In my work, light systems reveal spaces that throw our habitual reference points into disarray. My installations lead the public into places filled with light and chromatic variations determined by certain wavelengths that have an unsettling effect on the senses. Light brings visitors into another space that is modified and given added density. It is as if they are sucked into, and immersed in, an area of moving light that either physically changes their spatial bearings or physiologically changes the reference points of their perception.
The way space is experienced in new configurations of light becomes a physical and aesthetic experience that relates to an attempt to synchronise architecture, its built setting, and light. This work requires a preliminary reconnaissance of the space and a detailed analysis of its essence, so that it can then be totally modified and so that light of different intensities can be injected into it to modify its density. My installations offer visitors or users a new way of experiencing space and buildings. Light and its chromatic variations (or wavelengths) create feelings of energy that I vary according to the setting and the individual situation. These two parameters (chromatic and electric) circulate between the setting and the people inside it, producing an experience that is always modified by the movements of the visitors themselves as they walk around. My investigations have led me to explore the influence of light on biological systems and to test the limits of perception and the psychotropic effects of light. Light is something that reveals a constant influence on ourselves, and which speaks of the way we confront the here-and-now.
The experience of space in its new luminous configurations not only highlights the invisible; it also emphasises the fact that the places in which I intervene very often give the public complete freedom to walk around spaces that are free of obstacles, empty, and yet full of the substance called light.
Plato called colour pharmakon: a drug. According to Barthes, “colour submerges”.
Certain artworks encourage the public to take part in these experiments by actually going inside them. Examples are installations that disturb visual perception like To Share the Landscape at the Singapore Art Museum (2001); visitors entered stimulating, sleepless spaces bathed in red and green light at the Guggenheim Gallery in Los Angeles (Deep Imminent Instant, 2002) and the Pontoise swimmingpool in Paris for the first Nuit Blanche (Deep Water, 2002); they entered the hypnotic light created by the installations entitled Voyage Hypnotique [Hypnotic Journey] and Sommeil Artificiel [Artificial Sleep] in Paris and Brest (2003), and the work entitled Vertigo at the Gaîté Lyrique in Paris (2004); they took part in new experiments with light causing a sense of visual dizziness such as Vertige en apesanteur[Weightless Dizziness] (2004) at the Bauhaus in Dessau, Immersion rotatoire [Rotating Immersion] on Lake Geneva, Horizon hallucinatoire [Hallucinatory Horizon] on the façade of the AFAA in Paris,and Trajectoires absorbées [Absorbed Trajectories] in the Grande Galerie du Forum des Halles in Paris. They entered a laboratory of light, or felt they were floating, in permanent works for the Centre Georges Pompidou entitled Phénoménologie de la lumière [Phenomenology of Light] and En flottement [Floating] (2005).
Other physically destabilising experiments have involved dazzling effects causing a feeling of “presence” in the viewer (Mixage Phosphénique [Phosphenic Mixing], Lyon, 2006) and Arising (Cergy le Haut, 2006)).
Déferlante [Crashing Wave] (Luce di Pietra, percorso di arte contemporanea 2007) at the Farnese Palace in Rome magnetised and hypnotised our vision and made us feel weightless.
Still other ways of experiencing light have been made possible by Pénétrer l’Invisible [Entering the Invisible] and Hommage à Rothko [Tribute to Rothko] at the Palazzo delle Esposizioni in Rome (2007), and Densité [Density] at the Mairie du Quatrième Arrondissement in Paris.
In l’Invisibilité [Invisibility], a permanent commission from the ENSAV in Versailles, artificial light disappears, leaving only natural light visible, while Horizon Persistant [Persistent Horizon] (2008) on the Hermès building in Paris used a pattern of light sequences that changed in the blinking of an eye, like an interstitial flow of time that reinforced our hypnotic state.
Chromatic variations create both movement and depth and, because they also modify perspective, transformed the Institut des Arts Visuels in Orléans, which found itself joined by its luminous double (Relativité spatiale [Spatial Relativity], 2009). When energy is concentrated into a bright red circle above our heads, it’s as if we are chained to the space, as in the Galerie Delacroix in Tangier, where the artwork was independent of the visitor who felt that he was being smothered, then able to breathe in the sky blue light (L’Insistance des courants contraires [The Insistence of Opposite Currents], 2010).
In 2010, light took over the Ural Museum in Ekaterinburg, Russia, turning it into an Electric Landscape. On the Place Malraux in Paris, Crépuscule persistant slides into rotating motion. The luminous horizon in the MACRO museum in Rome (Horizon flottant [Floating Horizon], 2011) rose and fell in an installation featuring variable light levels that confused visitors on the stairs as to how high up they were. In Etendues latérales [Lateral Expanses] at the Galerie des Gobelins in Paris (Manufacture des Gobelins), vertical strips of light are linked together and juxtaposed, “unfolding” the facade by creating two complementary and moving chromatic areas.
At the Biennale la Science de l’art in Essonne, and for the Nuit Blanche in Montréal, a cultural centre and a skating rink respectively were bathed in light that acted as a sedative (wavelength: 420 nanometres): a deep indigo-violet blue that creates a minimal level of spatial perception, just this side of invisibility (Waiting Area, 2011 and As a Waiting Area, 2012).
L’Epaisseur de la lumière [The Thickness of Light, 2013] invades two spaces, one on top of the other, at the Fondation EDF in Paris: a slow rotating motion impregnates all the surfaces, which are transformed under the influence of the wavelengths. The visitor’s body becomes part of the work and the place itself, transformed by the diffracted shadows on the edges of the space.
At the MOCA (2014 Chengdu, China), a suspended circle of light passes through gallery walls and spreads through the museum, while visitors are immersed in further projected light. In The Temple (Beijing, China), a deconsecrated temple, two installations, one occupying a wall above a pond and another a perimeter wall, unfold in space and time with luminous, elastic, hypnotic fluidity, suspending their environment.
Nathalie Junod Ponsard