We’re going to the beach. Not the clean, iridescent shores of film scenes or sepia photographs, signifiers of a landscape that privilege the temporal over the spatial — it is always the childhood or the honeymoon that we beckon toward, and whether the sand in the picture belongs to Blackpool or New Jersey is mostly irrelevant — but the real beach. The sun is not shining. It rained a few hours ago, in fact, or is just about to, because there’s a dull kind of sadness in the air that lingers either side of the storm. To your left is a row of shops and cafés, closed on Sunday. To your right is a parking lot, asphalt grey in keeping with the weather, littered but otherwise empty. In front of you is the sea.
The sunless beach is a powerful image for the same reason that suicide rates spike at Christmas: from early childhood, we are inundated with words and pictures reinforcing the idea that happiness is something to be manually allocated, that weekends and holidays are the ecstatic reprieves that we deserve from our institutional labor, and that these times and places represent our best shot at real joy. When reality doesn’t match the picture, our first assumption is never that the picture needs fixing, but that our lives are out of sync. The map supersedes the territory. Like no other artist, Grouper’s Liz Harris seems to sing from these points of dislocation, lighting up lost or forgotten neural pathways like a lighthouse in the fog. In contrast to 2014’s colossal Ruins, Grid of Points feels relatively slight, though it remains incredibly spacious.
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