“SKALAR is a large-scale art installation that explores the complex impact of light and sound on human perception… SKALAR reflects on the fundamental nature and essence of basic human emotions.” Whitevoid
This past weekend I had the pleasure of visiting this installation by light artist Christopher Bauder (founder of Whitevoid) and musician Kangding Ray. Skalar is an art installation that explores 8 different emotions through the medium of light and sound.
I experienced 4 of the installation’s emotions. Whilst it wasn’t obvious to me whether the emotions that were being expressed related directly to any specific human emotion as we understand them, such as happiness, fear or hope, I did interpret them as emotions. This lays the questions: what were these emotions and how did the installation (in other words, the environment I was in) enable me to feel them?
The emotional response a person has to a space is predominantly triggered by light. I believe this to be true. After all, the majority of our understanding of our surrounding environment results from light reflecting off surfaces, entering our eye and reaching our visual system.
I’m using the word predominantly because I’m willingly ignoring the other senses such as touch, smell, taste and hearing. You could even argue that taste is completely negligible and shouldn’t even be mentioned on this list. After all, how likely will the taste of anything we’re eating effect how we feel about the built environment?…
Nonetheless, this is obviously my own bias towards light. After all, I am a lighting designer. My intuition has told me for years the lighting designs I attempt to create have the potential to influence the user’s emotions. And I feel that some truly do.
But could it be that the emotions I am aiming to trigger are not yet quite well understood? That language is yet to name these emotional reactions to our environments. It’s possible. Placing the question in this manner somehow sidetracks me to think about those who experience the world through their TV, phone and more recently virtual reality.
In the past, I’ve criticized (maybe unfairly) those who limit their experience of the world to these mediums. I’ve claimed that they will always lack real-world sensory experiences. And it seems that virtual reality has the ability to make it even more so. But there is something to learn about this transformation of bits and bytes into experiences.
It might well be that VR nerds are cracking the original question of this blog. Their sole focus is to artificially recreate real-world experiences through the virtual, and in doing so they have placed themselves in a position that is best equipped to understand how the virtual lighting scene influences that experience.
Art installations such as Skalar create a sort of augmented sensorial experience that is so impactful that time itself feels slower as you go through the experience. It is important for lighting designers to learn from this.