Creative Visions: teamLab & Yayoi Kusama

When I ask people about lighting (who don’t work in the industry), the majority think that it’s just an artificial construct that makes spaces or buildings become visible to the user. Some of them even say that lighting is just an add-on. That the space itself is the main attraction and that light is used only as a functional element to bring out said space. That the expected outcome from the light sources is nothing else but practical functionality – there are no “feelings” about light, no additional value, other than highlighting everything in a space.

But people in the know, especially lighting professionals, have deeper answers. Answers that delve into the levels of space and time. We know that without lighting there is nothing.

Lighting is more than just a bulb or any technical fitting with lumens and watts. It can, for example, form part of art installations or it can be the art installation itself, bringing out a sense of awe and amazement. The interaction between shadow and light has been the fundamental premise of art pieces since time immemorial. In more recent times, lighting has become the centrepiece of certain art installations that have garnered worldwide attention, and I’ve been lucky enough to experience a couple of which I’d like to share.

In Singapore I got the chance to visit Team Lab’s Crystal Universe permanent exhibition in ArtScience Museum. Within a dark room is a monumental installation where accumulated hanging light points create a three-dimensional lighting experience. The whole idea of the space is to create a universe of light around the visitor, and you really do feel like you’re at the centre of the universe, surrounded by stars and galaxies.

TeamLab Art Science Museum Singapore Installation

I became fascinated by the continuously changing scenes and movements created by the digitally controlled elements around me; I was literally lost in a vast and endless universe of light, floating in a dizzyingly enormous space. The experience puts you in an almost Zen-like state of mind, where nothing else matters. It’s just you and the universe, engaging in a silent conversation – everything else melts into the vastness and beauty of the universe. This unexplainable feeling washes over you as you gaze into infinity, and beyond.

The National Gallery Singapore was my next stop, to see Yayoi Kusama’s exhibition: Life is the Heart of a Rainbow. A pop culture icon, Kusama’s art involves bizarre dots and her infinity rooms are a blend of beautiful, eerie and mesmerising. Kusama’s work appears seemingly simple, but once you learn of all the intricacies that go into it, you’ll definitely be struck and amazed by her artistic intent and the fact that she’s been creating for over 50 years.

My favourite room was “The Souls of Millions of Light Years Away”. It was completely dark with a small platform in the middle. Once the door closed you saw the reflection of hundreds of floating, glowing colourful dots, reflected on the mirror-layered wall and the water surrounding the platform. I felt boundless. The contrast between dot-lights and mirrors made you feel like you’re in space. The experience was a minute’s worth of peace, lights and contrasting darkness. (You were allocated one minute only because of the popularity.)

Yayoi Kusama National Gallery Singapore Installation

Experiencing these artworks was beautiful – I became an active participant, interacting with the light art installations. For me they were defining and interactive art forms unlike any other conventional installations, and they brought out an unforgettable sense of awe and amazement that makes me love what I do.

Images: Jessica Munaf