Votive Space (2011)

Site-specific installation created for The Centre For Creative Collaboration, London.

Installation with live video over Skype 15-20 September 2011.

(Dedicated to all those seeking to hold space in precarity.)


Votive Space makes explicit the aspect of altar making that refers implicitly to a connection between the site of a candle and the Other that it appeals to or to which it is dedicated. Traditionally this Other might be both a deity to which prayers are directed and the loved one, living or passed, far away or in need who is prayed for. In such a way we can see the function of an altar as a node in networks of attention, a technology linking the self and others virtually and conceptually.

Part of a series of works investigating the (im)possibility of live flame in a gallery context, Votive Space uses the Voice Over IP technology offered by the telecommunications service Skype to show live video of votive candles burning in the homes of the artist’s collaborators, friends and family. Framed by an old-fashioned tent pitched within the gallery, the onscreen flame becomes the focused centre of a shrine or altar-like networked space that the viewer is invited to enter if they wish. Its presence is underlined by its simultaneous absence. A strange double faced deity presides over the space representative of the connection and confusion between self and other and is a surreal correlate of the icons we are familiar with in places of worship and images of loved ones seen at domestic altars. The tent is pitched inside in the spirit of children building environments for imaginary play; relying on basic tools, objects and materials and re-appropriating practices of survival for playful purposes. In this way votive practice is abstracted from its spiritual context and given resonance as a practical creative strategy capable of nurturing connection of all kinds.

The prohibition of naked flames in indoor public spaces does not generally allow for the creation of votive altars in an artistic context. Indeed, often the only public places where naked flames are permitted indoors are places of worship. Networking by wireless Internet however is almost ubiquitous and replaces older forms of connecting with others in much the same way that electrical heating systems have replaced open fires and chimneys. By uniting the functions of both altar-making and digital communications the artist creates a connection between old and new ‘technologies’, simultaneously drawing attention to the gradual obsolescence of old forms and offering a way in which they might inform how we use new ones.




The artist would like to thank the following who have generously provided connections to their homes and lit candles:

Mira Mattar
Tom Moore
Brigit Peppe
Anna Ricciardi
Josh Pollen

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