The Poet in the Field 
by Michael Short

Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing, there is a field.

I’ll meet you there.

Jalāl ad-Dīn Muhammad Rūmī

We generally think of a field along the lines of farmland, or a wild, untended area in nature. A grassland, or meadow, with its associations to timeless, untouched serenity and contemplation. Sometimes, if we are thinking domestically, we may refer to the garden behind the house. A field is also referred to as a ground, whether beneath our feet, or as the basis upon which something is built, such as the ground surface of a painting or tiled mosaic on a wall. Other times, we think of a field as the area in which we work, a profession, our “field” of expertise. All these fields have one thing in common; they are an area bounded by a perimeter (trees, walls, fences or other landscape features) or a frame (conceptual or performative limits). A field is an area of possibility and potential, the place where we can experience freedom from (the stresses and conditions of our current state of mind or life), or the freedom to (act on our dreams, plans or fantasies).

To see a World in a Grain of Sand,
And a Heaven in a Wild Flower,
Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand,
And Eternity in an hour…

When something or someone has entered a field, we imagine that it or they have entered a “magical” place. We impute to the field a special status, whether it is a timelessness, a purity, or an untouchable realm, or an area where the normal laws don’t apply. The field could be a literal clearing in the landscape, or a conceptual, abstracted field, as in a field of dreams. If you are inside the field, a new beginning is possible. If it’s only the possibility of entering the field—if all you can do is look at the field from the outside, then the extent is only one of the possibility of being where the rules are different or a utopia awaits. There is a longing or a yearning for this place. Once it is inhabited, a field is yours to take over and use as you please—to exploit its resources or leave them untouched; move in and build a home or career, play a game of sports, sit and contemplate the passage of time, or project your plans for the future.

The Bat that flits at close of Eve
Has left the Brain that won’t Believe.
The Owl that calls upon the Night
Speaks the Unbelievers fright…

To make a field is to set apart a place of potentiality and of possibility distinct from that of the everyday. In other words, to create purposely a place that is “other”. For Cabrita, the act of making is everything. Guided by intuition and imagination, he creates works which declare their presence strongly and amply, full of associative promise. He takes his materials from building construction—bricks, mortar, fluorescent tubes, electrical cabling, glass and steel beams—and from these common facts, he sets up the conditions for a heightened mode of insight. An intuitive method, rather than a verbal or intellectual construct, is the process by which the works are made and, if all goes well, the way they are experienced by the viewers.

A Truth that’s told with bad intent
Beats all the Lies you can invent
It is right it should be so
Man was made for Joy & Woe
And when this we rightly know
Thro the World we safely go…

In Cabrita’s installations, we experience the elements and their place as belonging together, using the distinction described by Henri Bortoft in The Wholeness of Nature: Goethe’s Way Toward a Science of Conscious Participation in Nature, Heidegger considered two different perspectives of the notion of “belonging together”. Heidegger’s distinction is made according to whether the emphasis is placed on “belonging” or “together.” Thus, in the perspective of “belonging together” he sees the belonging as being determined by the together; whereas in the perspective of “belonging together” the reverse is the case, and the together is determined by the belonging. In the first case, he says that “to belong” means to be placed in the order of a “together”, i.e., a unity which is the unity of an organized system. But in the latter case, belonging together, there is “the possibility of no longer representing belonging in terms of the unity of the together, but rather of experiencing this together in terms of belonging”. The difference between these two experiences is a difference in a mode of consciousness… the unity of the intuitive mind instead of the unity of the intellectual mind.

Joy & Woe are woven fine,
A Clothing for the soul divine;
Under every grief and pine
Runs a joy with silken twine…

Again, Henri Bortoft: “When the phenomenon is seen intuitively, it has a further dimension to it, but this does not change the particular elements in the phenomenon. It changes the way that the elements are related, and hence their significance, but they remain the same elements so far as the senses are concerned. For example, the blue of the sky and the yellow of the sun are, in a clearly recognizable way, the same elements when they are seen belonging together in the holistic mode, as they are when seen analytically as just two separate and contingent facts. In the former case there is a depth in the phenomenon which is entirely absent in the latter. This intensive depth which is seen intuitively in the holistic mode of consciousness is the wholeness of the phenomenon. The authentic unity of phenomenon (i.e., unity without unification) is literally a further dimension of the phenomenon itself, which is seen as such only when the mind functions in the intuitive mode of ‛seeing into’.”

Throughout all these Human Lands
Tools were made & Born were hands
Every Farmer Understands…

Field is a sculpture made from “common” materials, common facts—metal platforms (modelled from the elevated walking platforms, passerelle, used around Venice during high water episodes, acqua alta); LED lighting tubes (lighting one might find in warehouses, offices); clear glass panels (as used in windows), broken and fragmented pieces of building materials (terracotta bricks, mortar, etc.). The platforms, uniform in shape and construction, make a grid formation on the floor, their differing heights create an indeterminate and varying topographic surface within and across the field. On the clear glass panels above each platform is spread a random assortment of debris (terra cotta bricks and mortar). The LED lights and the uniformity of the platform shapes are the only elements of regularity; the debris, being intrinsically irregular makes an irresolvable pattern (chaos) that is spread on, within and across the sculpture. Field is, in essence, a low relief made of a combination of regular and irregular elements and patterns arranged on, within and across the nave of the church.

He who Doubts from what he sees
Will ne’er Believe, do what you Please
If the Sun & Moon should Doubt,
They’d immediately Go out…

Associatively, the platforms are reminiscent of the elevated walking platforms (passerelle) used during high water (acqua alta) conditions in Venice. Unconventionally, these platforms are being used inside a church where, at the moment, there is no high water condition. The LED lights usually located on the ceilings or walls of interior spaces such as offices, warehouses, and homes, allowing a space to be navigable and habitable, are here mounted to face upwards. The clear glass panels conventionally used in the windows of homes or other buildings, allowing a view through a wall, maybe to a field outside, or into a room lit by electric light, are now a partition between uniform illumination and the indeterminate spread of debris. The debris scattered on and across the glass panels is most commonly considered to be an uninteresting artefact of building demolition and dislocation, sent away to the nearest rubbish heap. In Field it is featured as the top surface, the upper crust of the sculpture, as well as being enhanced with light from below, further inviting awareness to its presence.

Some are Born to sweet delight
Some are Born to Endless Night
We are led to Believe a Lie
When we see not Thro the Eye.

Implied threats from above (the debris field gives the impression of an accident or calamity of some sort, that the roof has collapsed, perhaps, or that the sky is falling), and threats from below (the ever-present reminder, in Venice, of high water conditions, flooding, the aqua alta), form the two extremes of the sculpture. The light within Field occupies the middle position between these extremes, the middle path, while at the same time grounding the vast volume of space within and above Chiesa di San Fantin. The light of the sculpture is the repetitive regularity of industrial illumination, now a ubiquitous condition of everyday life, not the archaic sensorium of many devotional candles lit by individuals seeking solace or prayer for their sins. Chiesa di San Fantin, as the container for Field, serves as the imagined protector from imagined threats, and the wished-for sanctuary of real threats in the real world. From an intuitive mode of consciousness, the church and the sculpture belong together, each in actuality a real, common fact, while at the same time combining into a singular category of wholeness, what Goethe himself called “an instance worth a thousand bearing all within itself”.

God appears, and God is Light,
To those poor Souls who dwell in Night
But does a Human Form Display
To those who Dwell in Realms of day.¹

Michael Short


¹ from Auguries of Innocence, William Blake.