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Alyson Shotz, The Shape of Space, 2004. Cut plastic Fresnel lens sheets and staples.

Highlight from a recent visit to the Guggenheim Museum: In the lobby, the first thing you see is a beguiling wall of light which turns out to be Fresnel lenses stapled together. I sat with and walked around this curtain of micro images for 30 minutes, feasting on its multifaceted reflections of Frank Lloyd Wright’s interior space as well as Fifth Avenue outside. Everyone who walked in the museum was drawn over to it.

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This wall of reflection reminds me of Indra’s Net, a prescient image first recorded in the Avatamsaka Sutra. Offered as an ancient metaphor for life’s “we are each individuals/we are one with everything” paradox, it presages current concepts and technologies such as holography, the structure of the Web and theories about the ultimate reality of our physical universe:

Far away in the heavenly abode of the great god Indra, there is a wonderful net which has been hung by some cunning artificer in such a manner that it stretches out indefinitely in all directions. In accordance with the extravagant tastes of deities, the artificer has hung a single glittering jewel at the net’s every node, and since the net itself is infinite in dimension, the jewels are infinite in number. There hang the jewels, glittering like stars of the first magnitude, a wonderful sight to behold. If we now arbitrarily select one of these jewels for inspection and look closely at it, we will discover that in its polished surface there are reflected all the other jewels in the net, infinite in number. Not only that, but each of the jewels reflected in this one jewel is also reflecting all the other jewels, so that the process of reflection is infinite.

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