Art collective Studio Swine – otherwise known as Azusa Murakami and Alexander Groves – just unveiled a new installation in Brooklyn that turns a curious eye on something we all take for granted: light. The exhibition, entitled Wave. Particle. Duplex, is the culmination of Studio Swine’s six-month residency at the creative space A/D/O in Greenpoint.
“The title comes from the duality of light, the fact that it can be both a particle and a wave,” says Alexander. The installation is split across two rooms inside A/D/O and each has a very distinct atmosphere. The first is filled with red light and contains four wall-mounted sculptures made from glass tubes, blown into otherworldly organic forms. These tubes are filled with plasma (charged particles of the gas krypton), which creates frenetic patterns and strobing effects, as an algorithm alters the voltage passing through the gas.
The science and technology at work are, admittedly, pretty complicated but the main objective was not to show off but to create an atmosphere. “We wanted the first room to feel quite intense,” says Azusa, “as if you were walking inside a body.”
The second room is bathed in a calming yellow light and has two “fog paintings”, as Studio Swine call them, on the walls – essentially, boxes filled with steam, through which coloured lights are shone in various ways. “The second room is meant to feel more calm and serene and as if you’re bathed in sunlight and at ease,” continues Asuza. “We wanted to explore that juxtaposition of feeling in the two rooms in this exhibition.”
It’s not the first time Studio Swine has taken something so ubiquitous and taken for granted and then made us look at it with completely fresh eyes. Their installation Infinity Blue at the Eden Project in the UK was a 20-tonne, nine-metre-tall ceramic sculpture that forced viewers to rethink their relationship with oxygen.
Although Wave. Particle. Duplex is incredibly high-concept, the inspiration for the piece had more humble origins. “Being in New York, there’s a really amazing quality of light,” says Alexander. “We were doing a lot of walking, down to the East River, and the light is constantly changing. And then there’s all the fog from the district steam system here coming up that’s quite iconic here, and the weather can be quite squally and coastal. So I guess that subconsciously went into what we wanted to do.”
The fog paintings are a hyper-modern play on the traditional landscape paintings of artists like Turner and Thomas Cole, using technology instead of brushstrokes to create sublime and transcendental effects. For instance, in one of the fog paintings, an LED light passes along a track across a series of coloured gels behind the steam, mimicking the sun’s path across the sky and its changing strengths and hues.
“The way we use technology is not to show off the virtuosity of technology but more an aid to achieve something that’s more primordial – kind of blurring this boundary between something that’s very artificial and very natural,” says Azusa. “It’s a tool to achieve something that’s more instinctive.”
“And a tool to visualise something that’s invisible,” adds Alexander. “Most of the time you encounter technology, it has a clear practical function. But ours hasn’t really. The function is art and it’s about creating a mood or a feeling.”