To what extent must we make? What compels us to explore a space?
Extent- Extension – Ex–Tension
There is something about filling a space. Beili Liu, on the faculty for studio art at University of Texas, Austin, uses spaces to create site-specific installations. Upon entering Liu’s work I am filled up, but not with objects. I am filled by light, air, color, and sound that is not there, but I still hear it; a gentle vibration that occasionally waxes and wanes depending on the moray affect of the golden threads that cross the path of my eye as I descend and ascend the stairwell of Form/Space Atelier in Belltown.
Liu’s installation challenges the viewer on many levels and begs you to just be in the space and do nothing. I can’t help but wonder at the time, commitment, and passion for how she alters the space in the tender way she does. She has created a mesmerizing work that echoes the main feature of the gallery: its stairwell. Entering quietly, I felt as though I could hear the harmony of the thread, a gentle plucking harp like sound, I yearned to touch the thread and held back.
Yet there is an angularity with the sutures that hold the thread on each side of the stairwell. Stapled every ¼” or so apart, it’s as if the wall has been surgically manipulated with the tracing line of the echoed stairwell. It strikes me with a severity that is softened by the resonance in between the two sets of marks on the walls. Hovering 7 feet and 2 inches above as you descend or ascend, it’s like a gilded mirror peering into another world.
I had the honor of dining with Beili Liu and her partner Blue Way before their return to Texas. She discussed how she is “interested in working with line and tension that is the memory of line. Sometimes the work starts with the material and other times I respond to the space, in this case I was able to work with both.”
Liu works mostly with one material at a time and lets intuition guide her process. This is her 2nd piece using the golden mercerized thread and she’s created several pieces using red thread over the last three years. She shared, “I want my work to be worthy of people’s time and attention.” Taking two full days to install with Blue, he said, “She responds to process, the dominant element is the stairs in the gallery, she puts the art above the stairs, and that helps us be mindful of going up and down. If people don’t take the time, and just come in and go out, they might miss it.”
She’s excited about the process perhaps more than knowing why she made it. In a time when intention is pushed on the viewer, she is maybe asking us to just try to have an experience and then make-up our mind. Liu has created a world with new gravity, upside-down we glide on her steps, floating, clinging, suspended on our way, transcending the extension, reverberating within stillness.