This proposal is still under construction, this is the first version 09.11.2016
Light and Perception
Aims and Objectives:
This research aims to investigate and analyze the possible ways in wich light can be used to change the perception of time and space. The concept of light can be presented in different ways: as natural or artificial light, light from a lightbulb or neons , or projected light.
- Analyze the use of light in the context of contemporary art;
- Reflection of the different ways that light can be used: light as itself, as luminous objects and as projected light;
- Research and reflection on the ways of seeing and the perception of light by the viewer’s point of view;
- Explore different forms of presenting light: colors, strobes, brightness, diffusion…;
- Experiment with materials that allows us to manipulate light, such as glass, acrylics, mirrors, paper…;
- Find out subtle ways in wich the viewer can interact with the material;
- Research and experience how light influences the perception of time and space of the viewer or changes a figurative image;
- Experiment the possibilities working with light on a large and immersive scale;
- Create at least 1 new piece of art (completely new or a new version) per term;
- Create an interactive and immersive light installation;
- Record and share the whole process on the blog and with small videos;
The Recognition of the autonomy of light as material and language is not frequent throughout art history, for it is generally interpreted as a secondary element necessary to highlight other artistic aspects. However, it is observed that it is understood as a protagonist in various moments in contemporary art, that is, light is dissociated from the text, the object, the performance or for other elements of composition. Even in the case of cinema that was initially designed with optical devices and currently with high-tech digital projectors, light is only used as a tool for projection or representation of images for the sake of the narrative. (MACHADO, 1997, p. 13)
In the context of the visual arts, the intentional use of light has evolved and changed, perhaps also because of the technological advances that have enabled greater control of natural and artificial light. We can highlight as first experiences of control of natural light European Gothic art in the Middle Ages, around the tenth century. With the development of architecture and engineering huge cathedrals with large windows and stained glass were built, using the incidence of natural and projected light within the buildings, suggesting shapes and colors that mystically exalts the ambiance, as well as highlighting details of the architecture (STRICKLAND, 2004 p.28). An example is Notre Dame’s cathedral (1163) in Paris and the Cathedral of Burgos (1221) in Spain.
The technological advances regarding electricity brought new glances to light, and it started to be used as an autonomous material for artistic creation, in the movement called Light Art. László Moholy-Nagy (1895-1946), the Hungarian professor of the school of Bauhaus, based on researches on the use of light in painting, has awakened the artistic community to the need of studying the use of different materials.
We can’t see without light, therefore any image analysis is an analysis of the luminosity. Thus, the analysis of an image becomes the analysis of light, and consequently, the study of the absorbing, reflecting, filtering and refracting qualities of the surface of all materials is essential (ARGAN, 1992, p.516-519). In 1922, Moholy-Nagy constructed the sculpture Light Space Modulator (1922). Consisting of perforated discs in motion that allowed the passage of light, the sculpture forms varied geometric images constantly shifting shadows and reflections around. The sculpture redefines the art-light relation, proposing that the work of art is not an illuminated object, transforming light into objects. This work is considered by historian Frank Popper (1997) as Luminous Kinetic Art, a strand of Kinetic Art and the beginning of Electronic Art. This great moment of experimentation ended with the German Nazi uprising.
In the late 1950s, with the end of the Second World War, young European artists who opposed the last remnants of fascism opened new avenues, both in the intellectual and aesthetic spheres (JOCKS, 2013 p.50). The rediscovery of movement and earlier artistic innovation was no longer the focus, but rather the relationship between art in everyday life integrating all space and all the ways in which art is perceived. An artistic production was then dared to go beyond the pre-established conventions.
ZERO was founded in Germany in 1958 by artists Heinz Mack (1931 -) and Otto Piene (1928-2014), with the desire to create a new art that offered new possibilities of existence, not imposed by previously consecrated movements or artists. The ZERO was a laboratory, where each artist sought their means for the production of the works, the experiments introduced new facings of elements, such as light, structures, reticules, monochromia, dynamics and vibrations (JOCKS, 2013 p.54).
