Coinciding with the International Year of Light in 2015, Espacio Fundación Telefónica is exhibiting the work of Jim Campbell, 27 artworks based on a combination of video art and light techniques projected onto ordinary supports such as LEDs, LCDs, monitors and television screens. The US artist and electronic engineer is one of the pioneers in the use of LED light technology to develop interactive installations of great artistic value. Through the manipulation of electronic and computer science, the artist gives us a closer insight into the world of video installations and light sculptures of great visual beauty. LED spheres, pixels, video projectors, frames, electronic circuits and pixelated photographs produce evocative and provocative images that challenge visitors to question their perceptive abilities.
The exhibition, held in collaboration with Dundee Contemporary Arts in Scotland, includes, in addition to some of his most representative work, his latest creations such as Light Topography (Jane’s Pool), where he uses LEDs to create a topographic relief in low resolution of swimmers which evokes the movement of the waves and the depth of the seas, or Blur, a panel of LEDs which shows an unedited video shot at a minimal resolution of a street scene in New York.
The installation Last Day in the Beginning of March, a work of 26 bulbs which recreates the last day in the life of the artist’s brother, is a highlight of the exhibition. And Exploded View, a 3D constellation with more than 1000 bulbs which show the pattern of workers’ movements, or the Home Movies 1040 series, in which the artist projects a series of frames from low-resolution home videos obtained on eBay onto a screen of LEDs, are examples of his low-resolution works.
Space and its perception in Campbell’s work
In his work, Campbell plays with the manipulation of space and reflects on the way in which human beings process and interpret visual information. He usually reduces the number of constituent elements of images (pixels) to a minimum, taking them to the limits of visual coherence, blurring our logical system of categorization and order. This is Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle (the position and linear moment [momentum] of a given object cannot be determined in terms of quantum physics, simultaneously and with arbitrary precision), a feature of several of his works.
“The more you try to observe something […] the more you affect it […] The more information you try to obtain from something, the less you will obtain,” in the artist’s own words. Campbell at times uses filters and diffusion screens placed in front of his LED images to “make them more understandable”, more figurative to the viewer. Campbell believes that “we learn how to observe these images by looking at them.” A luminescent interpretation of the traditional game of mirrors.
The process of “seeing” is a reconstruction of the brain, a recomposition based on snippets of information which run on different circuits. When we look, what we see depends hugely on the context; there are no perceptions in absolute terms. By depriving his images of the necessary environmental references, our synapses are interrupted, causing an effect similar to weightlessness in our brains. A textual vacuum which Campbell exploits to explore mental and sensory reactions and to provide new dimensions to the kinetic effects which can be achieved through the manipulation of electronic systems.