Installation explores cosmogony, the origins of art in “Cosmogony 2.0”

Cosmogony, in a few words, is any theory regarding the origin of existence or sentient beings. What is real? How did we get here? What explanation is there for our mental attributes? These are the sort of questions that endlessly torment philosophers and physicists but Carol Emmons explores these questions as an artist in her exhibition “Cosmogony 2.0,” which is available to see in the Kohler Gallery of the Wriston Art Center.

The exhibit’s inspiration is the origin of art. Using examples of environment, genetics, determination and luck, among others, Emmons visualizes each possible theory through her art. The resulting installation resembles a star cluster that serves as the allegory for the act of creation.

The installation takes up the entire room. Metal spheres of various sizes, colors and substances dot the walls like stars, while various opening lines from  different creation myths (I found Genesis and the Greek creation myth) scrawled across the walls, occasionally intersecting in a very Jungian way to suggest that creation’s details do not matter and that instead the process is the same: there is nothing and then there is something.

All around the area of the installation are numerous objects that represent one of the aspects of creation; Emmons attributes to the common theories about arts origins. All of them are visualized in various ways, ranging from the more obvious and literal to the blurred and opaque.

Emmons does not limit herself in the sorts of objects she uses to visualize creation. A sort of sand-less, glassless hourglass dominates the center of the room, while train tracks with cars filled with things such as mirrors and other artwork are parked in various positions around the room.

Perhaps the most traditional image and the most profound is located against the wall, just out of notice. It is a ladder meant originally, as Emmons noted self-deprecatingly in her lecture, as a metal ladder that reached up through an unusual piece of ceiling in the Kohler art room, the geometry and architecture having created a tiny gap between the wall and the ceiling. Emmons sticks the ladder through and lets it go beyond our range of vision, and in doing so summarizes the truth about making things, and art specifically. It is a journey, a climb and sometimes, it takes us to some place we cannot see.