The Meeting

art, grayzone, recent work

Another invitation; another collaboration. At Kulturcentrum Järna, Rudolf Steiner’s mystery dramas will be performed during a five-day event, and a correspondent exhibition engages a number of people from the local arts and crafts scene. Nigel Wells (Virbela Flowforms), Eva-Karin Planman, Sigrid Winkler and I go for co-creating an installation. We choose a space – much like a bridge – where a staircase and two galleries connect with the upper entrance of the large auditorium. The place is central, narrow, open. Nigel makes measurements and sketches. All four of us bring in different components to the process: concepts, such as revelation, playfulness, light, body, image; references – the lamps hanging aloft under the ceiling, the dramatic theme; suggested materials like textiles, water, sand… I could see triangular crystal prisms in the large window facing due west. Mud, says Sigrid, there has to be mud. So, we prepare mudwater from the modelling clay in the workshop of Virbela. We cut and dip fifty metres of nonwoven fabric, and find a drying place in my studio.

Nigel cuts wooden pieces for the frame, Eva-Karin paints them. We calculate and drill holes for the wires. Then comes the mounting; twenty-four prisms hanging in the window, the frame put together and installed. And finally, attaching the veils.

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There it is. A breathing body, a light-and-shadow labyrinth, a crossroads; the Meeting.

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Public Commission VI: Coloured Light, Curious Shadows (May-June 2018)

art, recent work

What next? After the night comes morning light… The starry sky alcove calls for a surrounding light design. Earlier, I did some tests with torchlights – but where to find permanent spotlights producing such a distinct, sharp-edged image?

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Torchlight test

Having searched high and low, and after consulting lighting experts – among them Gerhard Rehm at CDC Lighting and Bengt Ahlin at Färgrum – I finally find the spotlights I’m looking for, through the Rebel Controls company; they’re actually miniature gobo projectors. And, they’re expensive. And, they don’t really fit into the existing wall, because they’re too long; need to add a few centimetres of thickness there.

Spotlight collars – design and result

So, I contact Snickerifabriken Järna – a carpenter’s shop where they do CNC lathing – and present a sketch. And – whoaa! – what a beautiful piece of work they produce: ten perfectly cone-shaped collars, lathed out from hard five-ply birchwood. Thank you, carpenter Nisse! Rather than painting the collars to “blend into the wall”, I’ll pay tribute to craftsmanship by treating them with matte varnish.

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Collars mounted, wiring installed

Site director Anders has been very supportive all along; now he brings a hole saw and cuts all the holes I have marked out. Electrician Thomas does the wiring, and I can mount the spotlights. A day or two for trying out the colour filters and set the final composition – having great fun…

Shadow selfie with three spotlights

Meanwhile, school goes on. The spring term is soon coming to and end. Schoolchildren still aren’t allowed to visit the workplace area – but every now and then I do a little guided tour around the venue for a group of curious kids together with their teachers, or on their own… They are the ones who will spend the days and years to come up here. To share the joy with them is even better than playing alone with light and shadows.

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LightJam at Långsjö teater

art, beauty, recent work

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Finally, we did it!

Playing with light and shadow has been a theme in my work since many years now… and while I was doing the Passage Room at Satan’s Democracy, long-time friend and colleague Lena Strand came up with the idea to bring our knowledge and spirits together in a jam session on light… Wow!

We both knew we just had to do it… only, it took a while until it actually happened. But finally, on the 3rd of January 2017, we met in Lokstallet, Gnesta – a 19th century railway roundhouse, now hosting a local theatre. I brought my 2 x 1,5 metres connectable wooden frames, together with some twelve meters of thin silk fabric. Lena brought an overhead projector, two diapositive slide projectors, a roll of stage lighting filters… and two of her former students, Maria and Daniella. What a surprise! They, in turn, had rope, glassware, paper, torchlights… and so, our LightJam could begin.

Through four days, we explored light in various modes, from the first winter morning sunrays penetrating the room horizontally, casting coloured shades to slowly wander over the walls, to patterns of transparent glass objects projected on screens, and our own shadows double-exposed in a maze of framed silk. Here’s the story in photos:

Day 1 and 2.
Lena and I are the first ones to show up. Lena prepares a paper with some lighting filters, and the pale winter sun graciously plays the role of the spotlight, shining in through the glassed entrance windows. Lena catches the coloured dots on a silk banner, I try to grasp them with my hands… When the sun passes around the corner, Maria arrives. For the first day, there’s only the three of us. The next day, Daniella is also with us. Daniella, Maria and I all meet here for the first time – actually, Lena is the only one to have met with all of us beforehand. So, it’s a process of getting to know each others, as well as the space and the materials. We interweave the handling of physical objects with sharing earlier experiences of process work and improvisation, and our proposals for now. Everything is very casual, and equally serious. We go out for lunch, then set up the dia projector and arrange a couple of transparent screens to play with shadows.

Day 3.
Clear sky again. In addition to yesterday’s colour dots projected into the theatre space, I want to try a two-direction setup; I cover some of the glass panes with lighting filters. When dusk falls, I will be able to use the theatre’s spotlights to project outwards, where untouched snow provides a large white screen. Glass items on the overhead projector produce stunning patterns. Dark, thinly woven fabric covers the long walls to improve acoustics; they also serve to doubling up and distorting the projections, amazing! Lena uses ropes to visualize a process of divergence and convergence… This is actually what we’re continuously practicing here; defining our starting points, then trying out ideas individually or in flexible constellations, then gathering for sharing and reflecting – and for long lunches! Then redefining, and starting over – converging, diverging, converging… Like breathing.
We start talking about how to present our work – tomorrow, we have announced an Open House event for a couple of hours. After a full day’s work, I’m vivified and content. For tomorrow, I’m packing some tools, a silk painting, and a set of diapositives from the 1970’s for the projector…

Day 4.
During the first hour, I’m alone in the room. The morning sun treats me an exuberant light show… Lena enters to see the finale.
The idea of diverging and converging becomes the organizing concept for our presentation; visitors will be led between the wall and the acoustic curtain to the very back of the room, guided by a light trail; a narrow corridor, but not claustrophobic thanks to the transparency of the fabric. From the end of the tunnel, they will find different paths back to the entrance/exit door, while experiencing and experimenting with the different set-ups: the overhead projector, where objects could be altered, exchanged and moved around to change the projected patterns; a semi-transparent film screen (a large piece of cheap paper, really), showing a video compilation from days 2 and 3; the labyrinth of coloured silk screens for shadowplay, leading up to the red and blue silk painting; the two dia projectors, whimsically showing superimposed pictures of traditional Canarian crafts and paintings by Cézanne and Picasso, mixed with lighting filter monochromes… free to play with. Daniella couldn’t be with us this last day, but we implemented her concept of hanging ropes in the shape of a tree trunk, to cast shadows. Torchlights proved very useful here!
We were happy to have a number of visitors – some of them skilled professionals in colour design and light techniques, others just curious in the most delightful way…

And the day after… Light Jam finished; taking things down, packing, withdrawing. The light will stay, increasing by minutes every day… for a while.