Wavespace Helga Griffiths LightSound Festival Copenhagen
Text by Dirk Manzke, Professor for City and Landscape Planning, Technical University of Osnabrück, Member of the Board of the Kunstverein Osnabrück
Translation by Andrew Griffiths
Place as Art Space
Here, north of Copenhagen, on the stormy coasts of Gilleleje in February, at the most northerly spurs of Europe and yet internationally connected and communicated, here the artist Helga Griffiths from Ober-Ramstadt has dared to create an installation in the icy cold, focussing on climate change, an affecting installation. A former locomotive shed with cropped tracks, whose existence seemed to be a long decline until the present rediscovery, is the frosty locality for a message, which links the sea to life on the mainland. But the Danish capital Copenhagen is also being drawn together with its surrounding area. Part of the concept of the LightSound Festival 2010, organized by the Copenhagen International Theatre, was to choose spaces that represent new approaches to localities with potential subsequent use. In the town of Gilleleje, a locomotive shed was promoted to an art space, where the northern edge of Europe is portrayed as a region where the existential assertiveness of human coastal settlement is demonstrated.
Transformation as Impression
Meanwhile, the installation, which is entitled "wavespace", transforms itself into a crystalline latticework, emitting rhythmical, broken, flashing, dripping and flowing light signals. Minuscule LED lamps emit a contrapunctal light echo of diverse rhythms, connected by restful and restless intervals of light sequences. This installation wants interaction, it demands study, concentrated listening, receptive ability and patience. Its many-layered complexity requires intense communication and tests one's readiness to confront the extraordinary, with attendant impact on one's own behaviour.
Helga Griffiths is becoming a familiar figure among those internationally active artists, who use complex installations to confront complex contemporary questions. In her earlier works "Identity Analysis" and "something in the air", she already began to formulate her interest in a conceptual correlation of art and science, of artistic intervention and scientific reflection. She uses rational means to seek access, thoughtful access, to the emotions. Transformation is the method that she employs to achieve emotional response.
Distance world: Nature
Helga Griffiths uses a wide pallette of technical means and media to discover ways of making our remoteness from nature tangible. She employs technical and medial intelligence to demonstrate them in their self-evident existence and, at the same time, to entice out of them their potential for poetry. For her, these instruments conjure up the contemporary images and situations in which we rediscover ourselves. She is motivated by her realization that technological actuality underpins modernity in this society of ours, which is shaped by rational thought. That can all be found in her Gilleleje project. Her subject is the conscious experience of fragmented nature, ultimately of landscape. In "wavespace", the sea is the natural element that endows her work with meaning.
Helped by her readiness to risk unplanned outcomes, Helga Griffiths undertakes the transformation of disciplined, medially ordered information into art. Through her willingness to risk technical dependencies, which might even threaten her projects, she reflects our natural tendency to imagine whole societies in their devotion to technology. In wavespace, every light sequence, every moment of programmed immediacy is the result of this boldness. Many dramatic and, at the same time, poetic elements exist in the superimposition of development and presence. All of this brings about the transformation of the sea, wind and weather, but also of society itself. Her art is a distance world with respect to nature, by simultaneously making nature an integral part of it.
Association: the Sea
History as the basis for existential atmospheres
Mood sequences now radiate from the conceptual organisation. They create atmospheres. While the wave movement, which occupies the art space, emitting light signals, encourages associative thinking, those viewing it rediscover themselves as creatures of living existence, transposed into the atmospheres of a new nature. The spitting and roaring of the storms seems more familiar. All at once, we huddle into our overcoats, although we are safe, lingering on solid ground in a historic building. It is cold and stormy in February, here in Gilleleje. We sense glittering ice and heavy, drifting, icebergs. Shivering, I take refuge in my protecting overcoat. This freezing, this coldness, this experience of one's own corporeal nature, inside and outside, is an essential part of this installation. Rising winds and the imminent detonation of storms, even if they come at us from the past, always make us uneasy. And already, we yearn for release from this moment of menace and a glimpse of the calm, infinitely patient sea. The history of the sea is a history of life on the shore. It is also the history of fears and setbacks. Linear, organised history is interlaced with storms of existential uncertainty.
Strategy of internalisation
Considering the water cycle, when the waters flow from the land into the sea, starting with drains, trickles, streams, finally rivers, then these are simultaneously our own veins and nerves, which together point the way towards the boundless sea within the infiniteness of the human body. That seems to make the sources of our life-giving heritage easier to understand.
A three-dimensional, space consuming, space determining image seems to wind through the room. Sliding along the floor, rising into the space like a wave, sinking again at the end, the ribbon of light advances through the space, giving it structure, dividing and celebrating it at the same time, giving it fluidity, complementing it by rupturing its architectural organisation, revealing its hidden flow, float, drift. Then, suddenly, I notice the cold draught in the space, feel the frost that does not wait beyond the high wooden doors.
The exactly ordered sources of illumination on the light wave are on the one hand shimmering, dissolving, assertive, slipping, finally flowing fixed points of movement and stillness, of life's diffuse drift, and then again of compact solidity, yielding again and again their own individual moment of existence, of presence. While, on the other hand, the light sources linger in darkness, seem to disappear for a space, are lacunae in the light of actuality. For a moment, some observers may think they are dreaming, only to awake a little later in a more robustly orchestrated reality. Yes, there is something possessive, obsessive about this installation. Those, who offer themselves up to the richness, will assimilate the perceptual spectrum as sequences of life experience. They will have invested time, to gain a more profound sense of time. Corporeal time. Life time.