In Sunrise Sunset Richard Müller presents the viewer with a deceivingly simple arrangement. Placed in the centre of the gallery and suspended from the ceiling are two monitors. Each monitor holds a real time video feed of the sun – one at dawn, one at dusk. Displayed in tandem, each monitor is supplied the feeds via a computer program designed to search out web cam feeds from around the world. As the earth rotates and the sunset/rise crawls across the globe – the program relocates its source to geographically corresponding webcam.
Sunrise Sunset speaks to two conditions of our experience that are increasingly and inevitably conflated in our daily lives; that of a mediated reality and a physical reality. In the exhibition these two conditions coalesce around perhaps the most central and basic physical constant in human experience, the sun. The rising, passage and setting of the sun has been a fixture of our experience, touching every aspect of our lives from the gravitational forces it has exerted in our solar system for billions of years, forming and balancing our neighbouring planet to the vegetative matter that converts its energy into caloric energy that forms the base of the food chain. Emotionally we feel vibrant and alive in its warmth, or transversely – depressed and sombre out of its presence.
Culturally, the daily journey the sun makes across our skies as well as the seasonal fluctuations are the basic archetypes of narrative. The warmth and beauty of the morning sunrise, the passage from one horizon to the other, the dissipation and eventual disappearance below the distant landscape has inspired countless myths; the hero’s journey from security to insecurity, leaving us to wonder in the dark of night whether the sun will rise again.
This essential relationship – though articulated differently across the world is a common experience. What Sunrise Sunset offers us is a new configuration of this story. Whereas our relationship with the sun has always been necessarily local, confined to our movements within an easterly and westerly horizon, Sunrise Sunset attempts to represent this experience with a global view; to remove us from a single vantage point.
Sunrise Sunset offers us a different physical experience – mediated, yes; less tactile, but perhaps these are the compensations for a vantage point that literally see around the globe. Just as the first image of the whole earth profoundly affected a generation of young people who were for the first time coming to understand the massive physical interconnectedness of the planet. The image was powerful, not because it gave us new information about our physical surroundings, but because it illustrated our surroundings in a new context, in a way that had so far been absent from the visual vocabulary.
Just as the higher one climbs the further one sees, Sunrise Sunset presents the viewer with a vantage point beyond the physical. It offers us a view that is inherently new to our recent past. Aesthetically and conceptually clever, the work simultaneously expands our experience past the local and individual perspective while showing a common and constantly shared experience.