Bright lights and colors have animated the Great Lawn at the Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Center (SNFCC) in southern Athens as it has just inaugurated a fun, interactive installation by American sculptor Jen Lewin consisting of a meandering path.
“Light is such a mesmerizing element that every creature on the planet is drawn to its glow. We revolve around the sun; we exist because of the sun. The worship of light is something very primal and I think this feeling continues to turn us impulsively towards its source,” says Lewin, commenting on the effect that her sculpture has on people. “I have noticed that every culture – regardless of longitude or latitude – finds joy in light. People want to be near it, to touch it and play with it.”
Titled “Aqueous,” the installation was designed and constructed in 2017 in the artist’s studio in Brooklyn, New York, and has been on tour ever since. “I got the idea in the Nevada desert, as the sun came down over the vast horizon. The atmosphere was dry from the heat and the light was so powerful. Looking at the sky, I wondered what a river of light mimicking the flow of water would look like,” she says.
Composed of hundreds of interactive modular platforms controlled by code written by the artist and allowing them to sense human interaction individually, but also to link to each other to form interconnected pathways of light effects, “Aqueous” is inspired by natural systems.
“All of my pieces are inspired by the natural environment,” says Lewin. “Even though the sculpture uses advanced technology, it is based on a very simple notion: a person looking at the reflection of the sun on the water; or the play of light on the surface of a river; or a ray of sun passing through the branches of a tree.”
She laughs when we ask her whether she’s like a modern sorceress who can transform motion into light, and says she regards herself entirely in tune with the times.
“I started using technology, light, and in some instances sound, many years ago. They are ‘tools’ that help me create art that invites you to participate,” says the 47-year-old artist.
“The users determine how the sculptures change shape; they become part of the piece and the piece changes according to their movements so that you end up with this interactive and playful experience. My art sees people as participants, not just viewers,” she adds.