Waves of Influence
Fall 2010 - COMPLEX, BUT NOT COMPLICATED
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 mans 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 ones
own position on the climate timeline, and provides an effective counterpoint
to conventional perceptions of weather and the sea.