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Light Research @ MMU

The changing light on the Hudson River, the river that flows both ways

Here is another fantastic work by Spencer Finch. The River That Flows Both Ways is situated in the windows of a former loading dock in the former Chelsea Market Building alongside the former elevated freight railway in Manhattan that has been transformed into the wonderful High Line Park. The piece, entitled as a a translation of the Native American name for the River Hudson that refers to the way in which it flows in two directions, is composed out of 700 tinted panes of glass that represent the ever-changing, evanescent, multiple hues of the flowing water. Finch undertook a 700 minute journey along the river on a tugboat, photographing its surface every minute. Each pane of glass represents the colour of a single pixel from within each photograph and these are organised into a chronological sequence via a grid arrangement that tracks the journey. Though only a series of snapshots of the innumerable colours of the river that change in responses to the light cast by the angle of the sun and in accordance with season, time of day, weather conditions and water quality, the work honours the particular qualities of light that reflect off the surface of moving water and focuses on how this contributes to a particular sense of place, albeit one that is linear, ever-changing and continuously moving. Spencer Finch 4

January 4th, 2015 - 11:49am

The Seasonal Lights of Manhattan

Manhattan is legendary for the numerous illuminations that continue to enchant the most modern city of New York, and they have been captured by innumerable photographers, artists and filmakers. Most celebrated are the lights of the city’s nocturnal slihouette viewed from Brooklyn, the buildings geometrically studded with changing configurations of lit windows, and the multiple screens that cover the vertical surfaces of Times Square, blaring commodities, celebrities and television shows in an endlessly changing postmodern collage that distracts and confuses vision. There are the brightly illuminated landmarks of the Empire State Building, New York Life Insurance Building, One World Trade Centre and Chrysler Building that provide orientation. And at Christmas time, the illuminated window displays of Macy’s and other department stores lure large crowds of onlookers after nightfall as does the renowned Christmas Tree at the Rockefeller Centre with is saturated festoons of lighting. However, I want to focus on three less famous attractions that were sited in Manhattan’s public spaces this year.

Xmas tree and Menora

Firstly, the World’s Largest Menora, celebrating the Jewish festival of Hannukah, lies at 5th Avenue and 49th Street, but rather than featuring this illuminated icon, I have included an image of the Christmas Tree at Wall Streeet at which a Menora is also situated, underscoring the multi-faith character of New York City as well as the ways in which many religions ritualistically deploy light to convey a host of symbolic meanings.New York Light

Secondly, I have included  the temporary installation New York Light, created by design company Inaba. Situated at the Flatiron Plaza next to Madison Square, this steel tube sculpture incorporates flashing LEDs that illuminate the cellular structure and are reflected by mirrored panels. Visitors can enter the enclosing form of the sculpture to experience a discrete calm space in the midst of busy traffic and pedestrian traffic flows, or they can step back and experience views that draw in the skyline, including the Empire State Building. The work convincingly transforms a familiar landscape so as to make it strange. It reconfigures the relationship of the square with surrounding buildings, and in attracting photographers, locals and tourists, it powerfully reanimates this well-known public space at night.giant lights

Thirdly, since 2010, a giant string of 31 vintage Christmas lights  has been installed during the festive period in front of the McGraw Hill Building on 6th Avenue, and they are now fitted with LED illumination. Together with the equally giant baubles that lie next to them, these striking lights were devised by PRG Scenic Technologies and designers from the American Christmas company. As enormous replicas of familiar everyday objects, they recall the gigantic modernist sculptures of Claes Oldenburg.

December 31st, 2014 - 18:18pm

The potential of shadow: Alexander Calder’s sculptures

At a marvellous exhibition in New York’s Venus Over Manhattan Gallery, the mobiles and stabiles of esteemed modernist sculptor, Alexander Calder, have been transformed by the use of spotlights. The mobiles in particular are re-enchanted, lit to produce powerful, dancing shadows that complement the sculpture. The exhibition gives a new sense to these works, offering a fuller, more three dimensional appreciation of their shapely, dynamic qualities. A YouTube video gives a good sense of their seductiveness:

Calder in shadow

January 28th, 2014 - 15:42pm

The Rain Room at MOMA, New York

Nona Schulte-Roemer sent this link to the Rain Room exhibit at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. If you are there before 28th July, 2013, we’d heartily recommend a visit: The efficacy of the effect depends upon the intense carbon arc lamps known as klieg lights. Motion sensors pause the rain where a body is detected. The New York blog Gothamist writes that the ‘overall effect is mesmerizing–semi-blinding white klieg light at the back of the room disorients your field of vision while highlighting the millions of individual raindrops showering down around you on all sides’.

The Rain Room

May 15th, 2013 - 16:29pm