In an 2006 essay titled A Brief Story about the Naming of Things, Lael Corbin elucidates on the role that language plays upon his work, noting that his work “is an expression of his interest in language as it relates to our experience and understanding of reality’—a conceptual framework which from the beginning ‘allowed us to express our experiences and knowledge about the universe, ultimately shaping our view of reality.” In Greetings from Earth Corbin compels us (again) to redefine our understanding and relationship to material reality. Taking his cues from the space programs of the late 1970s, like NASA’s Voyager spacecraft and its Golden Record, Corbin examines ideas and ways in which we might communicate with extraterrestrial life. In Greetings from Earth he offers an installation of specific images and objects that draw upon both narrative and poetic relationships to language while evoking such notions as history, science, space and time, as well as play, curiosity, and wonder.
Throughout his work, Corbin has dealt with language through the use of fable, allegory, narrative, and poetry, exploring how fictitious or inanimate objects can convey precept or truth, and calling into question the very materials and methodologies that form “the multitude of other conceptual frameworks that shape our perception today.” This has led him to experiment with a broad range of methods and unconventional materials, employing a strategy in which research, building, and manufacturing processes mix seamlessly together with dream-like imagery, fragments of information, syntax, memory, and competing timelines. Stripped of a normal context objects and processes that at first glance may appear familiar in the end force us to question how these forms fit into our larger consciousness.
Lael Corbin’s past “workspace” installations—Latitute (2006), Research (2007), Remodel (2008), and Bird (2010)—have explored themes of geology, biology, aviation, construction and interior renovation, and other concrete frameworks of understanding, and addressed his own personal experiences and memories, some of which extend far back into his early childhood. Often, the installations explore a physical space in flux and its relationship to his consciousness. Ultimately, the question of whether the objects in Greetings from Earth are artifact or artificial, or the implied narratives fact or fiction, may not be as relevant to our experience of them as our tenacious search for truth and meaning in the face of insurmountable ambiguity.