Light Transitions

2003 with LITEWORX. Ewart Gallery, Willoughby, Sydney

Artists' statement

A multimedia Installation by Carole Driver, Alan Roberts, Alex Gomersall

 

‘Our normal waking consciousness is but one special type of consciousness, while all about it, parted from it by the filmiest of screens, there lie potential forms of consciousness entirely different. We may go through life without suspecting their existence, but apply the requisite stimulus and at a touch they are there in all their completeness.’

William James

 

When we shine a light on something, either literally or figuratively, transformations occur. We ‘see’ things that were not apparent in the absence of light. We can have realizations of a fuller nature and develop a more complete understanding. In Light Transitions we have attempted to explore an area of this phenomenon, using a medium that is normally used for commercial purposes: Ultra Violet (UV) light.

 

UV light is the highest energy light that humans can see, and (with the addition of fluorescent paint) can transform a mundane object into one of glowing radiance. UV light has only been available in mainstream technology for the past 20 years, and it is widely used in movies, advertising and night clubs. We have attempted to use UV light as a fine art medium, in a painterly and sculptural manner.

 

With the making of this show we literally had to sit back and watch the work unfold. Initially we had no idea where it was heading or if it would make any sense. As we worked we came to realize that the intent of the work is strongly related to the exploration of life energy – an exploration of that vital quality that makes us alive. At all times there was the experience of the light ‘waking up’ the images, ‘waking up’ the ideas and concepts. Without the light the forms and images exist but they are something else. It seems the vital forms arise out of the light and are made visible by it. In a second an electric current can illuminate and clarify, add awe or wonder, and in a second this can change again. In this way the work can provide us with a technological analogy for our experience of human life.

 

The waves/breath continue this idea; without the intake of breath we cannot live, and we are always only a breath away from life/death, sleeping/waking, conscious/not conscious. Only a second away from a change of state. The waves also become our environment, the cyclical movement of the breath in and out of our lungs, the movement of the blood around our bodies from our heart. 

 

Our lives are illumined by light energy, and we are grounded in a harmonious cyclical set of patterns of matter, which are themselves revealed by light. Darkness then becomes a choice; we can decide to switch on the light and change the space – or not.

Commentary

by Amarie Bergman

Light Transitions is a multi-media, multi-dimensional installation. It is experiential: you walk into it and wake up in a dream. Your consciousness changes.

 

You are set up for the experience by the sound of breathing, heard beyond a heavily draped doorway. The inhalations and exhalations are regulated, yogic, calming. Your own breath becomes synchronized. Allured, you find the opening in the curtain and enter the gallery, departing the known and arriving in the unknown.

 

The installation consists of a darkened room in which two rows of figures face each other, suspended and enveloped by sounds emanating from a central video unit. The figures are imprinted on translucent organza panels and burn with an ice-blue radiant inner light. This light is powered by a line of ultra-violet ray tubes standing behind the figures on regularly spaced metre-high blocks along each wall. The video unit is computer driven and stands at one end of the room, like an altar in an apse. On the screen digitally altered waves break on a shore, blue, with a painterly impressionistic quality. Speakers on either side of the unit generate a gentle wave-like breathing that fills the room.

 

The figures have a frontal monumentality. They are sensuous; they are heroic. Recalled are other timeless images crossing cultures and eras. The multiple sculptures of the saints at Chartres; Ramses II and Nefertiti standing at Abu Simbel. Willem de Kooning’s Woman series of paintings. The blackened faces of the images are akin to wrathful Tibetan Buddhist deities, and the facial expressions contrast with the lyricism of the bodies. The images are ethereal, a light-year away from a physical body. They are painterly, glowing as if cerulean cirrus clouds, and not fluorescent paint on skin, had drifted across, lingering still.

 

Technology makes an important sculptural statement here, both visually and philosophically. Without the lights, the images could not be seen. The plumbing of the lights, the power cords, blocks and tubes, are an integral part of the work. They provide a geometric solidity and act as counterpoint for the delicacy and movement of the fragile organza panels and the video images.

 

Most of the planning and organization of the work was done online via email, interspersed with intense work sessions where Driver and Roberts experimented with images, light and space. Throughout this process Gomersall’s video and sound provided the heartbeat. The entire process took six weeks.

 

In my three visits to the gallery I had three unique experiences. (1) Pre-birth. I felt as if I was an embryo, I was holding my breath and the speakers breathed for me. (2) Post-holocaust. With this visit, the sound, by mistake, had not been switched on, so there was no breathing. Remaining were silent witnesses, left in a tomb of a dream. And (3), between life and death. This light transition sparked in a blink of an eye.

 

In Light Transitions you feel aligned with these luminous albeit mysterious, presences emanating within sheer organza. You are transfixed by the mute film reminding you of your own temporary residence both in the womb and ‘now.’ For me, because of the pauses in the sound, along with the after- effects from my second visit, what becomes the most immense presence in this environment is silence itself.


The Ewart Gallery, the only experimental gallery on Sydney’s North Shore, is both a matrix and a nexus for this site-specific project. In this space Light Transitions is ingenious. It’s a renewable resource for transitioning consciousness in an apparent dream-state - and it's co-created with you.