Throughout the 1960s, Otto Piene research and conducts experiments alluding to the “almost unlimited freedom granted to man by outer space” (JOCKS, 2013 p.55), using “light” material in multimedia presentations with smoke, gas Helium and fire. The work Mechanisches Lichtballett (1960) presents light flowing through fabric balloons and perforated metal discs creating a play of light and shadow throughout a dark room. In 1968 he performed the Light Line Experiment, his first great event with polyethylene tubes, three hundred meters long, illuminated and filled with helium gas that seemed to float in the sky. Today, Piene is considered one of the precursors of Light Art and Sky Art. Partner of Piene, the German artist Heinz Mack is experimented with pillars of light in open spaces, constructing the objects called Rotoren (1959) in a kinetic light sculpture combining aluminum structures with two rotating wavy glass, forming a vibrant set of lights. Between 1962 and 1963, Mack lived in Morocco, Algeria, experimenting with light in the desert and returning to chromatic color images, which changed the spectrum of light (IRMER, 2013, p. 162).
The laboratory profile of the ZERO group soon attracted artists from different parts of the world. Among those who also experimented with light we can highlight the Italian Gianni Colombo (1937-1993), who uses artificial light in rotating optical sculptures. Light interested him above all as a mean of making visible space structures such as projection of light into mirrors, displaced by vibration. At the end of the 1960s, with Spazio Elastico (1968), questions of perception became more important in his work with the spectator, participant this active for the displacement of the elements that make up the work (IRMER, 2013, p.158 ). Also composing the group ZERO, the Brazilian Abraham Palatinik (1928 -), after his artistic researches in drawings, paintings, and sculptures, began his first experiences related to light and color in movement. In his Cinchromatic Apparatus (1954), composed of motors that move about 50 color lamps and varied voltages behind a translucent surface, he intended to manipulate the images forming new forms of light in space. Palatinik is considered the icon of Brazilian kinetic art (IRMER, 2013, p.164).
Parallel to this moment, light as material, movement and perception was used by various artists and groups around the world categorized as Op Art and Kinetic Art. In France, for example, in the late 1950s a Group of Researches in the Visual Arts (GRAV) was formed, with members such as François Morellet (1926-2016) and Julio Le Parc (1928-). Their works involved new technologies of that time and the relations between light and movement, striving to visually demonstrate it experimenting the luminous phenomena. Julio Le Parc’s research on the modulation of white light transfigures the materials used in the form of complex shadows and subtle luminous gradations (AZEVEDO, 2005, p. 2).
In North America, the Canadian artist Brion Gysin (1916-1986) wrote in his diary in 1958:
“I had a transcendental storm of visions of color today on the bus heading to Marseille. We ran through a long avenue of trees and I closed my eyes against the setting sun. An overwhelming flood of intensely bright colors exploded behind my eyelids: a multidimensional kaleidoscope spinning out through space. I was swept out of time. I was out in a world of infinite number, the vision stopped abruptly as soon as we left the trees. Was that a vision? What happened with me?” (GYSIN apud WEISS, 2001 p.113,)
After the experience described earlier, the artist built the Dream Machine (1958), a flicker strobe light device. It consisted of a cylinder with grooves cut at the sides, which was placed on a turntable and rotated at 78 or 45 revolutions per minute. A lamp was suspended in the center of the cylinder and the speed of rotation allowed the light to exit through the holes at a constant frequency between 8 and 13 pulses per second, this frequency corresponds to alpha waves, which are electric oscillations normally present in the human brain, when relaxing. We may question the effect of the luminous stimulus, but we can not deny the attempt of a synesthetic and narrative experience of the work. With the viewer in a dark space, in front of an object that radiates “blinking” light and is available for the experience, it creates and interprets its own narratives. He takes one step beyond the other works of art of the same type bringing the character of installation, in which the body of the spectator is present and is invited to “settle” on the work. For the artist, these works only exist with the presence of the spectator (GONTIJO, 2013, p.25).
