“The Only Thing that’s the End of the World is the End of the World”

Jonathan Latiano, with music composed by Sam Wu

Payne Gallery at Moravian University, January 26-April 2, 2023

I was unable to make the opening reception, but I promised myself I would make it to “The Only Thing
that’s the End of the World is the End of the World” before it closed. I was one day early, and I stayed in
the installation for nearly two hours. I had seen the images leading up to the exhibition, and read the
review of Jonathan Latiano’s recent work Love to the Letter and the Letters Spelled Death in Sculpture
Magazine in September, 2022, where music was becoming a collaborative element to his installations.
The exhibition at Payne Gallery had it all – the depth of space, trauma, a joyous stroll, an inevitable
harmony that permeated my core. Music and sculpture installation are linked together, making for an
immersive gravity I can acknowledge and appreciate. From the artist: “{…} is created in direct response
to the current society-level emotional trauma being experienced worldwide brought about by the Covid-
19 pandemic, intense political polarization, systemic racism, and xenophobia. The installation is
designed to challenge the viewer’s notions of the physical parameters of the space the artwork inhabits,
while simultaneously creating an environment that heightens their emotional connection to it.”
The room is blackened, with a front foyer dimming entrance and simpler back exit. In the center are
many broken-sharded mirrored spheres, suspended on slim chains and each dropped chain works on its
own motor. Around the edge are smaller spheres, where they crowd one another and space apart. None
are smaller than a closed fist, and the central three are larger, the size of rocks you could sit on. Some
are flatter, like you’d hope of a skipping stone. Others are the epiphany of stasis, where gravity is
pushing it both together and apart. Each mirrored strand rotates on its motor, in different speeds and
directions, casting light further out and onto the walls, floor and ceiling. The spotlights angle up from the
floor, hit the mirrors and have an attract-and-repel relationship to each sphere. Five compositions play,
from “Alien Forest: for string quartet” is busy; it creates the mood of walking in a primordial forest, full
of trees conversing with one another in the same language. A single piano orchestration in “Tiny
Forests” which gives a heavier vibe, recorded in a vast, echoed space. Then the next songs shift to violins
and cello, viola. One has all the heaviness of deep water. And one, is a chorus (not in English) with a
piano. The orchestrations where imposing, but at the same time light, ephemeral, and all encompassing.
They are not mirrored disco balls, or even perfect spheres. They are fragments, amoebas, cells, stars in
the vast universe or fallen detritus in the darkest ocean. Much had been broken, yet remained together.
Their broken edges would only be dangerous once more if the music stopped giving them purpose. All
these broken pieces define their own ultimate shapes and needs to stay together. With the lights and
motors programed to match the music, the speeds, directions, and moods of the reflections out into the
dark room, changes.
The collaboration between music and sculpture, blurred the boundaries of the space on a physical,
visual, and auditory level. Yes — it dazzled — which paused time and sucked me in. Experiencing this
piece reminded me about what it was like, not all that long ago. Surviving the pandemic, one day at a
time of absorbing the news, phone calls, the isolation, the trauma and the losses. At the end of the day, I

just needed a moment to sit outside and watch the stars and imagine their orchestration and power, out
there in the vastness and end-all of space.