Seeing the Unseen

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Seeing the Unseen

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Tying into the “contemporary communications” theme that forms a common thread through many of the projects in the festival, Luminato has organized a series of visual-art installations on the shared topic of Communication / Environment, and placed them in public thoroughfares in the downtown core. These works (says Luminato) “lend perception to the imperceptible elements that form the foundation of our communication technologies.”
As part of the program, Luminato commissioned Toronto artist David Rokeby to create an installation specific to the Allen Lambert Galleria in Brookfield Place. His response was long wave, a large-scale suspended sculpture that stretches across the expanse of the atrium. Red spheres hang in a graceful, twisting arc; the visual representation of a sine wave, an invisible pattern integral to the transmission of sound, and therefore, communication.


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The simple and graphic work benefits from its massive scale. Making something that is normally invisible visible is one thing. Making it monumental imparts the immense role that this little wave plays in our daily lives. Rokeby explains that “from the onset of AM radio to the next generation of handheld devices, the environment and inhabited spaces are filled with variations of this basic wave pattern.”
The intersections of this piece to other Luminato artworks, however, could lead to some confusion. Two projects in this year’s festival feature large red balls, and yet there is no indication of a correlation between them. long wave also intersects in place, but not time, with a curiously similar installation in this atrium during the 2007 edition of Luminato. That year, French artist Xavier Veilhan’s Le Grand Mobile filled this space with large black suspended spheres.
Around the corner in the Exchange Tower on King Street, another installation visualizes the unseen. Germaine Koh and Ian Verchere’s Broken Arrow uses a projector to display the names of detectable wireless communication devices on the wall in an undulating mass of information. They also bring invisibles into the realm of the tangible through sound, outputting what Luminato’s literature describes as a “stream of Geiger-counter clicks or insect-like chirps for each device or frequency detected, creating layers of sometimes-cacophonous sound.” In person, it sounds more like static and bubbling water.
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This work feels like a paranoid, high-tech manifestation of Wireless Toronto’s contribution to the 2007 Alley Jaunt in Toronto’s Queen West area. While Koh and Verchere discuss the “potential threat through proximity, vulnerability of data, and the possible heath risks associated with some electromagnetic waves,” Wireless Toronto explored the manifestation of a neighbourhood’s personality through the names that people choose for their networks: they walked the alleyways of the community, detecting and recording the names of each network, and then made them into magnetic word art. Visitors to Alley Jaunt could arrange the names into “poems out of the neighbourhood,” and search for their own network in the collection. This translation of the high-tech to the hands-on created an oddly comforting concrete representation of this fleeting information.
In less than a week, Broken Arrow’s projector will come down, and our interface with its intangible realm will go with it. The sine wave will return to the invisible. To catch both before they do, find long wave in the Allen Lambert Galleria at Brookfield Place, 181 Bay Street, and Broken Arrow in the Exchange Tower at 130 King Street West, until June 14.
All photos by Michael Chrisman/Torontoist.

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