My current work explores the spaces between representation and replication, examining notions of the the natural world and the ways in which they’re synthesized or abstracted. The work analyzes a kind of practical cosmopolitanism that seems to result from this process, and its ability to promote the consumption of style and efficiency.
My landscapes break down already mediated abstractions of the “natural” world; the images are borrowed, reduced, colour matched and filtered until only an artificial essence of their initial sources remains. These works act to present representations of the “natural” in an explicitly synthesized form; reminding the viewer of the possibility of an authentic nature that is ambulatory and organic instead of static and cliched.
The mobile is not form, it is movement. It is there to give pleasure and delight to the eye and the mind and the imagination. When we look at a mobile we find ourselves located in a space no longer relative to the world of up and down and around. We find ourselves in a place of simple being and with the motion of the mobile we dance in that space.
For many years I contemplated the nature of the particular mobile structure that I have been working with since 1970 and known that somehow they illustrate a mathematical principle. Not being a mathematician I didn’t know what that principle might be but only that it was there, and indeed, when I first started making these mobiles, the wing like ones, the principle was unknown; no one had yet thought it. Finally a man named Mandelbrot tuned in to what I had seen and came up with Fractal Geometry. I doubt that he ever saw one of my mobiles. I had known both for years and not put them together, probably because I didn’t understand what fractal geometry is, but eventually I put the two, the mobiles and the concept, together.
Fractal Geometry is a mathematics of permutation: each operation is the result of what has gone before. It begins with a simple formula, in the case of the mobile it is a curved line at an angle to the force of gravity, just what that angle is determines where it will go from there. Once that angle is decided there is very little more choice in where it will lead, of course the choices that one does make are extremely important. The next line will either converge or depart at a tangent or intersect the first line, these are the choices, from there it is simply a matter of deciding when to stop. In the case of fractals it doesn’t stop and in a way the mobile also goes out to infinity when we allow the imagination to carry it there. Infinity is one of those things peculiar to human thought; a purely mathematical concept that can only be experienced with the imagination. The mobile is a machine to boost the imagination into another plane where infinity and space become the atmosphere in which we ourselves move, free of gravity and of the human condition that limits us to inhabiting only the lowest few meters of space on the surface of our earth. With our bodies we can only go a few steps up or down from that surface. The farthest anyone has gone beyond that surface as of 2005 is only thirty-five earth diameters and that at enormous expense and risk. Anyone with the vehicle of the mind can travel anywhere without cost or risk. This is the objective of the mobile.
While born land-locked under a vast Prarie sky in Winnipeg, it wasn’t until Michael Levin moved out to Vancouver that he became engaged with the potential for landscape photography. Perhaps it was simply his need to better understand his new surroundings – water, water everywhere – that provoked his deeper interest in the way landscape can shape photographic reality. While now more widely ranging in his travels and his work, Michael’s curiousity remains for visuals that are obvious and yet elusive, as clear and transforming as water.
In 2006 Michael was awarded several distinguished photography prizes. Most notably, he was selected as a Photographer of the Year at the International Photography Awards in New York. This achievement was a first for a Vancouver-based photographer. In a feature profile, Focus Fine Art magazine declares “Michael’s captivating images are soulful and evocative; he is truly one of the rising stars in photography”.