Backside of the Moon

One of the rare times I actually sit through movies would be on the air plane, I mean you don't really have a choice when you are literally strapped to the seat. It is not that I hate watching movies, but I do have an attention span as fleeting as the memory of grabbing eggs from a convenience store. Therefore, I see extensive flight hours as an opportunity for me to get reacquainted with civilization. One of the movies that I've caught was Silver Linings Playbook (forgive me, I know it is so 2012).

The movie resonated deeply – about people and their demons, how the weight of life can plunge you into total darkness and societal prejudice against 'people with problems'. At the end of the day, it is up to you to find your own silver lining. Sometimes it is tough, as much as you want to believe in yourself, it really matters that others believe in you too.

Interestingly, an artwork part of Setouchi Triennale in Naoshima, gave me a great insight on a similar scale. The project titled 'Backside of the Moon' was a collaboration between James Turrell and Tadao Ando in 1999. At the start of the tour, we were informed that it was going to be really dark inside the Minamidera artspace and we had to stick out our hands to feel the walls as we go. It was pitch dark when we entered, which led to me occasional bumping into the dude in front of me and the grazing of hands (totally unintentional of course ahem). We sat in the darkness for five minutes.

I opened and closed my eyes to feel the difference, and contemplated about whether it is better to have a faint glimpse of what is next before deciding that it is better to not know at all.  I soon got comfortable with the darkness surrounding me. So did the others around me as I began to hear people loosening their joints (and half expected someone to fart).  This could be the closest thing to being invisible and it was a real nice feeling.

Slowly, a white screen came to view and we were instructed to walk towards it and feel it, which I thought it was weird since I was in for a film screening. As everyone awkwardly ambled towards it, it was funny to see grown ups walking like toddlers. With hands outstretched, I touched a wall of cloud. It was such an amazing experience that no amount of exclamation marks I put to the end of this sentence would do it justice. If I was tall enough, I would have climbed over the wall and disappeared into oblivion.

It was then I realized, that the wall of light has always been there all along. The lighting has not been changed, but it was the eyes adjusting to the equilibrium of the light and darkness existing in the space. I understood with more clarity now – when you first step into the darkness from a very bright place, you are unable to see anything else but the darkness that surrounds you. But even in total darkness, there is always light – if you choose to see it.