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For more than 10 years, Chicago-based collaborative Luftwerk has been examining the relationship between light, form, and material through the development of large-scale, site-specific installations using projected video. Their latest new media installation “Shift” incorporates three distinct, yet interconnected works to immerse viewers in a heightened experience of sight, color, and sound.
Luftwerk’s interest in the basic relationship between color and light and how light and darkness determine how our eyes perceive color served as the driving force behind the creation of “Shift.” During a residency at the Institute for Electronic Arts at Alfred University (IEA), Luftwerk began to research color theory in earnest and study the work of artists including Josef Albers and theorists such as Johannes Itten and Johann Wolfgang von Goethe.
Through “Shift,” Luftwerk has amplified their visual language: Color, motion, and interaction are illuminated and demonstrated through the medium of projected light.
Our concern is the interaction of color; that is, seeing what happens between colors.
– Josef Albers
A strong focus of Luftwerk’s IEA residency was testing prints and processes that would allow for projection mapping onto a wall-sized color field. Upon entering “Shift,” viewers are greeted by a digitized and re-imagined color wheel made of 529 painted panels that, once illuminated, meld into more than 3,174 tones of red, yellow, and blue. This mutable continuum called Spectrum is a delightful sight, as projected light interacts with each panel, varying and mixing to create nearly endless possibilities for color.
We are able to hear a single tone. But we almost never (that is, without special devices) see a single color unconnected and unrelated to other colors. Colors present themselves in continuous flux, constantly related to changing neighbors and changing conditions.
– Josef Albers
Viewers who experience Synthesis help shape the installation, as their movements through the gallery effect the color patterns of light projected onto the floor. Sound artist Owen Clayton Condon stimulates the senses further by highlighting the motion of Synthesis through an original sound score inspired by six colors of the light spectrum (red, yellow, blue, green, orange, and purple) and three musical instruments (glockenspiel, cymbal, and wine glasses filled with water).
The threshold is the place of expectation.
– Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
Threshold, a site-specific work, playfully challenges our perception by examining how light moves and travels in a particular space. Two panels covered in mirror foil form a 90-degree angle to focus a viewer’s attention at the far end of the gallery, and our senses are bemused and enchanted again. When vertical beams of light meet the mirrored panels the light bends. Threshold gives the illusion that the gallery walls must contain a secret portal, perhaps to another world.
– Lee Ann Norman (August 2013)