Seattle City Light wants to install some art projects at two of their facilities:
The Seattle Office of Arts & Cultural Affairs, in partnership with Seattle City Light, seeks two artists to create semi-permanent, site-specific installations for City Light’s North and South Service Centers, hubs for City Light’s work. Each selected artist will create up to two artworks that may be two- or three-dimensional to hang on walls. The artworks should capture the “electricity” of City Light’s activities.
Right, well, I’ve never been particularly interested in getting permission to make things, and interacting with a public agency seems really strange and awkward, but this also seems like exactly the right environment for the kind of algorithmic animated light sculpture project I like to build. I mean, it’s the power company, and their name is “City Light” – whether they know it or not, they really, really want something that incorporates a whole lot of LEDs. They have budget, too: $23,500 for each building. That’s enough to do something really very cool indeed.
The first thing that comes to mind echoes a piece I saw in the San Jose airport: thousands of panes of LCD shutter glass, switching between transparent and translucent states. It’s a subtle thing; it is animated and lively, but it doesn’t reach out and grab you with the force of its brightness. Instead you just get this constant motion and shimmering reflectivity.
It strikes me that a power company is fundamentally all about intervening in natural processes. It’s all driven by the Sun, of course; we capture energy directly from the sun using photovoltaic cells, but primarily we capture energy from the hydrological cycle using dams, and energy from temperature differentials using wind turbines. And fossil fuels are of course nothing but chemical storage for millions of years of ancient sunlight… The point of a power company is to extract a uniform, controllable source of energy from the wild, chaotic environment around us.
So I’m imagining an art piece which puts that wild, chaotic environment in a bottle. An array of glass jars, all shapes and sizes, all clear, frosted inside, hanging from the ceiling, in a hexagonal grid, at varying heights. Each one has a light – a high-power LED, of course – and together they render the output of an evolving wave algorithm. The algorithm would of course be the one I developed for the Cuttlefish project, oh so many years ago… but monochrome, I think. Just light. Or perhaps a very subtle, muted tint, even more muted than what I did with the Shame Project lights. It’d look like waves, like clouds, like the wind running across the grass; it would ripple and sway and move, and it would never, ever repeat itself.