Immersive public art redefining our relationship to public spaces
by Vatsala SethiDec 30, 2022
•make your fridays matter with a well-read weekend
by Dilpreet BhullarPublished on : Dec 07, 2022
Technology has transpired the everyday lives of people in an unprecedented manner, to an extent that its omnipresence does not attract the attention of sceptics anymore. Aerospace technology has even made it possible to experience real-time change in nature—be it the play of planets or their dynamics with satellites—with the naked eye. However, translating the flow of movement by nature with the aid of technology, in the form of representational art, poses the question of whether machines can accurately recreate the real phenomenon. Raising similar curiosity with her art practice is China-born New York-based multidisciplinary artist Sizhu Li, who constructs immersive kinetic art installations. The large-scale installations, with sounds produced by fans and metal sheets, governed by digital control systems and motorised mechanisms, evokes an immersive experience for the audience. The assemblage lends a neo-futurist touch to the installation.
Her recent installation, Moonment at the Alabama Contemporary Art Center, as the title suggests, reimagines the movements dictated by the natural satellite . This site-specific art installation inspired by the Tang Dynasty Chinese poem Gazing at the Moon, Longing from Afar by Jiuling Zhang borrows from the idea that when the moon rises above sea level, it connects all humans irrespective of their geographical location. As a part of the kinetic installation, the movement of the aluminium sheets replaces the lunar light reaching the earth. The ebb and flow of these sheets is controlled by codes, reflecting the binary of oriental and modern philosophy. The material is not just limited to the tactile quality of the physical reality but ought to be treated as fleshy characters that have the potential to conjure melancholy as well as nostalgia when experienced by the audience.
The art installation Moonment translates the sensorial understanding of the natural movement—in this case the kinetic wave movement—with the dynamics of machines. In an interview with STIR, Li talks about this transition, “Mechanics seem cold and make tedious and repetitive work. However, the mechanism changed the speed of human development by leading industrial invention, bringing people to a modern society that seems to stay further from nature and each other. In my piece, I use lifeless machines to create the vivid and trembling wave movement that embeds humour and life in the movement, presenting vitality and humanity. The transition evokes in people the harmony between nature and technology.”
Her installations, for instance, Pingping Pongpong like Moonment is an exploration of gravity and electricity. In a continuous perusal to navigate the field of movement — be it through invisible pull and push and inertia—the installations could pose a variety of challenges in order to recreate the natural phenomenon, for an experiential journey. "The light kinetic installation defined my work around 2018-2019, the period between which I was getting graduated from graduate school and moved to New York. The current challenges are pushing both techniques and digging the idea further to the next stage. I am working on a pulley system and designing programming control for my next project Mirage, which is an extension from Moonment—eight pieces of wave move with patterns in a tunnel-like space, focusing on a more minimal and larger scale installation. Also, since my work has expanded dramatically, it requires a larger studio and exhibition space, which is challenging, especially since I am based in New York City,” says Li.
The principle of immersive experience is integral to the works, which at an emotive level opens a world of minimalism. In other words, the immersive experience extended by the network of technology also hints at the deeply aligned hustle-bustle of modern life. Citing immersive quotient as a “must” for the installation, Li informs, "From my understanding of art, I believe the most incredible art is creating extreme visual and mental experiences to heal people. Making immersive installations allows me to put my audience in a completely unfamiliar environment to relocate themselves, refresh themselves and enjoy the movement and storytelling in my work.”
The element of wonder in nature, which does not fail to amuse the human tribe, is also found in the works of Li. Even when the technology sets the kinetic sculpture in motion, the installation, such as Moonment, draws a novel way of appreciating the beauty of life and nature. Li desires that her work Moonment draws a smile on the face of the viewers, “When they look at my trembling waves and romance in work — the moon above the sea view connects people beyond distance. Also, inspire viewers on how to work with nature, referring to Yin and Yang from Chinese philosophy Taoism and the physical law, energy conservation—work with gravity, fans, and Arduino to move the waves. Sisyphus would be meaningful if they could be recognised from Moonment.”
The installation Moonment is on view at the Alabama Contemporary Art Center till April 23, 2023.
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