2 x 2 Solos: Amy M. HoSeptember 25, 2012
Amy M. Ho’s two-channel video installation Room with Yellow and Diagonal Blue (2012)—part of her 2 x 2 Solos exhibition at Pro Arts—provokes questions regarding the ways mediated experiences can convey or interrupt embodied phenomena.1 Although it uses video instead of the signature lighting effects of Light and Space artists, particularly James Turrell, Ho’s installation still feels too reliant upon Turrell’s formal and conceptual strategies without significantly advancing how we experience and perceive space.
Much of Turrell’s work, including his Wedgeworks series (1969-1994), uses colored lighting and reconfigured architectural spaces to provide viewers with a viscerally strange and disorienting experience. Ho’s installation attempts to achieve these same results by transforming Pro Arts’ white-cube screening room into a complex polyhedron with glowing blue and yellow walls. On opposing walls, the artist projects two videos that superimpose images of receding walls onto the flat planes, much like a perspectival drawing. While the edges of the video projection converge neatly with the screening room’s corners, viewers’ cast shadows and the hum of the projectors make it clear that the architectural reconfiguration is the result of a projected video. The installation is thus revealed as a mediated experience, breaking the initial illusion of a fully immersive environment. Ho’s piece loses its sense of wonder as a result.
In contrast, Turrell physically constructs similar effects with lights, scrims, and drywall, creating immersive environments that interrogate the location of phenomena: whether it occurs in the physical attributes of light and space, in the viewers’ retinas, or in the way the brain fuses this sensory information together. While both artists are interested in challenging viewers’ perception, Ho’s piece lacks the experiential magic that
is the hallmark of Light and Space works. Her installation requires the viewer to suspend their disbelief; they are asked to pretend that what they are seeing is not a video projection.
Given the way new media has altered our perception of the real world, embodied experience is no longer necessarily privileged over mediated experience. When Light and Space artists began working with (and re-creating) natural phenomena fifty years ago, the line between real, embodied experience and artificial experience was much more clearly drawn. While Ho’s video installation creates an experience as real as anything else, as a mediated experience it operates almost like a simulation of a Turrell piece. Like many media researchers and developers, particularly those interested in virtual reality, Ho may be interested in the degree to which mediated experiences can simulate or replace natural phenomena or embodied relations. If so, it’s unfortunate that Room with Yellow and Diagonal Blue still falls flat as something to be experienced.