Opinion: The Universe in a Dandelion

An “interactive immersive installation”
Simple hand motions or full body movements make “Dandelion Clock” an immersive and interactive piece. Jenny Gorman

    There are not many pieces like “Dandelion Clock” to be seen around the South Fork, and that is both too bad and kind of wonderful. The reason it is wonderful is that the “interactive immersive installation,” in the words of the artist, John Carpenter, remains on view at the Silas Marder Gallery in Bridgehampton through this weekend, and it would be a good idea to see it.
    The piece is a video installation in the gallery’s loft, a great open space for artists to play in and for audiences to focus on one or two strong works. In the case of “Dandelion Clock,” it doesn’t look like much at first, although the tightly compacted seeds of the dandelion can seem like a universe just before a big bang.
    But move closer and blam, it happens. As the viewer approaches, depending on the angle and movement, the seeds may quiver, morph amoeba-like, or explode into a galaxy of their own. Any motion will do, and viewers’ experiences of it depend solely on their own interactions with it. One can stand still and meditate or move an arm or two or make sweeping or clapping gestures. Children can find endless ways to play with it in their joyfully uninhibited fashion. Even dogs get in the act. All they need is a wagging tail and the curiosity to follow the motion of the seeds they alone have spread about. After 30 seconds of no movement, the seeds gather back into their perfect orb.
    The metaphors for this piece are endless and entirely personal. As with everything else, you get out of it what you bring to it. There is also something very reductive and pure about it. Mr. Carpenter takes a sophisticated, low-tech approach that forces the viewer to help in the piece’s realization. In a world of immersive gaming technology, this is like going back to Atari Pong, only now you are on the court.
    Having so much control over one’s experience can be heady in these uncertain times. The allusions to an all-powerful god or master of the universe are unavoidable and enticing. Who wouldn’t­ want to rule such an enchanting, delicate, and peaceful domain?
    “Dandelion Clock” is on view through Monday, along with other pieces from the show “Past and Present” by Grayson Perry, Ernesto Cai­vano, Robert Olsen, and Lee Ufan on the first floor.