Jacob Kierkegaard | Notes on Looking

Rothko Chapel performances: Jacob Kirkegaard “A CAPELLA” and Steve Roden and Stephen Vitiello “The Spaces Contained in Each”

…to my right a purple rectangular painting is flanked by two black and slightly narrower canvases, the color in these paintings is “full bleed.” In the two other groupings, as well as a single narrow painting on the entry wall, the paintings have a narrow border in a dark color. The mute regularity of Rothko’s paintings in this famous chapel surprises me again on this, my second visit. I think I expected drama, and blatant anguish. But unless you bring it, little of either is present here. A kind of clarity is manifested by natural light that feels grey and wintry, and despite the heat of Texas July, I shiver. The chapel’s high plaster walls frame Rothko’s paintings while also allowing them to recede from my attention. The walls provide the grey I noted earlier, and the tone of this color matches in intensity the darker tones of the canvases. The audience is dressed mostly in earth tones and blues, with occasional fearless brights: a yellow folding hat pushed low over sunglasses on one woman, and a surprising orange collared T-shirt on a young man. The three largest of Rothko’s panels are set back in a niche. This arrangement nods to the idea of an altar but resists this interpretation. Jacob Kirkegaard records the sound of the space in real time – in our time – and then plays it back into the space; he captures the resulting resonances in a second recording which he also plays back and records. Through this repetition I become aware of the half-life of sound. For example, when once a person coughs this...