Memory Reconfigured in WAH: Light, Form, and Symbol

As a continuation of the WAH Center’s technology and art exhibition series, WAH: Light, Form, and Symbol challenges a narrowed scope of light as formal technique, actively interrogating the subject object relation within newly re-conceived experiential moments. The gallery space opens up as a critical site for aesthetic evaluation, where striking symbolic and conceptual dimensions of light are further explored. Within this showcase, curator Jonathan Judd unveils the stringent conditions of structural formation, facilitating a larger investigation of systemic forces that lie beyond the self, forces that continually shape our encounters within the experiential realm.


Three theoretical guidelines frame a critical dialogue with light as conceptual medium:

  1. How is light being used as a formal approach?   
  2. What does light add to the works presence as an aesthetic object?
  3. How does light becomes symbolic gesture towards a larger personal or societal narrative?


With each tenet in mind, we can slowly begin to reconfigure the complexity of signification that transcends beyond light as a formal aesthetic technique. One enters the space and is struck by a continual process of reorientation, enveloped by an unknown presence, one that works to reconstruct our experience of memory in the transformative sense. The ways in which light circumscribes space are radically revolutionized in the gallery.



Installation View of Cornelia Jensen’s Work


Upon entering the gallery, the viewer’s periphery is immediately distilled, shocked by one’s inner phantasms. We are confronted with cyclical reverberations of light, fragmentary glimpses that overwhelm us with circulative process. Video projection, ambient sculptural forms, and interactive installation pervade the darkened space. Ephemeral light transmutes and transforms forms, activating an internal compulsion to each work. Our encounters with these sculptural works allow for newly reconceived momentary explorations, where crucial lapses transform the human psyche. An unresolved tension is held in suspension as we enter the catacombs of the unconscious, an unfamiliar and uncharted terrain facilitated through the activation of sight.


Micostructures Detail

Detail of Cornelia Jensen’s Installation


In the left hand corner of the gallery, Cornelia Jensen’s installation work is composed entirely of recycled materials as Jensen skillfully disrupts our fixed perceptions of the artificial landscape; the viewer is at once subject to a process of visual reorientation with the reduced scale of cityscape. Microstructures actively challenge the viewer’s desire to find familiar detail of urban terrain, breaking from preconceived visions of architectural form and mechanical techniques of interpretation. Light and shadow’s intensity soften through scarce pockets of ambient light scattered throughout the Styrofoam village. As a responsive turn to the overstimulation of a bustling metropolis, sensory experience disseminates itself to light refracted, enveloping the viewer with a calming and meditative ambiance. Psychological depths of collective experience are reached, confronted by an unforeseen yet uncanny visual field; the viewer experiences a moment of pattern recognition wherein the ecological meets the artificial. Ultimately, this work bridges the dialectical relationship between the inorganic and organic, utilizing light as aesthetic to reconceive temporality. The work interrogates one’s sense of self in the midst of an unknown form, one that subtly reveals one’s desires to romanticize what manifest as futuristic utopian visions, undiscovered yet so indeterminately familiar.



Installation View of CHiKA’s SE107


Reverberating with deep currents, the sound of trembling waves draws the viewer’s attention towards the center of the gallery. CHiKA’s geometric minimalist sculpture SE107 draws in the subject with immediacy, playing on one’s physiological experience of both sound and sight. At first glance, the installation appears to run on its own; orchestrated thunderous booms regress into abrupt silences, corresponding with sudden bursts of light that trace across the triangular frames of the sculptural form. Each beam of the structure is lined with LED strips, synchronizing with interactive computer software to produce complex combinations of projected light. As the viewer comes into contact with the interactive podium, light and sound alter upon the detection of movement; the viewer wavers their hand across the sensor, and a sweeping array of light and sound displays follow. A tension is held between disruptive moments of sensory activation and the sculpture’s default programming. The grand scale of CHiKA’s work simulates a newly formulated virtual reality of the cyborg, a inescapable digital relationship. Akin to the rise of the internet boom and digital hyperrealism, the age old universalism of man’s relation to machine is only complicated further with this interactive installation, one that seems to mirror our fragmentary social interactions. CHIKA ultimately reveals an inescapable desire to stabilize one’s sense of existence through simulated control, an embodiment of power amidst the rapid evolutionary track of technological progress.


Juxtaposed with the elaborate presence CHiKA’s work commands, Takafumi Ide’s installation Reverberate is structured delicately, encouraging one to move in closer to the piece. Ide’s work subtly destabilizes one’s sense of movement and self-orientation, activating within the viewer an overwhelming sense of impermanence. Ghostly apparitions are projected softly against wall, while precise angles are cast through shadow between 3 glass panels. Incandescent lights lie beneath each panel, creating a structural form that startles the subject’s perceptions of time and space. What may be unknown to the viewer is the integral role sound fulfills: resonating on a frequency barely detectable to the human ear, 3 CD inputs are played through speakers which hang above each panel. These disc tracks are recorded conversations between Takafumi and his grandmother, an accumulation of past memories, audible recollections revisited. Takafumi unveils to the viewer the true power of language and its ethereal symbolic formations. Through a transmuting process, in correspondence with sound frequencies seamlessly looped tracks, speaker movement fluctuates, distorting our audio-visual field. Ide’s work serves a site of revision, allowing one a reflective space for the re-cultivation of sensory experience: light, water, and sound converge as elemental components that comprise our relationship to memory. These composites when reassembled spurn new reflective memories, and multiply within this reconfigured site of revision, ultimately underscoring the inescapability of memory and its fractal nature.



Detail of Takafumi Ide’s Reverberate


Overall, the artificial containment of light mirrors organic experiential conceptions of time, cultivating space for reinterpretation of self. Light facilitates circulative and cyclical movement, stabilizing a sense of “real”, which inevitably leads to a continuous discovery and return to the unresolved tensions between art and technology. Through constant revisions of light as medium, art can actively harness the power within the cyborg, and simultaneously thwart technology’s inherent mechanistic constraints. The multivalent properties of light that puncture mythologies surrounding a technological aim for purity. When reworking light as transformative medium, these works create counter narratives, which disrupt the continuity of empirical models that dictate the understandings of both time and space.


Shahida Abdulsalam, Contributing Writer to the WAH Center’s Blog

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