The Minimalist movement in the United States was extremely important for the advancement of Light Art research. Artists from this period came to the conclusion of the need to reduce art to just the essentials by reducing the object to the basic properties of construction. Minimalism is “getting rid of what people usually find essential” (JUDD apud STRICKLAND, 2004, p. 117), for them the minimal formEnsures maximum intensity by eliminating the distractions caused by the details of the image or narrative. This movement was a reaction against the presence of the new movements of the time, such as abstract expressionism and pop art (STRICKLAND, 2004: 117). During this period, artists of the American West interested in new forms, subjects and motivated by the desire to redefine the limits of art sought immediate visual impact and found in the light the material proper to these experiments.
Unlike traditional minimalists, these artists were more interested in the proper relations of the “light” material with space and in the possibilities of changing the perception of the spectator than in the construction of objects. Thus, in 1966, as a strand of minimalism, they founded the Light and Space Movement, which united artists concerned with the perceptual phenomenon of light, used to transform the environment, as a change of volumes and scales. They brought the experience and senses of the viewer to light as the focus of their work. They performed different works in sculptures and environments using light of various types, diffuse, radiant fluorescent, neon, etc. (FARIA, 2015, p.92).
As artists representing this movement we can highlight Dan Flavin (1933-96), who became quite famous for his installations composed of colored neon tubes creating spaces with the intention to evoke sensorial experiences of the spectators; Robert Irwin (1928-), who originally began experimenting with processes of altering the viewer’s perception through paintings, altering the size and boundaries of the physical object, and then proceeded to questions about materiality and the phenomena of light perception both In objects as in large site-specific installations; Jame Turrell (1943), who uses light as his means to construct several universes in which the spectator is led to dive by offering a physical and mental experience that is an integral part of the work itself, for example in The Light Inside (1999). According to himself “Light is the material I use, perception is the means. My work has no subject, the perception itself is the subject. There is no image because associative thinking does not interest me “(TURRELL apud FARIA, 2015, p.95).
In the 1980s, 1990 light continued to be used by artists influenced by questions about the viewer’s perception, but also added other political or philosophical contents to it. They thus expanded the reach of the content of this type of art by recognizing the ability to convey content and other questions (FARIA, 2015, p.97). We highlight the works The Wheather Project (2003), in which the Danish Olafur Eliasson (1967-) transformed Tate Modern’s Turbine Hall in London with a suspended circular structure, hundreds of lamps and a mirror-lined ceiling in an immersive visual field Of yellow “sunshine”. In this work, the artist questions the differences between representation and reality within a society rooted in digital experiences (FARIA, 2015, p.99).
The British artist Antony McCall (1946-), in Five Minutes of Pure Sculpture (2012), explores the relationship of the observer directly with the materiality / immateriality of light using the latest technologies to provide the visitor with a close and isolated experience with it. Designed as a cone, the light is cut out and seen as a semitransparent curtain, whose impact on the floor produces a marking of a slowly changing line of light. In this space, the observer can move freely through these areas delimited only by light (FARIA, 2015, p.100).
It is perceived that from these movements and especially from light art, light has become an autonomous element for the composition of works of art. If we can not yet think of Light as a category or genre of art, it finds a path of material consciousness and language. Thinking from this perspective is that this research wants to evaluate works of contemporary artists to understand the different uses of light, its purposes, and intentions – beyond the context of its use.
- Practice-based research – thinking and researching while working and creating a new art piece;
- Interview 3 living artists who work with light and the perception issue;
- Interviews with viewers;
- Record the process on the blog and in short videos;
- Adapting the final installation into a new media more suitable for the galleries;
A group of experiments showing the process of the research and an immersive light installation. Also, one version of the work that fitting the art business expectations, like a drawing or a digital print.
First Year – Initial Research about Light; Initial research about Perception; Interview with 3 living artists that work with the material; First practical experiences with light with other materials.
