The late autumn made the country dreary and lovers and friends faded and vanished as though it had all been only a creation of my own mind. The air was stale and thick in the city, so I would find myself yearning for the smell of magnolias, which once lingered like incense in my hometown.
When I first moved to London, I had no accurate sense of the events of the day before, or they day before that; it was like a suspended pendulum. I sprawled in bed watching the sun suffer another attenuated refinement in its passage through the leaded panes in the room. I foolishly proclaimed there was nothing outside my windows but the scattering of rain and wind. I felt I was a state half-way between sleeping and waking but with neither condition predominant.
My many moonlight exertions began with the conquest to gather the experience to order my life for happiness. I would walk for hours, anonymous through the streets lit by neon signs and it provoked an idle curiosity; the pallid green shadows under a bridge in Holloway, artificial lights advertising "24HR OFF LICENSE. REPAIRS. CURRENCY EXCHANGE" in Dalston. At first, they were harsh repellent lights, disarming flashes in what felt like a dystopian swamp. I restrained the existential anxieties of being tethered to my smart phone and not long after I found myself figuratively engaged to the coloured streaks of the streets. It felt like walking through a darkroom with the process of abstraction, the seductive chance/control dynamic taking place.
I watched geometric edges in an ethereal light, glowing orbs of shocking luminescence; pinks, greens, yellow, blue. Assembled and staged like film stills. It reminded me of Hitchcock's Vertigo – I remembered the scene when Madeline returns under a new persona with the backdrop of a high contrast green. The fluorescent green light from the outside engulfed the room. It wasn't just this green which had symbolic and intriguing elements; Hitchcock used light/colour in reference to themes of obsession and fear and how such traits can cause a divergence from reality. Denis Villeneuve's Blade Runner; the LED advertisements littered the cityscape. I weaved my very own sensory reality as these neon signs stirred parallels to such films.
It led me to casually ponder whether it was the lights (anything can be art if you project a hypothesis) in the chaotic city which compelled my gaze and the urge to find myself, as nihilistic postmodernism prevails. I felt doomed as a millennial in hope for the spiritual and the transcendent through contemporary visual arts. We live in an escalating cycle of fear and anxiety caused by profound uncertainty: policies to curb carbon emissions, the fog of Brexit engulfing the NHS, animal welfare laws, air pollution, decoding gluten and dating a man with substance who isn't a total jerk.
Perhaps I had hoped for the religious experience those had claimed to have found through contemporary art; particularly from the James Turrell light and space installations. Turrell innovated photographic techniques to allow light a physical space, using holography to make light itself the subject rather than the medium. He created light installations in the form of cubes and pyramids; the light floods the entirety of your field of vision.
A space of introspection in a world of chaos. I had read about the World of Wonder in the Odaiba district of Tokyo, by the digital art pioneer TeamLab. The first and largest piece, Wander through the Crystal Universe, is housed in a 20m x 20m x 4m room that makes visitors feel like they've walked into a futuristic pointillist painting. Tiny LED lights are suspended on slim wire droplets. Each one relates and reacts to the next, so when viewed together, they give the impression of a singular, unified organism.
With the concept of clarifying my perceptions I attended a Jenny Holzer exhibition at The Tate; Holzer is an American neo-conceptual artist who uses LED signs as her medium to explore human interaction and communication. “That's how I get my aesthetic thrills, with pulsing amber LED light.” The LED piece They Left Me, features accounts from Syrian refugees and poetry by Anna Świrszczyńska, capturing the brutality of war and the mass market. It reminded me of my long walks in the mini-metropolis of pulsating lights.
I watched the world move past me with obsessive human curiosity; the light composition perpetually changing; surface, geometry, lights and ritual. "24HR OFF LICENSE. REPAIRS. CURRENCY EXCHANGE. MEN DON'T PROTECT YOU ANYMORE. ABUSE OF POWER COMES AS NO SURPRISE." There is no substitute for the human eye or the psychology of perception.
Words: Ruby Khatun
Copy edited by Elena Stanciu