Thomas Shannon’s floating world has a precision that can be paired with dreams. Using Earth’s gravity as mean point, a kind of beginning, Shannon guides inert materials such as aluminum and wood to release their weight. He aligns the magnetic fields inherent in objects in such a way that they repel one other and levitate. In Tabula Terra (1995), a fiberglass globe floats above a wooden table, magnets in the globe and table polarizing the two. Our planet seems fragile floating above a table, tethered in place by a thin line. It is small enough to be thrown like a ball, and then cracked like a bat. This kind of poetry and elemental science expand into an exploration of our relation to the universe that is both numerically ordered and mystical.
In Color Compass Atoms (1993), Shannon takes 202 magnetic aluminum spheres and hangs them on tongs from ceiling to floor. The full color spectrum hovers around the circumference of each sphere as the earth’s magnetic field organizes their arrangement. The blue faces of spheres orient to the south, and orange to the north. Color speaks to gravity and surrounds us in conversation—we exist kinetically in this magnetic field. Shannon has spoken about “the beams of gravity rig from the center of our bodies to the center of the earth, and from there out to the stars.” He illustrates our relationship to this force of nature sensually, using color and form like many artists but expanding these traditional concerns by looking through the gravitational lens.
Dreams of freedom, flight, and love permeate these sculptures, drawings and videos. Recent computer ink on canvas studies for a high definition video called Airlands include floating islands and video airships suggesting a mirror world. Some of the computer-generated islands become airborne and reflect the sky above and the land below. Could there be a mirror universe? Antiprotons and antielectrons exist but the reality of an antiuniverse is still an unproven dream. Shannon sees the possibilities of expanding dimensions. He has stated that one of his stainless steel hemispheres was “free to hula” as it balanced on a point. His sculptures and inventions have humor and an affection for the lumbering gracefulness of life and our prosaic relationship to gravitational pull. In his drawings of unrealized dreams, like Electric Flight House or Zero-G Park, he shows us an unbound world. It is a glance into our future—or into the present—if we only knew how to get there.