Waves of Influence
Fall 2010 - COMPLEX, BUT NOT COMPLICATED

Helga Griffiths



Helga Griffiths, Wavespace, 2009. Wire net support, 4000 blue light-emitting diodes, 
	  control units, computer with dedicated software, thermo sensors, wave sensor, mobile data 
	  transmission 8 active loudspeakers, sound (percussion), thermo sensors, 22.5 x 1 x 5 meters. 
	  Courtesy of the artist.

Helga Griffiths, Wavespace, 2009. Wire net support, 4000 blue light-emitting diodes, control units, computer with dedicated software, thermo sensors, wave sensor, mobile data transmission 8 active loudspeakers, sound (percussion), thermo sensors, 22.5 x 1 x 5 meters. Courtesy of the artist.

I work with scientific data to test and reshape perceptions of everyday phenomena by presenting them in unfamiliar ways and contexts. Perceptual forms are interchanged and complex codes created, often beginning with the deconstruction of the familiar to open up new avenues of reception. Our confidence in familiar sensory perception is shaken, and an experiential space is created in which emotions, memories, and associations can grow and move freely. This can develop into a play between proximity and distance, for example, by having information that we normally receive only through touching an object suddenly perceived remotely through our senses of sight or hearing. The information is received through a completely different channel from what we are used to. My recent installation Wavespace is an example of this technique. This multisensory installation combines light and sound elements in novel ways to recreate the experience of weather and the sea in the exhibition space.

Weather and climate are complex, chaotic phenomena. We humans are exposed to the weather and respond to it on an individual level. We might feel the rain or snow on our skin, but we do not fully comprehend the complex mechanisms that cause the drop or the snowflake to fall just then and there. Our ability to predict future atmospheric events is also quite general and limited to short intervals of time and space. We influence the climate with our behavior and actions, but we are not in total control of the complex climate.

For this specific project, I gathered data on extreme weather events measured over a period of 100 years, a period longer than my own lifespan, and transformed it into an abstract and imaginative interpretation that could be experienced through light and sound elements. The historical data were augmented by real-time data from a wave sensor located in the nearby sea and thermal detectors that sense the presence of visitors in the exhibition space. Information about events remote in time and space can thus be experienced with different senses in this walk-through installation, where they are perceived as constantly changing waves of blue LED light and sound moving through the exhibition space. For the acoustic element of the installation, of which the importance is at least equal to that of the visual aspect, I avoided naturalistic sounds for the most part, in favor of sounds created with a wide range of percussive instruments.

The thermo sensors in the exhibition space itself detect heat radiated by visitors, providing information that is used to modify the sounds and light patterns, so that visitors experience direct interaction with the installation, a microclimatic analogy to man’s influence on world climate. In this constantly changing atmosphere of sound and light, participants can experience the fragility of their environment in relation to their own presence in space. The juxtaposition of historical weather data with real-time information provokes a reassessment of one’s own position on the climate timeline, and provides an effective counterpoint to conventional perceptions of weather and the sea.

Source: www.newarts.com