It has been a long time since I have been wanting to initiate this blog page on my site. Currently in the beginning of the second year of my master, I thought it is about time to do so, by briefly communicating what I have been up to during the previous academic year. In a future post I want to share what I am up to at the moment, how my research is evolving, and what are my plans and aspirations for this year.
I think a good place to start with, is to explain my choice of applying to and joining the master programme at the ArtScience Interfaculty in the Hague. After graduating from the Athens School of Fine Arts I had a clear idea and direction for what I wanted to pursue in my future academic studies: researching in depth and working with light as my main artistic medium. This being a quite specific field of interest within the arts, it was not easy to find a study programme that would suit my needs. I did not want to join a 2-year Fine Arts master, where I would pursue this research all by myself. Instead I wanted to find an educational environment that would be actually fruitful for me, where I would develop my own work and research, while acquiring new skills, gaining experiences, and being part of a team of teachers and students that have similar interests and direction in art with me, and where new ideas, works and concepts would be able to sprout and evolve. Learning about the ArtScience Interfaculty I realised that it was a master programme that would be suitable for me. First of all it has innate the aspect of personal research in its structure, which meant that I would be able to specialise in the field that I chose, and secondly, its interdisciplinary character was very attractive to me. Being able to study, do research and experiment in fields concerning the sciences and merging them with art, doing so in a more scientific and rigorous manner, was something that I knew would open up new paths for me and my work and would broaden my artistic horizons.
Arriving in the Hague last September, I found a good team of teachers (Arthur Elsenaar, Eric Kluitenberg, Cocky Eek, Michiel Pipje just to name a few) with which I could discuss and get feedback on my research and projects, relate to and learn from, as well as a dynamic group of co-students with a very broad field of interests and practises.
As soon as I started the programme and aside from following the department’s courses on various subjects, I began researching and approaching my main field of interest, light, from multiple perspectives. Attempting a categorisation of these, results to the following main research topics:
-study of the nature of light, also known as: optics. You cannot start researching light and not stumble across the word optics. Optics is the branch of physics that studies the behaviour and properties of light, and its interaction with matter. For my research, the study of optics is one of the most crucial parts. Knowledge of optics I consider a precious tool for my work. By learning how light works, one can start understanding in which way to use it or manipulate it, to reach a desired result. Also by starting to understand the ways of one of the most elusive elements of our universe, a new world opens up, and with it inspiration and new ideas. Of course it is not trivial; optics is a vast field, with great specialisation involved, in both theory and application. In pursuit of setting some stronger foundations for my knowledge on optics as well as experiencing how it is to be in a scientific environment and interact with the people in the field, I sought to attend courses outside of my academy. Last year I followed a (extremely difficult for my level of maths and physics, but still well-worth following) master course on "Geometrical Optics" at TU Delft, taught by prof. Bocciort, and this year I am following the course "Astronomical Telescopes and Instruments", which is part of the Master Astronomy programme, at Leiden University, taught by prof. Keller & prof. Kenworthy.
-study of how light interacts with natural elements in the atmosphere, also known as: atmospheric optics. A fascinating sub-branch of optics which deals with how the unique optical properties of the Earth's atmosphere cause a wide variety of spectacular optical phenomena, ranging from the blueness of the sky or the rainbow, to mirages, sundogs, halos or the otherwordly Northern Lights. By learning how these phenomena work, I was impelled to try and 'artificially recreate' some of them in experiments, in the studio environment. I attempted to do so with some simple phenomena as you will see below, and actually managed to develop a series of works on the phenomenon of light scattering, but most of them are still on hold, waiting for the right moment in order to take place. A very useful companion during all this process has been the classic book "The Nature of Light and Colour in the Open Air", by the Dutch astronomer M. Minnaert (1894-1970). A finding that emerged from researching atmospheric optics was my realisation that, as I would read and learn more about these phenomena, my perception of these, or simply of just looking at the sky, would change. From passive viewer of my environment, I became an active observer, while many of these phenomena, especially the more uncommon and subtle ones, were now available for me to perceive, whereas before they were not. Moreover the pleasure that I would take by observing them, even the simplest ones, was now way greater than before. Unavoidably, the question arose in me: 'How does knowledge of these phenomena and how they work affects the perception of them?' or more generally put: 'How does knowledge affects perception?'. The answer to this question I am currently researching and I will write more about it in a future post.
