Light and the Sublime


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Elaine Buckholtz, a light artist and designer who teaches at Stanford University, discusses how modern technological tools like the ones in Schlaepfer's works change a viewer's experience of wonder.

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Light and the Sublime

  1. 1. Light and the Sublime <br />Daniel Schlaepfer comes from a background<br />of botany and landscape painting. <br />There is an immediate and rich connection in his present body of work to his past history. <br />Daniel incorporates the relationship of sunlight and landscape into his light sculptors. <br />There is a rich history in light art in regards to both of these relationships. <br />Light is an integral part of nature and vision, <br />and vision is one window into the experience of the sublime. <br />
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  4. 4. There is something about combining the elements of nature and light that speak to the notion of the sublime.The idea of a sublime experience is often defined as an experience that inspires both awe and fear. Some examples would be the eruption of a volcano, lightning, orwatching a flash flood.There is the experience of wonder and simultaneously a primitive sense of fear .<br />
  5. 5. Several books are available that talk about the relationship of history to vision and the experience of the sublime . <br />
  6. 6. Nye describes several versions of the sublime and recounts the reaction of some passengers <br />first train ride and their description of the velocity “annihilating space and time.” It changed the appearance of the local landscape, there were hurtling objects glimpsed in a rush,<br /> and people had to learn how to focus anew on the distant panorama.<br />
  7. 7. The Golden gate Bridge fiftieth anniversary 1987<br />The sublime underlies this enthusiasm for technology. <br />One of the most powerful human emotions, when experienced <br />by large groups the sublime can weld society together. In moments of sublimity,<br />we temporarily disregard divisions among elements of the community. <br />
  8. 8. 1809 - Humphry Davy, <br />an English chemist, invented the first electric light.<br />
  9. 9. The technological sublime is an integral part of contemporary consciousness. In a physical world that is increasingly desacralized, the sublime represents a way to reinvest the landscape and the works of men with transcendent significance.<br />
  10. 10. Darkness and the Sublime<br />Darkness is considered as one cause of the sublime. <br />In utter darkness, it is impossible to know in what degree of safety we stand. <br />In this situation, ”strength is no sure protection; <br />wisdom can only act by guess; <br />the boldest are staggered <br />and he who would hope for nothing else in his defense, hopes for light.”<br />The electrical sublime is considered to have begun in the last decades of the 19th century in relation to the first spectacular night spectacles of the world fairs and came to refer to permanent night installations that began to occur around that time and onward. <br />
  11. 11. The first lamp was invented around 70,000 BC. A hollow rock, shell or other natural found object was filled with moss or a similar material that was soaked with animal fat and ignited. Humans began imitating the natural shapes with manmade pottery, alabaster, and metal lamps. <br />Wicks were later added to control the rate of burning. Around the 7th century BC, the Greeks began making terra cotta lamps to replace handheld torches. <br />The word lamp is derived from the Greek word lampas, meaning torch. <br />Greco – Roman lamp made between 100 and 300 A.D. <br /> probably used in a tomb or chapel.<br />
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  13. 13. The first mention and discovery <br />of the principles behind the pinhole camera, a precursor to the camera obscura, belong to Mozi (470 BC to 390 BC), a Chinese philosopher.<br />Later, Aristotle (384 to 322 BC) understood the optical principle.<br />
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  15. 15. Lantern Man<br />
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  21. 21. What an artist can do to schema<br />"schema”<br />A schema is a set of information that we know about something. <br />We rarely ever actually see what's around us. <br />"heightened visual acuity” You're rewriting peoples' schemas.<br />When you light a tree with such as Daniel’s piece called ……, all of the sudden the schema doesn't fit perception. The brain has never encountered a "tree by the road" that looked like this.<br />So, for the first time in a long time, we're actually seeing the tree instead of a memory of the tree. What happens the next time you see the tree? Your brain doesn't know what to expect -- even if the tree no longer has a giant swirl on it, your brain knows that the schema it used before is invalid in predicting the world. As a result, your brain pays more attention to the tree than ever before, because it's trying to re-encode a valid schema for it (given that the old one was proved invalid). This can feel like you are seeing it better, experiencing it more fully, or seeing it with new eyes. Your actual visual acuity isn't increasing at all -- you have a finite acuity that decreases with age -- but the subjective experience of perceiving has been changed when the schema was abused. <br />
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  23. 23. Daniel Schlaepfer<br />