All art weaves its magic on the environment and the viewer by virtue of light from within or external to the work. In fact, light, natural or artificial may become the work of art in itself. No matter what position light takes, there is no exception to the fundamental necessity of its wondrous illuminating attributes.
In the absence of light everything reverts to what is unseen or imagined in the mind. With the faculty of vision and the aid of light we see and navigate the world of objects.
Thus, science and art are entwined by the force of light, firstly on science, a system of empirical knowledge from observation and experiment and then art, the creative application and outworking of that knowledge in practical material form.
Bruce Munro is a British artist who constructs light installations for interior and exterior environments. He has been doing this for twenty one years and to date has taken his most well known project, 'Field of Light' in its many iterations, to many places around the world. Munro's art is directed by a keen interest in 'shared' human experiences and his growing interest in outdoor lighting installations ties technology, nature and human experience together on a grand visual scale.
Below is an image of a 'Field of Light' installation at Waddesdon Manor, UK in 2013.
Munro's 'Field of Light' concept as novel as it may be is, closely tied to the idea of 'covering' on a monumental scale, which is a 20th century development in modern art championed originally by the Bulgarian artist Christo and his wife Jeanne-Claude.
They began to wrap large buildings and landscapes with canvas tarpaulins starting in 1967 and ushered in a new mode of intervention in the built and natural environment forcing a new understanding of what is seen by daylight. Munro is covering various outdoor sites with thousands of fibre optic lights and opening a new way of seeing the landscape by night. Both art practices are expanding the genre of what is understood as 'spectacle,' maybe only possible in this time of accelerating technology, communication and capital investment.
Ok, where does science come into a practice like this? Or does it? Maybe, 50.000 lights, solar panels, plastic fibre optic cabling, (380 kilometres of it) and light projectors act as a kind of synthetic nerve system mimicking that of living organisms. Maybe, the myriad lights point us to the starry host above and mirror extravagantly below what is rarely noticed by most. Maybe, the lights and all its constituent components are a statement about what technology is doing to the environment. Or, maybe, the light installations suggest possibilities for the future and offer the hope of a 'technological sublime' that may save us from any number of terrifying, imagined dystopias. More likely at its base level, it is the interaction of the brain via physics and biological processes with light stimuli producing new sensations and meaning!
However one is inclined to lean, Munro's light installations cause spectators to pause and reflect more deeply on what technology in the natural environment means.
Click the images below to learn more about Bruce Munro's light projects.
It's important to remember that Bruce Munro uses light/lights/lighting like a paintbrush creating vividly colourful site specific 'nocturnes' or night scenes. In a similar fashion to other eminent artists working with light like Dan Flavin, Robert Irwin, James Turrell and Tamar Frank, Munro has chosen 'light' as his artistic medium for exploration. The very nature of light is ephemeral whether changing daylight or artificial light manipulated to varying intensities.
Munro, to all intents and purposes, is painting with light and his intervention into dark landscapes throws different kinds of light on what we didn't know was there, creating technological visual fantasies out of the commonplace!
Click below for Field of Light fact sheet.
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Art & Science
Ideas and connections for those interested in the art/ science nexus.