Study for the Triumph of Light


Study for the Triumph of Light HD Video, 9:00 TRT, 2010

San Francisco Camerawork, in celebration of its 35 years as a presenting, granting, and teaching institution, commissioned sound artist Chris Kubick and me to create a work for a their exhibition San Francisco Plays Itself.  Our response was the 9 min. Study for the Triumph of Light, a filmic meditation on the empty pedestal at the geographical center of San Francisco. 

In 1955, the San Francisco Parks and Recreation department removed a pile of concrete chunks from the top of Mt. Olympus, and documented this clean up operation in photographs.  The crumbles were what remained of "The Triumph of Light," a monumental statue that had topped the stone pedestal on the hill since 1887 when it was dedicated there by then SF Mayor Adoph Sutro as the Statue of Liberty of the West. Sutro had chosen to purchase a copy of a Belgian original, and even on arrival in the US, “The Triumph of Light” was already a little broken. Today, a huge, bare pedestal surmounts Mt. Olympus. 

Kubick and I took the few existing photographs of the sculpture to a SF-born and bred balloon artist named Kat Chan, who interpreted what she could see into a miniature replica sculpture. With larger balloons, we flew this sculpture like a kite from the pedestal, and filming its flight.  Study for The Triumph of Light combines animated stills of this replica sculpture in flight with scenes of daily life around the pedestal, and archival photographs of the grading and development of the site. The film’s sound is a composition of sounds made from recordings of breathing and moving air.