Experiments with Volumetric Light: Spatial Constructs


Light brings three necessary components to the forefront of space making; the light source, the projected surface and the space between the two. The projected surface is a result of perception, atmospheric qualities, and the initial light source. Perception of depth and void is considered the measurement of the set circumstances.

The concept of space is explored through the understanding of these three components necessary to space making and the alteration of their state and properties. The investigation of several mediums for light to pass through and interact with is the central purpose of this inquiry. It poses the question of how depth and a three dimensional field is created by only the manipulation of light and fog. Iterations experiment with different paths of three dimensional constructs that a light source guides through an area of fog. The obstruction of fog has several possible effects on the light source, reducing its brightness, dispersing the beam, or reflecting it off of the particles within the fog. Long exposure photography captures the three dimensional phenomenon and translates it into a two dimensional image. These images captivate the spatial presence, taking a cross section through both the path of light and the fog.

Historically, there are many accounts of light painting and photography explorations in the fields of art, architecture and theatre. In particular, recent work such as Yayoi Kusama, James Turrell, Gunda Förster’s studies with light and space in the past decades have experimented with the perception of depth and space altering only a light source and a projection surface. The majority of light studies in the past have focused on either the light source or the projected surface. This inquiry goes beyond a projected surface, but rather focuses on the medium that light passes through. In these studies the composition and movement of the light beam is the most crucial factor in the creation of depth. The beam of light must form a clearly defined foreground and back-ground to establish a horizon line which is essential to creating perceived depth in the image.

The line of inquiry is explored through the creation of space by carefully manipulating the process between the emission of light from the light source to the projection surface. Inherently, light must travel through a medium or aperture prior to its arrival on the projected surface. The opportunity lies in the interference of an active atmosphere of fog.

The first iterations of the study were produced using manual methods, to research the interactions of the variables at hand. This investigation focuses on the creation of space through the use of light and an interstitial medium. Theses studies propose that if a medium is introduced between a light source and an endpoint that the light takes a volumetric form. Regardless of the medium, the interruption of still air has the ability to affect the nature of light passing through space. However, some qualities of a medium such as density or particle make up alter the strength of the light from passing through. Early studies utilized water and dry ice to simulate the qualities of fog in addition to two different light sources. Additionally, taking photographs at night in a moving car was used as a study to test methods of documentation and representation. The photographs grasped the movement of lights from the cars and street lights in the vicinity. The most spatial photographs reinforced the importance of the horizon line and visual convergence to the perception of space. These elementary methods were useful in determining the ways a long exposure photography capture movement and light.

The light source is the initial object from which its material presence is generated. The light is then manipulated formally through the use of the robotic arm–its movements captured over time. The character of the light is changed as a result of its interaction with both the medium through which it travels and the camera lens. Conventionally, light traveling through air does not result in a spatial construct between the source and the projection surface due to the lack of material resistance. The resultant of the light sources movement coupled with its interaction with an atmospheric medium creates the projected surface and therefore the creation of space. Since the outcome of this space is not physically built, capturing it is one challenge. Photography is integral to the process. Generally, in two dimensional representations light is combined with shadow to understand the creation of space. Given the process, shadow cannot be added to create space, thus requiring the space making to be true to the intended depth.

A material is defined beyond the physical properties but rather their formal ability to create space. Light, whether it is be created from a natural or artificial source as the ability to be a primary form giver. Through the use of the robotic manipulator and long exposure photography, this study focuses on creating temporary visual surfaces and forms. With these studies in mind and given the precision of the robot, there are an abundance of opportunities that exist in using light to make space. It is important to recognize that the photograph is the essential part since it is what the human eye perceives and understands.

Advances in technology inherently bring new understandings to previously established paradigms, often challenging them to the point of dismissal. As we move forward we are con-fronted with new opportunities while past methods risk becoming obsolete. Our obligation is exploration, to challenge the opportunity presented by emerging technology; to exploit new understandings, forms, and spaces that are now possible. In turn, this result in a new nature of craft. This new craft leverages the precision of technological tools, their speed, accuracy and precision allowing for quick iterations. The emergence of this methodology most importantly prioritizes preservation of the author’s own agency and intention.