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An Additive Mix

Issue 86 August / September 2015

Liz West introduces her latest psychedelic light experience.

As part of the UNESCO International Year of Light celebrations, Liz West’s brand new installation An Additive Mix opened at the National Media Museum in Bradford, UK in July, alongside a series of workshops and demonstrations by artists-in-residence.

Running until 1 November 2015, Light Fantastic: Adventures in the Science of Light includes a publicly viewable dark room, interactive light experiments and exhibits from the museum’s National Collections of Photography, Cinematography and Television. In addition, there are regular family activities and events take an illuminating hands-on approach to the science of light.

An Additive Mix is designed to be enjoyed by all ages and builds on themes developed in West’s previous works - including Your Colour Perception, which has been described as ‘walking through a rainbow’ and shortlisted for a darc award in the 'Best Light Art Installation' category. This latest work, West’s largest commission to date, turns this occurrence in natural science on its head; reassembling the diffracted colours of the rainbow and projecting them to ‘infinity’ as visitors explore.

West commented: “This is a body of work that I have dreamt of being able to make for a number of years. To be given the opportunity as part of the museum’s celebration of light is thrilling and very fitting.

“Artworks I remember seeing as a child are the ones in which I was completely immersed, and that’s what I hope An Additive Mix will achieve: taking people out of the ordinary into the extraordinary, and staying in their memories for a long time.”

West created a 10m x 5m room containing 250 6ft fluorescent tubes with filters in 191 individual colours, and combined the intense vibrant light with ‘infinity’ mirrors. An Additive Mix takes the principle that white light is composed of different colours of the spectrum (additive colours) and places people in the centre of the phenomenon; saturating them in individual hues that collectively create white light in a seemingly endless space.

Speaking with mondo*arc at the launch event, West said of the piece: “With a lot of artwork, concept is king and a lot of artists will have a particular intention when making their piece. It feels like there is an influx of work that is very static and floor based – seemingly made up of components and often you’ll get a bit of blurb next to the piece explaining what it’s supposed to mean. I’m very aware people bring their own experiences and emotions into work like mine - particularly with pieces like An Additive Mix and A Colour Perception and never would I want to prescribe feelings to people.

"However, what I definitely want to do is make people feel - there’s a lack of work that makes people do this - yes there are pieces that make them think, but if it doesn't do something to them physically and emotionally then what’s the point? If you feel like you don’t get something out of a piece then to me, you’re left feeling empty.”

For West personally, feelings of comfort and relief are evoked when walking into the space: “It’s an environment I feel I can cope very well in – I find the feelings similar to those I get when walking into a sunny courtyard. When I see light on that scale it immediately lifts me and gives me energy and I feel very playful.”

For mondo*arc’s Deputy Editor Helen Fletcher, it was a very different experience – almost trippy - bringing back memories of films such as Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory or Alice in Wonderland - almost an uncomfortable experience.

In addition to An Additive Mix, the first of two artist-in-residence projects also opened in as part of the Light Fantastic exhibition. Martha Jurksaitis (Cherry Kino, based in Portugal) and Christian Hardy (Alchemy Studio, based in Bradford) investigate and contrast the scientific principles behind dark and light. Creating two fictional worlds - one permanently bathed in daylight, the other constantly night time - the artists demonstrate both analogue and digital techniques in photography and filmmaking, focusing on the challenges of extreme light conditions.


An Additive Mix by Liz West
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