Wednesday, August 27, 2008

The Solar Mount

This is a diptych dial that I saw in Oxford recently: incorporating a compass and astronomical data, it was designed by Paul Reinmann's workshop in 1612 and it actually includes a miniature landscape view. Sundials are one of those indexical instruments that allow the environment, as it were, to communicate with us and therefore seem connected to recent art in the landscape, such as sound and kinetic sculpture, that reacts to the elements. The most spectacular example of a sundial as the basis for land art is probably Laurent Maget's 'Le Mont solaire' (2006). With the help of the French army he erected reflective aluminium plates on scaffolding bases around Mont Saint Michel to form Roman numerals, 'swept by the shadow of the 150 foot spire of the abbey atop the Mont, which thus became the pointer of a sundial, its shadow three quarters of a mile long.' On a more human scale, Ian Hamilton Finlay has made various sundials, including one at Little Sparta with the inscription 'poems written upon the breath / poems read between the hour lines'. Stephen Scobie has written about another: 'facing west, it also bears the full force of the Scottish weather—and, as the years have gone by, this sundial has weathered too. Moss grows on the wood; the carving of letters is worn and evened down. Marking the passage of time on a yearly as well as an hourly basis...'

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