Paul Kos
Lightning

Parked on the shoulder of a single lane highway running through a desert landscape, Marlene looks over her shoulder from inside the car at a fierce storm looming over a distant horizon. Turning her head toward and away from the scene she says, “When I look for the lightning it never strikes, but when I look away it does.” And indeed, the lightning does seem to strike only when she turns away.

Before filming Lightning, Paul Kos had done a fair amount of research on lightning, much of it conducted at the lightning research lab at the University of Colorado. He found that in a very good storm it takes about fifteen or twenty seconds for lightning to strike in the same place in the same part of the sky because the atmosphere has to re-ionize. Whether or not one is familiar with the science of storms, Marlene’s repeated deadpan statement seems less like a calculated action and more like a sigh of resignation. Her assured stare dares the viewer to disagree with her perceived reality, despite the fact that lightning can’t be clearly seen until almost halfway through the work. The short length of the film contributes to a feeling of mistrust or disbelief—this blip of a scene could be a glitch, like when one’s brain skips in a moment of déjà vu. Ending abruptly and unresolved, Lighting offers a subtle commentary on truth and fiction, the stories we tell ourselves and others, and perhaps the earth’s indifference to any narrative we might create for it.

Paul Kos works with everyday materials and video to enact a playful conceptual engagement with life and the world. He responds to simple, humble materials and the indigenous elements of specific sites, which he mines for their physical properties and metaphoric possibilities. Throughout these pieces, Kos’s work uses humor to relate the stuff of life back to larger questions of time and spirituality. 

This artwork is licensed by KADIST for its programs, and is not part of the KADIST collection.