inward and resolve our difficulties.”

Inspired by these instructions, Candy Chang and I created a series of three electrified shrines that combines the wisdom of the I Ching with the rituals of pilgrimage and silent contemplation observed by the world’s faiths. Illuminated from within, each lightbox represents an emotional barrier that fuses the widescreen perspective of Chinese landscape paintings with today’s textures of metal, noise, and alienating architecture. Light the Barricades offers a ritual that invites passersby to walk along the border of each lightbox while reading an illustrated fable before sitting for a five-minute reflection with an illuminated hourglass and a pointed question about resentment, judgment, or doubt.

The Doubt wall on the beach in Santa Monica

Commissioned by the Annenberg Space for Photography, the lightboxes were located at Grand Park, the Annenberg Community Beach House, and the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County from September 6 through September 22, 2019 and then be displayed at the Annenberg Space for Photography from October 5 through December 29, 2019 as part of Walls: Defend, Divide, and the Divine, an exhibit that examines the historical use and artistic treatment of walls over centuries. Extending into the gallery, Light the Barricades also encourages visitors to anonymously share their inner obstructions while considering the experiences of others through a video installation of select responses. By reconfiguring the experience of Chinese landscape scrolls, luminaries, and private devotional images, Light the Barricades provides a modern ritual for these distracting times.

The Resentment wall at Grand Park, Los Angeles
30-second trailer for Light the Barricades

Los Angeles, 2019. On view at Grand Park, the Annenberg Community Beach House, and the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County from September 5 through September 22, 2019. On view at the Annenberg Space for Photography from October 3 through December 29, 2019.

Three 27′ w x 8′ h lightboxes; 21′ x 18′ gallery installation. Lightboxes: Chinese ink, photomontages, solar panels, aluminum, polycarbonate, vinyl, LED lights, concrete. Gallery: concrete, projection, audio.

Commissioned by Katie Hollander and the Annenberg Space for Photography. Exhibition curated by Dr. Jen Sudul Edwards. Project management by Stephanie Brown.

Annenberg Space for Photography
Los Angeles, 2019
September 15, 2019
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