On July 7, 2023, I attended Venezuelan artist Milton Becerra’s exhibition, Kinetic Webs, in Houston; the show is organized by the renown curator Mari Carmen Ramírez. I arrived early at the show’s venue, the Transart Foundation for Art and Anthropology, an iconic building on West Alabama Street, to meet with the space’s founder, Surpik Angelini. She invited me to see the exhibition in conjunction with a group of people from the Venezuelan diaspora in Houston, which was exciting because I am also a Venezuelan American.
Angelini provided insights into the exhibition, mentioning that Becerra had spent time in the Venezuelan jungle with the Yanomami tribe studying their lifestyle and philosophy, as well as their intricate basket-weaving techniques. Fascinatingly, the artisans never cut the material while weaving; instead, they continuously bend and intertwine it, creating a sense of continuity with the fibers.
This approach also inspired Becerra’s evocative work with levitated boulders, in which he utilizes a continuous thread, perhaps symbolizing the idea of time as an invention. When considering the work, Angelini spoke about the present moment containing elements from both the past and the future; she found connections between Becerra’s pieces and the philosophy of Gilles Deleuze.
A prominent French philosopher, Deleuze rejected the traditional notions of fixed identities and stable structures, advocating for a more fluid and interconnected understanding of existence. Deleuze argued that life is characterized by a continuous flow of transformations and becoming, where everything is interconnected and entangled in a complex web of relations.
This perspective challenges the conventional view of isolated and separate entities, emphasizing the dynamic nature of life and the perpetual creation of new connections and possibilities. Deleuze’s philosophy invites us to embrace existence’s ever-changing and interwoven nature, encouraging us to see life as an ongoing process of becoming and transformation.
Angelini recounted that during the installation of the show, Becerra engaged in a ritualistic process of selecting a local stone to levitate, emphasizing the significance of the local ground. She also explained that the very thin, blue thread used to suspend the boulder was never cut; it was a single continuous thread.
To describe the visual experience, let me first say that the exhibition space, designed by Schaum/Shieh, is a testament to architectural brilliance, flawlessly merging with the artworks on display. Soon after entering the building, to the left, visitors can see the centerpiece of the exhibit — the levitated boulder. The sight of this solid mass suspended in mid-air, seemingly defying gravity, is mesmerizing.
A webbed string holds the boulder aloft. Angelini explained that there are 1000 contact points on the three flanking white walls, each secured by a meticulously screwed-in connection, supporting the back-and-forth journey of the string. The process of creating this installation seemed to me a mixture between a careful architectural endeavor and the intuitive wanderings of a spider’s web. And the result is nothing short of magical, defying expectations and inviting contemplation into the unseen rational and non-rational forces that bind our world.
Touching the string reveals a surprising lack of tension—an unexpected revelation. It made me think that in the pliant and intricate web of life, every action reverberates through countless other actions, and each individual remains interlinked with every other soul — a metaphor the exhibition evokes.
As a physics enthusiast and former engineer, the suspended boulder triggered contemplation on String Theory and the intriguing phenomenon of quantum entanglement. It also led me to introspect about my own existence — much like that boulder, I am upheld by a network of human connections that I often take for granted.
String theory, a theoretical framework in physics, proposes that the fundamental constituents of the universe are tiny, vibrating strings, shaping the properties of particles and forces. The theory strives to unify all fundamental aspects, including gravity, by suggesting that these strings can entangle with one another, similar to particles in quantum mechanics.
Quantum entanglement, a scientifically observed phenomenon, reveals that entangled particles remain connected even when separated over vast distances, a notion Einstein famously referred to as “spooky action at a distance.” This interconnected behavior between particles implies a deeper, yet incomprehensible, fabric of connections in our physical world.
Interestingly, these scientific discoveries seem to intersect with spiritual practices, the power of prayer, the healing power of love, and psychic premonitions. They invite contemplation on the possibility that the enduring relevance of such practices for us humans lies in our profound interconnectedness, which we have yet to fully grasp. The levitating boulder serves as a powerful allegory for human life and the Earth’s intricate interdependencies — a symbol of the complexities governing our actions and their repercussions.
Beyond its visual allure, the exhibition prompts us to reflect on our personal relationships, the fusion of art and science, and the essence of our existence. What is holding you up? What keeps you afloat? Becerra’s work stands as a testament to the profound resonance of art, extending further than what meets the eye, kindling curiosity that reaches beyond the boundaries of the gallery walls.
Milton Becerra: Kinetic Webs is curated by Mari Carmen Ramirez and is on view at the Transart Foundation for Art and Anthropology in Houston through December 15, 2023.