Thursday, 14 February 2013

Liberty and Anarchy

On Tuesday evening (12th Feb), I headed down with Rosa ( to Leeds Art Gallery to listen to artist Nike Savvas talk about her exhibition entitled Liberty and Anarchy. The format of the evening was an informal, conversational discussion between Savvas and Patricia Ellis, a freelance critic who also wrote for the the artist's monograph. Introduced and curated by Sarah Brown, the evening was a great way to round up the successful show, which will close on the 24th of this month (opened 7th December).

The show was split into two separate exhibitions: Sliding Ladders, which consists of eight three-dimensional geometric shapes integrating interlaced neon yarn structures, and Liberty and Anarchy, the central installation I'd like to think about in this post.

Walking through the installation is a unique and immersive experience. The fantastic colour of the alternating screens seems inviting at first, but quickly becomes chaotic, stressful and confusing. An understanding of space gets lost in the mesmerising effect that the linear colourways induce - some visitors felt sea-sick, and had to leave as soon as they had entered the installation. The production of this animated, vibrating effect is vital to Savvas' work, which she explained using the term moiré. After having researched this technique extensively in New York, Savvas set to work attempting to meticulously reproduce the effect during the two years leading up to Liberty and Anarchy. Painstaking mathematical planning and understanding has gone into this work, as well as endless combinations and materials logistics with which there is no room for error. I love this element of the piece: the tension between the precision of the production and the visual chaos that the work produces makes this an extremely effective installation for me.
The principal idea behind the moirĂ© is a simple metaphor, using the disorientating effect to represent themes of  general distopia. The overwhelming visual transmission has a direct link to media, yet there remains a satisfying contrast between the man-made nature of the work and its generated, pixelated quality. When I asked Savvas if she had ever considered investigating the possibilities of virtual space as a medium, her answer surprised me. She confessed to not even owning a mobile telephone - that for her, the work has to be directly experienced and individually interpreted for it to be defined as art. Whilst she uses 3D visualiers for the planning of her work, she insisted that the digital should be used and understood as an aid, and nothing more.

Admittedly, I was disappointed by her response - my passion and interest for digital and new media art works meant that I could only disagree. However, I had to appreciate her view; for the art to function in the way Savvas needs it to, the physicality involved in exploring the spaces she manipulates is vital. An aspect of her work that really made me happy was the meditative quality present. Whilst getting lost and confused in the space is a possibility, she acknowledges and encourages another kind of calming suspension. Again, Savvas brings binaries into direct relationships (as suggested in the installation's title), giving me more reason to enjoy her work.

The immersive quality of Liberty and Anarchy can be recognised throughout Savvas' practice. Atomix - Full of Love, Full of Wonder, consisted of 50,000 colour co-ordinated balls strung in sequence in a gallery space, and a series of fans made them all vibrate.

The 3D grid structure of this installation reminded me of a very similar, yet altogether totally different kind of innovative work. Using the same basis of immersing the viewer in a regulated, overwhelmingly colourful space, the following works develop the work of Savvas by introducing sound and individually controlled LED lights.

Submergence by Squidsoup

Deep Screen by Muti Randolph

Both of these beautiful works employ similar themes to that of Nike Savvas' Liberty and Anarchy here in Leeds.