dpa’s London Studio designed an art installation for the darc Awards held on 5th December 2019 titled “Together”, the following provides a brief explanation about the inspiration behind this artwork.
The word present has three main definitions: a temporal value, (present time); a physical value, (to be present); and a material value, (to receive a present). Etymologically, the word derives from Latin (prae + sum), meaning to be in front of something or put something in front of someone, and is the root of the meaning around Presence.
When interpreting and correlating these definitions whilst trying to translate them into something concrete, the meaning and values of Christmas became the main inspiration for the installation.
Considering Christmas as the traditional core of western society’s values whilst looking beyond the modern, commercial aspects of the period that are strongly associated with physical presents, there is a deeper range of ideals. These ideals have their roots in the soil of communities, family and friends gathering together, spending time with loved ones and enjoying the simpler pleasures of life. Beyond the religious aspects of Christmas, ethical and moral values are universally agreed.
As mentioned above, the present has a temporal value; the present time, the present instant. Time is impalpable and once we think about it, it becomes the past already. When we ‘see’ something, the light reflected by our surroundings travels to our eyes and is transformed and translated into electrical signals and redirected to our brain. This is a very quick process, but it still needs an infinitesimal time to happen. Therefore, we always experience in a certain way only the past and never the present.
The last definition of present we explored is its original etymological meaning: to be present and to be in front of something. In this specific case, we are referring to our own presence inside or in front of the installation. The interaction between our physical presence and the light will create the most evanescent and fugitive of the lighting phenomenon: shadows.
Our primary exercise of building the leitmotif of the installation, whilst considering all of the above elements, starts from the most important aspect we want to enhance in this concept: gathering together. For us, the real present at Christmas is to have the opportunity to spend precious time with our loved ones and to be present with them. It is not a physical present, rather than a physical presence: sharing time. This component of the installation is expressed via a series of figures: such as silhouettes of people, being present.
Connecting these pieces, we merged human figures using the dynamic effect of guest’s shadows to create a memorable, physical experience. The aim was to create a relationship between the presence of the observer, the vanishing shadows of moving and stationary figures.
All of these considerations inspired the physical construction of the installation: a series of layers of semi-transparent panels on which casting both the shadows of the guests observing and interacting with the installation and the shadows of some static figures populating the space.
To represent the above we positioned a series of transparent screens/curtain elements. We were keen for this not to represent an obvious box-shape commonly associated with a Christmas gift, but rather capture it in state of ‘unwrapping’ itself. The multiple staggered layers pick up and fragment the shadow patterns created internally and interlace them with the shows cast by the guests as they explore the installation from its surround and within.
We cannot change the past; neither can we fully control the future. However, “present” is the gift that allows us to take the chance of fulfilling our dream. This installation invited the audience to engage in our installation, at this moment (present), with friends, to create their own playful, unforgettable memory.
Photography by Tommaso Gimigliano, Associate – dpa lighting consultants