Paul Caponigro, 1979
Chan’s 7 Lights, collapses an entire day—from dawn to dusk—into an endless loop of light and shadow, destruction and creation. The images, all of which were constructed by Chan (including the digitallyanimated paper silhouettes used in the first six Lights), waver between clear and abstracted shadows of nature, consumer objects, and human figures. Conjuring symbolic interpretations of the biblical stories of Creation and the Rapture, Plato’s Allegory of the Cave, Caravaggio’s chiaroscuro, and September 11, Chan’s silent, indeterminate spaces are ambiguously ruled by a gravitational force that saves and destroys at will. Described by the artist as “light and light that has been struck out,” this meditative cycle implies an underlying spiritual tension while simultaneously suggesting a formal return to the origins of cinema, which relied equally on light and shadow to reflect reality. Paul Chan is known for utilizing outdated, low-tech software and computer programs to create digital animations and video projections that interweavehistorical and contemporary themes of violence and destruction with wide-ranging art-historical and cultural references—such as artist Henry Darger’s Vivian girls, artist Francesco de Goya’s dark images of torture,rapper Biggie Smalls, filmmaker Pier Paolo Pasolini, and philosopher François Fourier. A politically active artist who works across media, Chan creates projects that span traditional concepts of drawing, collage, anddocumentary video: from internet-based custom-made fonts and digital files of personally influential literary and philosophical texts, to a theatrical staging of Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for Godot in post-Katrina New Orleans.