The Banqueting Table
RUPERT WILLIAMSONís huge table, six metres long, is set ablaze with candles Ėat least potentially, with a table-top procession of wood and metal single sticks and branching candelabrums by some thirty makers. A dozen dining chairs, each by a different maker, complete the scene.
All together, this array is a tableaux of propositions about the mysteries of making. Making as a unique phenomenon, faintly glowing with that twentieth century aura of authenticity which Benjamin celebrated in the mid-1930ís, in The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction. Benjamin noted that the existence of the work, Ďwith reference to its aura is never entirely separated from its ritual function. In other words, the unique value of the Ďauthenticí work of art has its basis in ritual.í Attached to this passage is the famous footnote about the aura as a unique phenomenon of distance.
For all the domestic familiarity and the humanising function of these chairs around a candle-lit table, something of the sacred awe of the cult persists, and our perceptions are gladly distanced, and the aura briefly restored, even as we sit at the banqueting Table.
For Benjamin, the prime model for the aura-less world was the flickering surface-less quality of film, dissolving older perceptions of time and space. But Williamsonís table, as asymmetrical, polychrome, subtly skewed and referential as a complex totem-pole, owes something to the screen and to the computer program. Not only generating his drawn ideas as rotatable 3D models, but precisely calculating every angle of every slow-turning intersection and penetration of surface. But such measurement does not diminish the space between the distant and the close. In this table and its companions the embodied dimensions and humane analogies of the made thing still assert that aura.
John Houston 1998
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