I was witness of a conversation about light between Lene Hau and Olafur Eliasson (Art of Light) on Friday, August 25 – 2017 in DR Concerthuset (Copenhagen). The conversation was organised by the Carlsberg Fund and the New Carlsberg Fund and brought science and art together in a very interesting way. Hearing two persons speak with passion about light is an experience I will never forget. Light is fascinating, no matter from what angle you look at it.
My first conscious experience with Olafur Eliassons work was an exhibition of Din Blinde Passager back in 2010 in Arken, Museum for Modern Art (Ishøj). The exhibition let you embark on a journey through fog that was illuminated. Your senses reacted in strange and peculiar ways when interacting with the light and fog while walking inside the tunnel.
You walk through the fog. You are blind yet you see. You sense, yet you get confused on what you sense. You get disoriented with coinciding excitement that flows through your body. You get confused and loose sense of direction and time. Even today, after all these years the experience still is very vivid and clear in my mind. Once out of the tunnel, it took minutes to grasp what exactly I had experienced and how the light inside the tunnel had enormous effect on your senses. One thing is for sure, it was an amazing experience.
It makes you think about light in a different way. We take light for granted in our lives. We just switch it on when we need it. We watch it on our screens everyday, on television, monitor, tablet or smartphone… We switch it off when not required and don’t think about the science that allows our actions to control light in such a way. We see the light from the sun as something so normal that we do not think about the uniqueness of our world we live in.
We think we understand light, but actually don’t. Lene Hau’s research made a leap into understanding light better bodying something that even Einstein deemed impossible, which is stopping light from moving. For more info on understanding how the speed of light is slowed down and ultimately stopped follow the link to the Youtube Video Prof. Lene Hau: Stopping light cold.
Try and imagining what it means having the possibility of slowing down light to a speed that you can walk faster than it, and then actually stopping it from moving. Imagine having the possibility to just park the light somewhere for a while until you decide to make it go again. Maybe my brain is too small to comprehend what this actually means, but it sounds to me that the practical possibilities are endless whit this concept. This is very exciting stuff.
Hearing a conversation about the subject and where science and art come together about talking about light was a learning experience. The conversation touched on the positive but also negative applications of scientific discoveries and inventions. Stopping light from moving might trigger ideas to be used for the good of mankind, but we all know that anything can be used to do harm. There are ethical questions that require consideration when we embark to make new discoveries. How we use the scientific breakthroughs as humans within our world and what we do with it is our choice to make. The ethical subject also is of importance in the world of art. Olafur Eliassons Little Sun project is one of those ethical positive projects where an artist designs a product with a vision. Our actions have consequences! That is so with everything we do. We have to be mindful of that.
Wherever we bring light; wherever we control light or stop light; what we do with it and how we interact and use it, it all is up to us to decide if it is used for good or for bad. Being mindful about this is a step in the right direction in making a better world to live in. When art and science meet, a small positive step is being made in that direction…