Second Year – In-depth material research, through interviews with the viewers analysis; and the creation of the final artwork.
Bibliography: (under Construction)
ARNHEIM, Rudolf. Arte e Percepção Visual: Uma Psicologia da Visão Criadora. São Paulo: Pioneira, USP, 1996.
BAXANDALL, Michael. Shadows and Enlightement. New Haven; Conecticut: Yale University Press, 1995.
BLUHM, Andreas; LIPPINCOTT, Louise. Light! The Industrial Age 1750-1900: Art & Science, Technology & Society. Amsterdam: Van Gogh Museum; Pittsburgh: Carnegie Museum of Art, 2000.
BRANDI, Mirella. A linguagem autônoma da luz como arte performativa: a alteração perceptiva através da luz e seu conteúdo narrativo. Sala Preta, São Paulo, Vol. 15, n. 2, 46- 58. 2015.
BUTTERFIELD, Jan. The Art of Light + Space. New York: Abbville Press, 1993. BYUNG-KYU, Kim. A Study on Light Embodiment Method through Technology Analysis of Light Art. International Journal of Multimedia and Ubiquitous Engineering, Canada, Vol. 9, n 7, 237 – 346. 2014.
CLARK, Robin. Phenomenal:California Light, Space, Surface. California: Univ. of California Press, 2011.
CRARY, Jonathan. Técnicas do observador: visão e modernidade no século XIX. São Paulo: Contraponto, 2016.
DOTY, Robert M. Light: object and image. New York: Whitney Museum of American Art,1968.
ELIASSON, Olafur. Colour memory and other informal shadows. Oslo: Astrup Fearnley Museet for Moderne Kunst, 2004.
GOMBRICH, Ernst Hans. Shadows: The Depiction of Cast Shadows in Western Art. London: National Gallery Publications, 1995.
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GYSIN, Brion. WEISS, Jason. Back in No Time: The Brion Gysin Reader. Connecticut: Wesleyan University Press, 2001.
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JOCKS, Heinz-Norbert. Zero ou A estética do ainda-não-ser de luz e movimento. ZERO curadoria de Heike van den Valentyn – Curitiba, PR: Museu Oscar Niemeyer ; Porto Alegre, RS: fundação Iberê Camargo; São Paulo: Pinacoteca do Estado, 2013.
JUDD, Donald. Specific Objects. New York: D.A.P., 2002.
LAURENTIZ, Silvia. Imagem e (I)materialidade. XIII encontro anual da COMPÓS- São Paulo, 2004.
LOPES, Almerinda. Abraham Palatnik e a ânsia de pintar com a luz. 16° Encontro Nacional da Associação Nacional de Pesquisadores de Artes Plásticas Dinâmicas Epistemológicas em Artes Visuais – ANPAP, Florianópolis, 2007.
MACHADO, Arlindo. Pré-cinemas & pós-cinemas. 4a edição. Campinas: Papirus, 1997.
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MOHOLY-NAGY, László. The New Vision: Fundamentals of Bauhaus Design, Painting, Sculpture, and Architecture. New York: Courier Corporatin, 2012
OLIVEIRA, Alan Borges. Acqua Lumens: Luz, movimento, arte e tecnologia. Dissertação. Universidade federal de Goiás Programa de pós-graduação em artes e cultura visual – poéticas visuais e processo de criação. Goiás, 2014.
PADGHAM, C.A.; SAUNDERS, J.E. The Perception of Light and Colour. Londres: G. Bell & Sons Ltd, 1975. PAROLA, R. Optical Art: theory and practice. Nova York: Dove, 1996.
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POPPER, Frank. Art of the Electronic Age. New York: Thames & Hudson, 1997.
RANCIÈRE, Jacques. O espectador emancipado. São Paulo: WMF Martins Fontes, 2014.
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For the next update of the proposal, I will divide my bibliography on to three main areas, immateriality, light art, and perception.