A Place for Reflection

(dis)Mantle: A Place for Reflection

As an artist, I share a deep understanding of phenomenology, space, light and materiality with the field of architecture. My practice is focused on site-specific installations that explore the symbiotic relationship between the human body and architecture. The work seeks to heighten the viewer’s awareness of their relationship to the built environment, where the forces and tensions of construction, destruction, and restoration interchange their influences to emerge as thematic possibilities.

My current work re-envisions my temporal Guggenheim Fellowship project from 2010, titled (dis)Mantle, as a permanent outdoor structure and place for reflection. (dis)Mantle merges art and architecture to provide audiences who live in a post-truth culture with a place to contemplate truth. The beginning of understanding first requires an acknowledgement that your own perceptions might be inaccurate or misinformed. The process of reflection, which leads to new perspectives, is not easily learned in contemporary culture. A population full of conflict and anxiety needs places to slow down to reflect. The significance of (dis)Mantle is its ability to provide a place that reveals the deception inherent in vision and the compensation for the absence of truth which the mind undertakes as it relates to its physical surroundings. That which appears true may be false in relation to physical reality. The project
engages fast-paced, post-truth culture with silence, stillness, and a context to alter perception so one can return to the speed of everyday life with measured focus.

The permanent installation will be made of concrete and feature a horizontal line of lapis lazuli stone inlay and an exterior skin with irregular curves. Viewers approach the entrance and cross through the doorway which presents a markedly thin threshold between exterior and interior. Once inside, visitors adjust to a naturally lit interior of hand-shaped plaster surfaces with slightly skewed angles, where nothing is square. Light from the north windows and an oculus on the façade illuminate the space with a diffuse glow that changes throughout the day. A bronze plumb bob hangs from the vaulted ceiling to anchor the space with one true vertical element. The blue plumb line, subtle asymmetry of the architectural volume, and soft quality of natural light and shadow come together to heighten the senses. The longer one remains in the space, the more perception adjusts and potential for optical illusion increases. Untrue corners and edges of walls seem to be true while the plumb line which can appear canted; a physical impossibility. Perception is altered. The installation affords the public a place for turning inward, and resituates individuals in the physicality of the body and senses, so they may see and think anew.

I seek to identify a site/institution and funding to realize this project. Together, let’s face the challenges imposed upon perception by a culture that moves fast and lacks the means to measure truth. Let’s fulfill an urgent need: to make a place for reflection present within the public space.


Animation of sunlight moving through installation

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A video of the prototype plumb bob

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Jill Downen: A Place for Reflection

A longer cut of Jill Downen: A Place for Reflection.

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error: © 2003-2020 Jill Downen