optical installation in beijing reflects raindrops with 30,000 repurposed eyeglass lenses

Optical installation now on view in Beijing

Caitlind rc Brown and Wayne Garrett created one glasses-based exhibition design from 30,000 converted glasses with the title ‘And between us an ocean’, exhibited in Times Art museum in Beijing until September 12, 2022 as part of the exhibition WAVELENGTH: On the Edge of Senses. The raindrop-inspired public art is made of polycarbonate plastic tied together with a twisted thread and shimmers in white light, initiating the reflection of a waterfall. The optical installation evokes the theme of changing perspectives, the concept of reciprocity and the notion of distance.

Upon entering the exhibition, the fragile barricades divide the museum space like curtains, gently swinging and allowing viewers to see through the other side while gazing at the lenses or the gaps between the hanging objects. The glass walls envelop the space and viewers with their undulating optics, and viewers are invited to stroll through the exhibition at their leisure to witness the renewed life of the recycled Materials and the intentions that the artists want to convey.

To the And between us an ocean, Caitlind and Wayne touch on connection and breakup. Despite thousands of prescription lenses, each has been tailored to a person’s specific eyes. The installation then invites an engagement with the collective vision of society. “What feeble spirits are carried by such intimate objects – windows on the world to an individual’s audience? How is our shared reality shaped by so many perspectives from the same place and time?’ ask the artists. The lenses invite the viewer to explore the larger scale of human experience and the power of one’s desire to see the world beyond its surface more clearly and without previous prejudices.


Images courtesy of Caitlind rc Brown and Wayne Garrett

30,000 converted lenses at a distance

The installation’s title conjures up a narrative of longing across distance, as the artists explain. From a literal point of view And between us an ocean refers to the physical and cultural distance between Canada, the artists’ homeland, and China, the location of the exhibition. Two countries and cultures collide and without hesitation blur the lines of their relationship. “Metaphysically, the name evokes the distance between us, always, from the order of atoms upwards, and our many attempts to bridge that distance in search of closer relationships, spacing, and togetherness.” Caitlind and Wayne to explain.

The artists share that the lenses they used were sourced through factory failures in Beijing and unusable eyewear from the Lions Canadian eyewear recycling center in Calgary. They had collected around 10,000 pieces in Canada and 20,000 in Beijing. Due to travel and COVID restrictions, the duo were unable to travel to Beijing to help with the installation. Instead, they developed the exhibit from afar, embracing one of the piece’s overarching themes of distance. They made the plans and prototypes and sent them to Liya Liu and Yuqi Wei of PIKOU, the group that organized the WAVELENGTH: On the Edge of Senses exhibition at the Times Art Museum.

Optical installation in Beijing
Close-up of the optical installation in Beijing

Develop and install remotely

As a team, everyone involved in the realization of the project tested installation methods, priorities and methodologies via video calls and between the artist’s studio in Calgary and the PIKOU team’s workspace in Beijing. Another team in Beijing worked to install the lenses in two towering curtains inside the museum to complete the process. In terms of the materials used, Caitlind and Wayne believe that found and used lenses carry the weight of their history through scratches, tape and loose hinges.

“As artists, we have often used mass-produced objects as a reference for cities as immeasurable masses of materials, people, situations and tensions. There is a strong relationship between objects and the people who use them, a reciprocity of form and function.” Caitlind and Wayne share. Whether mounds of discarded objects are considered hyperobjects or strata in the Anthropocene, the artists remind viewers that these accumulations of everyday objects evoke something personal and interpersonal at once.

Optical installation in Beijing
The optical installation in Beijing is titled “And Between Us, An Ocean”

Optical installation in Beijing
the optical installation in beijing looks like raindrops from up close and from a distance

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