Some will say it was a giant light sabre, and others will say it was the wrath of God. Others still, will say it was extraterrestrials beaming us up to their spacecraft for bottom-probing. But those of us in the know will tell you to calm down, crazies, because it was in fact ‘Spectra’, an art installation by Japanese artist Ryoji Ikeda designed to mark the opening of the 11-day Dark MOFO Festival hosted by the infamous Museum of Old and New Art (MONA). The Dark Mofo Festival is the winter counterpart to the summer MONA FOMA Festival held in January each year in Hobart, Tasmania.
Spectra is a super-sized light installation by Japanese light artist Ryoji Ikeda stretching fifteen kilometres into the Tasmanian sky, placing the city of Hobart at its feet. 49 xenon searchlights form a seven-by-seven grid while the purest form of sound – sine waves – form sonic patterns around the base of the alien beam and surround every person walking into the light.
The combination of extreme light and ambient sound creates an alternate reality that transports you from the grassy Regatta Grounds at Queen’s Domain into an experience that can only be described as alien abduction. It’s both astounding and frightening, calm and thrilling, beautiful and terrifying. The xenon lights are so powerful that they create a wall between you and the night sky outside the installation, locking out extraneous sights and sounds. A powerful, impeccable opening to the state’s most unique festival.
For Sydneysiders who can’t get away to Tasmania, Ryoji Ikeda currently has an exhibition at Carriageworks running until 1 July. ‘Test Pattern [No 5]’ is equally large-scale, breathtaking and will coax your mind out of its shell. Giant barcodes move at rapid speed beneath your feet while your senses are stamped out by strobe lights and an aural mix of binary code sounds that will deafen and disorient you to the point of joy. Walk around, lie down, dance, and play like a child in the black and white fantasy land of Japan’s most exciting audio-visual artist.