Skip to main content

Embedded Light – Light as Texture

“Light is not so much something that reveals, as it is itself the revelation.” James Turrell

Treating light as a material with its own physicality makes light appear as a manipulative and plastic material. In theatre lighting points the way to the audience’s attention in an interplay between lighting and enlightenment.  Through movement in lighting such as change in intensity, colour, form or direction it is possible to create action and enhance or shrink a space and change the material appearance completely.

In theatre, exhibitions and performances lighting is normally considered the final unifying force of the stage composition together with scenography and costumes. With a slightly different approach light can become the embedded matter of experience and storytelling. Embedded and manipulative light can become like a puppet-master – controlling the performance. 

 Material Research Project

The way we use light is as patterns embedded into the texture of textiles, this seems to reconciliate material and immaterial elements of the design into one tangible and evolving experience. When light becomes texture in our costumes it also means that light becomes an integrated part of the artifact, used for its abilities to create surface structures and not necessarily for its affordance to produce ambient lighting effects. Textural light appeals therefore first to our tactile senses, as an analog technology before we perceive it as ambient source of immaterial self-illumination.

What interests us here is the interplay between ‘analog’ and ‘digital’ properties of a composite material resulting from combining traditional materials like textiles and immaterial substances like light patterns. For this purpose, we often ‘downgrade’ the substance of light to make it appear as tangible, textured and tactile as the analog material in which it is interweaved. We achieve that by making the light patterns visible while avoiding the EL wires and films to appear on the surfaces. Light patterns are therefore always mediated, blurred and filtered trough a semi translucent surface of ‘analog’ material. The way our senses perceive those two materials gets very similar when light patterns get integrated into material in a homogeneous manner instead of simply be superposed or juxtaposed.

Since light patterns are intimately embedded into an ‘analog’ material, we tend to be surprised when textiles react as a digital device, allowing for example real-time interactions. Our senses and intuition are surprised when a material offers radically new properties compared to those they normally are known for. Such hybrid material, allowing types of uses and states which are opposed to its seemingly affordance, offers tremendous possibilities for story telling and design experiments.

© Diffus Design