Some photos of atmospheric optics phenomena (all found on the web).
-use of light in sacred and religious architecture. The study of how light has been often used and carefully implemented in architecture through the ages for various purposes, in example to put special emphasis on a specific day, or to impose religious experiences and awe to the believers. My interest for this topic was ignited by prof. I. Potamianos, whose lectures I attended during a period of two years and whose work “Light into Architectue: Evocative aspects of Natural Light as Related to Liturgy in Byzantine Churches” has been a great source of inspiration through the years and which still is one of my main points of reference concerning this area of research. A very relevant and quite newly emerged field is that of archaeoastronomy, which deals with the study of how people in the past have understood the phenomena in the sky, how they used these phenomena, what role the sky played in their cultures, and how these are imprinted in their architecture.
Example photos of use of light in sacred architecture (all found on the web).
-metaphysics of light. How light has been viewed from various philosophical and religious perspectives and what symbolical connotations have been registered to it. For example, a recurring connection in many religions is this between light and the Divine, God, and appearances/manifestations of that Divine or God(theophany) under the form of light. So far, I have approached mostly the religious traditions that are more approachable to me, Ancient Greek mythology and religion, and the Christian perspective on the subject, mostly through the work of Neo-Platonists, namely Plotinus and Pseudo-Dionysius the Areopagite. Again, a great source among others has been the book mentioned above by I. Potamianos.
-history of optics. This field can also go under the name 'history of light & vision'. From the ancient Greeks till the 20th century, how the notion of what light is and in what way vision and visual perception work, shifted and evolved to the understanding and knowledge that we have today. Also how the development of optical devices, instruments and apparatuses, from mirrors, lenses, the camera obscura to telescopes and microscopes, played a key role in changing our notion of light and vision, and how they greatly assisted to the coming-to-life and evolution of science and scientific knowledge.
A most crucial part of my research was (and still is) experimentation. Alongside studying and reading on optics and atmospheric optics, I was experimenting on many of the properties/phenomena of light, in an attempt to transform so to say, information of what I read of, into empirical knowledge. In this way, by actually perceiving the 'real thing in real time and space', I would manage to grasp it, see how it works and start observing what aesthetical qualities it has and in what subtle way it can affect me as a perceiver. During this process, slowly but unavoidably, I would start to thin on how I can implement this property/phenomenon in some sort of work or installation (why I would go on doing this is another long discussion that does not really fit this post). My tools for this experimentation process are simple and really low-key: natural and artificial light, a collection of lenses (which I gathered from dismantling old second-hand photographic lenses), a collection of mirrors, a couple of old slide projectors, a few glass tanks of different shapes and sizes (it's amazing how many properties of light you can exhibit by only using a light source and a water-filled glass tank!) and a haze machine.
A word that I learnt last year, and which ended up being a key concept during this process, is the word serendipity. It is impossible to start experimenting with light and not immediately start discovering things you do not expect, 'happy accidents of light' so to say. Questions like: "Where did this come from?", and "How did that appear?" were popping all the time in my head, while instantly trying to find the cause of a certain phenomenon that I was confronted with, but which I totally was not anticipating, be it a light reflection, a rainbow spectrum on the wall or a diffraction pattern seen through a humid glass while looking at a light source. Same thing happens when you start observing light occurrences in nature, you get used to being confronted with many phenomena whose causes you do not understand. In my opinion, a great, creative learning process and a very rewarding one (being closer to that of a natural philosopher instead of a contemporary scientist).
Below I am attaching a few photos from last year's archive, which I took as documentation while experimenting. Many of them are taken at the studio spaces in my academy, while many are taken during the two-week residency I participated in during April, in the cultural space DeFabriek in Eindhoven.
Although I consider the main focus of the first year of my master studies to be the input and research stated above, below I present as outcome or output, some more finished results, which were presented at the exhibition Approaching Serendipity at DeFabriek in Eindhoven, and at the final presentation of the academic year at the ArtScience Interfaculty.
For more, follow the links:
More to follow soon...