Hypnotized. Disoriented. Obsessive.
This is how a visitor may feel upon seeing the new exhibition at Washington, D.C.’s experimental technology and art space Artechouse. A series of four installations combining light and sound, “Naked Eyes” by Paris-based Nonotak Studio opens today in celebration of the first International Day of Light.
Using LEDs, projectors, and laser-illuminated fiber optics, Nonotak Studio founders Noemi Schipfer and Takami Nakamoto choreographed immersive, dance-like sequences of light and music ranging from mesmerizing to aggressively intense in the first-ever U.S. show for the team. “It reflects the notion of "light" being an abstract matter, which needs intervention and design to become shape and volume. In this exhibition, light has been sculpted, contained, diffused, projected and reflected so Naked Eyes can enjoy the 3 dimensionality of it,” Schipfer said in a press release by Artechouse.
To achieve this, Schipfer—an illustrator and tattoo artist—and Nakamoto—an architectural designer and musician—spent 10 sleepless days realizing and constructing the site-specific installations, which were only partially conceptualized prior to arriving at Artechouse.
For the main atrium installation, "Baseline," the duo was inspired by the volume of the space, but wanted to create a fourth “wall” to create a cube of light, which visitors enter from a stairwell above. The solution was to install a sculpture of LED bars on the floor, which are individually programmed to interact with the sequences of light projected from ceiling fixtures onto each wall.
“It was also about the architecture, how the exhibition space is set up in a way where the audience has a view from the top,” Nakamoto tells ARCHITECT. “We thought it would be interesting for people walking from the top to see people’s silhouettes below and create a landscape instead of a floor.”
In one room, “Ocean” features a façade with wood slats concealing strips of LED that ebb and flow like water to create “a canvas of light" according to the artists. In another space, 16 pillars topped with head lights programmed to twist and dance in sync are back-lit by strobe lighting, to increasingly up tempo music in “Coma.” Schipfer and Nakamoto chose to use the head lights for their “kinetic" movement and unique silhouettes, rather than their light-emitting functionality (in fact they are never turned on).
The final—and possibly most impressive—space is hidden in a nearly pitch-black back room. “Zero Point One” refers to the size in millimeters of the Versalume fiber optics used to create a cross-hatched grid of light in the center of the space. The duo covered each fiber in phosphor to turn blue laser light into a white light that disappears without ghosting, and allows for instantaneous on–off precision in a clean environment. “It’s the first time we have a light source that is so thin and long,” Schipfer says. “When the lasers are off, the fibers disappear totally.”
Though the exhibit is clearly about light, Schipfer's minimalist aesthetic and Nakamoto's architecture background standout. "When I was studying architecture, I was had fun with the student projects where there weren’t limits and you can get crazier than reality," Nakamoto says. "When I started working in an agency, I was really shocked by the reality of it. A lot of artistic decisions are also linked to political decisions which was frustrating. So I started thinking about smaller scale installations—it was a way for me to be connected to architecture."
"Naked Eyes" runs through June 30 at Artechouse, in Washington, D.C. Visit usa.artechouse.com for ticket informtion.