by Sukanya GargMay 25, 2020
As a consequence of some rather existential questions I have been asking myself recently, I have initiated a self-driven deep dive into understanding some complex and layered ideas of consciousness, spirituality, what it means to be human and so on… You get it, the usual drill! Recently, I came across a lecture by a Dr Rao, a physicist, who spoke to a class at the Theosophical Society. He made several fascinating points, explaining how spirituality, philosophy, and physics are all essentially the same as they seek to answer the same questions but differ in their respective ways of seeing and ultimately understanding. Dr Rao made quantum physics seem easy to understand, even for someone like me who actively avoided science in school. He made a case for evidence of interconnectedness using quantum physics and the Big Bang theory, which was undeniably intriguing. Using simple, jargon-free language he spoke to his rapt audience about how a particle, once separated, is never truly entirely separate and bears some kind of innate connection with each other. Similarly, as we are all born and descended from the same matter which existed since the Big Bang, it is likely that we are all made of particles which bear a similar connection with each other. Over the course of history, many have arrived at a similar conclusion through other methods. In today’s day, being aware of this deep connection, which ties us all together is crucial. Our existence seems more precarious than ever. This delicate balance is evoked in Maja Petric’s immersive art installation, titled We Are All Made of Light.
We Are All Made of Light, referred to as ‘WAAMoL’ for short, is an installation which uses interactive light design along with sound enabled by technology that allows viewers to interact and become a part of the artwork itself. The installation seeks to share a sense of universal interconnectedness with the audience. The audiovisual experience simulates the visual aspects of our known universe, allowing the viewer to metaphorically walk amongst the stars. The programmed algorithm creates a visual, which is continuously evolving and growing through viewer interactivity, ensuring that the experience is not just singularly unique every time but also a result of a larger, collective contribution generated by those who stand before it.
Petric explains, “We Are All Made of Light (WAAMoL) is a result of my creative investigation of how technology can become a vehicle for reaching new emotional terrains that could not be accessible otherwise. I was motivated by opportunities that are offered by new technologies, especially artificial intelligence (AI), to create a new kind of art experience that can extend our comprehension of the world and what it means to be alive in the interconnected universe. For example, my parents came from Croatia for the opening of this exhibit in Seattle, US. Months after they left, their silhouettes would appear in the constellation depicted in the piece. The experience of recognising them, being connected to them in an unusual time and space, would be incredibly moving, awakening my strong bond with them. It is thanks to AI that such a poetic connection among people was made possible. It could not have been done otherwise”. While the artwork is tied together by the strong thread of personal drive on the part of the artist, it is held in place by the wide scope of its implications.
Petric is drawn toward the possibilities held in the hands of technology and plays with it to engage viewers in a deeper line of thought, one which encourages them to reflect on the nature of their wide environment and their comparatively small yet significant impact on it.
Petric has received the Lumen Prize for Art and Technology for this installation. It has been successfully received at every venue so far, drawing large numbers of visitors and is soon to be exhibited in a number of cities in the USA. WAAMoL was exhibited first in Seattle (USA) and thereafter in San Diego (USA) and currently in Sao Paolo (Brazil), with a different iteration being developed for every venue. The exhibition in Sao Paolo opened in February but has been temporarily closed due to the coronavirus pandemic. When the museum will reopen, the exhibition will resume for a month.
Speaking to STIR about her hope for the world post COVID-19, Petric says, "Isolation in time of corona (virus) can exacerbate a sense of dreadful loneliness and fear of others. It is now, more than ever, that we need to evoke a feeling of being connected to others from past, present, and future. This what WAAMoL is created to do. My hope is that we emerge from this crisis with a deeper awareness of our world, eagerness to reconnect with our loved ones, but also to recognise the importance of our connection with people outside of our immediate circles. I hope we get to care more for each other and our interconnected world”.