The futility of capturing light and the death of darkness

My own heightened sensitivity to man-made light from migraines created an interest in pursuing how these lights managed to bend their way into the darkness and the ephemeral nature of light. After a trip and teaching the spiritual significance of stained glass or the rose window, I began to explore a convergence of Renaissance or Gothic ideas about light and truth with a digital paradigm which questions why we have to hold on to a traditional format when the truth offered the viewer is much more radical. It is a revelation of its age and time which in twenty years will seem as archaic as Jeff Koons’ vacuum cleaners. Yet it is light. Man-made light which can be simultaneously abrasive and harsh whilst aesthetically pleasing; almost meditative. There is an aura attached to light which we can only attempt to capture in a 2D format seeing as the very nature of light is not even fully understood: behaving as both a particle and a wave. There is something transforming about light. In our contemporary culture, it is indeed very difficult to find darkness as we surround ourselves in cities of light. We feel safe in the light but have forgotten the redemptive qualities of the darkness?  Saint John of the Cross’ ‘Dark Night of the Soul’? We don’t fully appreciate light and what it brings to a form because we are overrun with it. It is a pollution of light; such that we no longer appreciate the concept of natural light or the beauty in an LED light hanging in a restaurant. A blackout is the closest we get to a primordial beginning where there is darkness. Yet, even then our mobile phones carry a screen light and a torch, so we are never truly in the dark until we sleep and even then, the light can get in. In nature we experience many forms of light like luminescence or fireflies which we have tried to mimic in man-made lighting.

The Catholic doctrine of the luminous mysteries such as the  transfiguration and the mysterious shroud of Turin are projections through or of light and I contemplated whether these older versionS of transmitting or displaying ‘light’ could somehow be updated digitally. Could we combine these older versions of light and truth doctrine to our digital world and would it radiate the same euphoric sense of the sublime or self-examination. If a room was decorated with digital light would it create the same aura? The presence of the light is mystical and exposing; Christ refers to himself as ‘The Light of the world’. If I placed a type of truth box or confessional in a room with a light, would people confess in the same way to a priest? Is it social conditioning or tradition or could light have something to do with the sublime? If there is a transcendence away from the priest to remove mediation with the light from another human being, would the viewer still experience something transcendental? The concept of God is not contained  by time and space and the possible projection through ascension in light creates a wonderful mystery. Yet in religion we find the need to create objects and spaces within which to worship despite immediate access to the Godhead through the Light (Christ). We create temples and mini temples with projections of light (candles, stained glass, rose windows etc.) despite the ‘body’ being the ‘temple of God’. Do we build frames of light around us to open a spiritual dialogue or is distracting? What exactly does the viewer encounter in a space of light and does it create an atmosphere of veneration or reverence?

In researching the mysterious Shroud of Turin, I further explored this idea of light projection from the body itself and how even with modern light forms and technology we have yet to duplicate this, for a human body to in essence ‘be’ the light. Is this the ultimate expression of light in man? Can we bring the Shroud forward in time to combine it with our digital age?  Could we meditate on the brilliance of it behind an aura of digitally processed images? To create my digital ‘stained glass’ images, I recreated a frame on Photoshop similar to that of an iPhone viewing panel for photographs.  It created a framed catalogue effect which allowed the photographs to be viewed as a series or a process; even a light narrative. Placing it all in an installation or ‘space’ I hope to recreate a contemporary digital ‘church’ and note the reactions of the viewer. Essentially I am not creating art in LED like artist Jenny Holzer, I am creating digital ‘stained glass’ or digital replicas through printing. I would also like to explore the projection of words in perhaps a floor space but I don’t want it to detract from the sense of light reverence. I would also like to explore the idea of words in relation to the Shroud from ‘fake’ to ‘relic’ to ‘authentic’.  In many ways the entire expression of a digital aura, when experienced with the religious creates a contradiction and a contemporary synthesis.

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