The lightbulb becomes the central focus of the dark space. The light it radiates can be thought of as forming a space in itself, apart from the darkness that surrounds it. The clear difference in size between the inner space and enveloping space has to be maintained to preserve the effect of being a ‘space in a space’.
In Marina Abramovic’s The Artist is Present, although not separated by any physical barriers like walls, the outer space is defined due to its size difference from the centre space and the crowd of people standing and watching from the edges. The lighting and centrality directs focus to Abramovic and the participant.
The repetition of lightbulbs on a gradual diagonal incline creates depth and perspective within the space, giving the illusion of the edge being deeper and further away. This space plays with both the linear direction and verical plane, and creates visual interest due to the suspension of elements. This is also at work in Cai Guo-Qiang’s Head On.
The lighbulbs will no longer be viewed as individual objects; instead they will form a blanket effect. The even repetition and distribution of a single element creates a dense uniform atmosphere.
The rounded entrance emphasises the round and cavernous interior. Visitors have to step over the low hedge made out of lightbulbs to enter the space, cleanly separating it from the outside. The tight small opening also restricts our vision of the space interior from the outside, creating a sense of mystery.
Furthermore, the all-over effect and the heat from the 1000 lightbulbs will create an immersive womb-like environment, suggesting an image of safety and gestation.
We set up this week’s exercise as a group at both indoor and outdoor locations and observed the user behaviour. We experimented with three different objects to emulate a new space; a flexible tube, a robe with adjustable loops at each end, and a rope shaped into a ring on the floor. Each time, two participants would interact with the object.
Reactions, interactions and takeaways
Most participants were unsure of the situation and showed varying levels of comfort. Especially when pairing strangers together, participants either started conversations (they said talking helped to make it more natural) or called out the awkwardness of the situation. Some continued what they were doing beforehand. Ideally, the interaction should be seamless and natural so participants don’t feel uncomfortable or confused (unless intended).
At first we weren’t sure how much to tell participants when we asked them to take part in the exercise. The amount of details we gave likely influenced their behaviour (“please stand in the circle” vs. “here you go”). We need to find a balance between instruction and organic response when framing these works. It should be subtle and not too explicit, yet it shouldn’t be too open (this potentially doesn’t capture interest, maybe due to a lack of specifics/context, and confuses the participants). Environmental factors (i.e. indoors with aircon or hot sun) could also influence user behaviour.
We also tried telling some participants to interact with the objects in whatever way they felt was most natural, for however long they wanted. Some participants took the initiative to test the limits of the space and objects such as untying the laid out ropes etc. These active participants enhance the space by introducing unexpected interactions.