'LUX: New Wave of Contemporary Art' puts light as the key focus of new media art

LUX: New Wave of Contemporary Art at 180 Studios in London, attempts to deconstruct the boundaries between the fields: arts and sciences, humanity and technology.

by Dilpreet BhullarPublished on : Dec 15, 2021

The immersive experience anchored by the new media engaged in audio-visual technology ascends to new heights with the exhibition LUX: New Wave of Contemporary Art, curated by SUUM in collaboration with Fact and 180 Studios in London, UK.  As the title suggests, the exhibition focuses on nuanced characteristics of light. LUX, from the Latin for ‘light’, has occupied the creative minds to experiment with its effect on visual perception. With the recent development of the tools including 3D projection mapping, neural networks, quantum computing, game engines, open-source VFX software, algorithmic visualisation, or OLED screens, the light has shifted to being the “subject matter” of the visual arts rather than being a mere “facilitator”. The exhibition features a variety of 12 international artists who work towards creating an opportunity in an effort to alter our trained perception of what constitutes the natural and digital realms in an increasingly blurred reality. The artists push the viewers to deconstruct the given binaries between natural and artificial, arts and sciences, physical and the digital, humanity and technology. 

Installation shot, Cao Yuxi, Shan Shui Paintings by AI | LUX: New Wave of Contemporary Art| STIRworld
Installation shot, Cao Yuxi, Shan Shui Paintings by AI Image: Courtesy of 180 Studios

Since the exhibition comes at a time when the world is regaining normalcy after one and a half years of the pandemic crisis, Jiyoon Lee, the curator of the exhibition LUX: New Wave of Contemporary Art, with sensitivity deploys strategies to address the labyrinth of emotions humans experienced during this time. In an interview with STIR, she mentions, “Since the beginning of the pandemic, many people have begun to question how we view art and what constitutes an art experience. Without the physical art works presented, but virtually promoted, people have seen some of the limitations of art and as the virtual space has grown, the appreciation of analogue works - someone that is more instinctive and visually connected - has been highlighted”.  She adds, “Many of the artworks that we have included in LUX - including those by Carsten Nicolai and Es Devlin - demonstrate the importance of physical presence and experience, and artists like Hito Steyerl reflect on the very important concept of having a fear of the near future.”

Installation shot, iart studio, Flower Meadow | LUX: New Wave of Contemporary Art| STIRworld
Installation shot, iart studio, Flower Meadow Image: Courtesy of 180 Studios

The London-based artist Es Devlin’s new large-scale, site-specific work, Blueskywhite, is an expression of the sensorial response to the possible extinction of the blue sky. The work draws on the recent environmental studies on the potential bleaching of the sky from blue to white by proposed geo-engineering solutions to global heating. The viewers are invited to take a walk through a 24-metre light tunnel that modulates from portrait to landscape, illuminating the space from blue to white and through some speculative future sunset hues.

Installation shot, a'strict, Starry Beach | LUX: New Wave of Contemporary Art| STIRworld
Installation shot, a'strict, Starry Beach Image: Courtesy of 180 Studios

The Korea-born artist Je Baak’s virtual piece, Universe, employs surreal expressiveness to depict human emotions that are subjected to algorithms and produced in physical forms. The video highlights an organism made of different structures at an amusement park or a mechanical device with glowing colours, drifting into space. The work challenges artificial intelligence’s ability to interpret human emotion through the principle of cause and effect, only to make an inquiry into the role of humans when in relationship with technology. 

The New York-based Chinese artist Cao Yuxi’s AI-inspired Shan Shui paintings uses the deep learning algorithm to memorise tens of thousands of pixel data from different styles of oriental freehand ink paintings. Using the learned data model, the AI is then able to automatically draw and create new and unlimited landscape paintings without restrictions and with interesting visual effects.

Installation view, a'strict, Morando | LUX: New Wave of Contemporary Art| STIRworld
Installation view, a'strict, Morando Image: Courtesy of 180 Studios

As an art historian, Lee is very much keeping a close tab on what is happening now, and how artists are responding to changes in the world around them. The certainty around the important movement towards experiential and immersive art remains undeniable. Moreover, the ideas to underscore the immersive experience around works are brimming in the circuit of the art world. Against such rising trends, Lee offers a less obvious response when she acutely mentions, “It is important to stress that this exhibition is not only about having an immersive experience. Today, many of these ‘immersive’ / experience exhibitions have been introduced at a very large scale which is not always the optimum way of presenting the work. For this exhibition, I really wanted to introduce works that can be experienced individually and ‘immerse’ the visitor in each work rather than focusing specifically on the overall ‘experience’.” 

Installation view, Es Devlin, Blueskywhite | LUX: New Wave of Contemporary Art| STIRworld
Installation view, Es Devlin, Blueskywhite Image: Courtesy of 180 Studios

The subtlety of some of the works in the exhibition might catch the viewers by surprise. When Lee says, “We primarily want to show how artists are working with all kinds of technology as part of their practice, in a way that has not been done before,” she successfully strives to activate the inconspicuous human sensorial activities of her audience. 

Installation shot, Julian Knxx, Black Corporeal (Breathe) | LUX: New Wave of Contemporary Art| STIRworld
Installation shot, Julian Knxx, Black Corporeal (Breathe) Image: Courtesy of 180 Studios

The exhibition LUX: New Wave of Contemporary Art runs at 180 Studios until December 18, 2021, and will be on view again from January 7- February 6, 2022.

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