Water weaving light – interactive art of light and sound: Nobuho Nagasawa at TEDxSBU

Water weaving light – interactive art of light and sound: Nobuho Nagasawa at TEDxSBU


Translator: TED Translators admin
Reviewer: Ariana Bleau Lugo I am an artist who creates
an environment in an architectural space. I am interested in materials
and their sensory properties, natural phenomena, and human perception. I think about the space and time and people coming together
in these spaces. In 2005, I was commissioned to create
a work for the Seattle City Hall. It was a beautiful place,
Puget Sound, Olympic Mountains… It rains a lot, but I loved it. I just came from California and I thought
Seattle was such a beautiful City. So I wanted to do something about light,
and sound, and perhaps green technology, because the City hall was talking about
using alternative energy and so forth, but I didn’t know how. And then I came across this material –
fiber optic, which usually emits light at the end
of this light, as you can see. But this was something different. This was 1 inch wide, and stretchable,
something I’ve never seen before. And I was fascinated by the fact
that this was developed by the kimono weavers
in Japan in Kyoto, where I am from. I knew nothing about weaving, and I had only 8 months
to create this work. So, I thought I have to meet somebody
who can tell me about technology. So I worked with Andrew Schloss
and Dale Stammen, computer sound professionals who work
in computer music, acoustic ecology, and we shared the same interest
in lightscape and soundscape. I built a loom in a one-car garage
with postal tubes and dowels, and things I could find
in a hardware store, and I started weaving this optical fiber,
which became a tapestry, 5 feet wide and 50 feet long. In the space providing views
of Puget Sound and the Olympic Mountains, the woven sculpture of optical fiber
was suspended above the stairs, and here I’m weaving and trying
to put this together with two people. During the day the optical fibers
have an appearance of a glass net. At night, the light pulses through
the water, simulating flowing water. (Video sound) The sound of the waves
and other environmental sounds that you can hear in the space
are translated into data and visualized as light. The pulsating of shifting hues of light
cascading down the fiber tapestry are synchronized through acoustic
analysis of the ebb and flow of the Puget Sound
you can see from the City Hall. The computer varies the soundscape
based on the current weather forecast, so it changes every day,
every hour, every minute. The building became a breathing
architecture, demonstrating the light, and it’s the life cycle of the water
that is showing. The title of this work
is ”Water Weaving Light Cycle.” Bodywaves. This is an optical fiber
interactive chair that I installed at the Cathedral Church
of St. John the Divine. When the chair is still,
you can hear my heart beat going like bum bum bum bum…
you hear it here. And when you rock the chair,
or when you sit on the chair, you can hear the sound. The motion creates the real-time pulsation
that is shown visually in a form of light like a biofeedback. The rocking creates an intimate
relationship between you and me because my heartbeat is interacting
with your body movement. And I will just rock it
really hard here again. You can hear the sound of ocean. So these waves are recorded, the sounds
are recorded from different rivers that flow into the Pacific Ocean,
the great body of water Pacific Ocean that connects the United States
and Japan where I am from. And as I mentioned earlier,
this is woven in Kyoto, where my ancestors are from. And for me, the sound of the running water
also represents the presence of my father in my life. He was born in Kyoto – but passed away –
he wanted to be an artist, but he never became, and he passed away
when I turned eleven years old. In Japanese culture, we say that
when a person dies, it is believed that the soul has to travel and cross
the river to get to the afterlife. I learned at an early stage
that life is not permanent. Nothing is permanent.
And we are all fleeting. So now I am going to show you
a different project, and I am going to take you on another
journey on a little boat here. This little piece actually
was originally a model that I created for the international
arts festival that I was invited to. It took place in several islands
in the Seto Inland Sea this summer. And this little piece was shown
just for the spring session. And there in the sea there’re these little
creatures called water fireflies. So as you see inside this little boat,
these fireflies are moving, and making this little breathing sound,
and the light is pulsating. Here is the Japanese Inland Sea,
and here is the boat. I took a traditional boat
as my inspiration. And the bottom here
is a pilgrimage boat that is used still in an island going from temple to temple,
which has a long traditional history, and people still do this pilgrimage to go to these islands
and go to these temples. So I built this boat in stainless steel
and then I wove the optical fiber into this frame. This is a place where it took place. When you enter a large dark space, you see a boat enveloped by light. Sounds of the ocean are visualized
as the pulsation of light, and the color will change
as you get inside the boat. As you lay down, the color will change
to gradations of deep blue as if the boat is breathing, and you feel as if
you are returning into the womb where the life develops in water. Your heart becomes one
with the “heartbeat” of the boat. The Japanese title of this work
is “Umi no Utsuwa” which means Vessel of the Sea,
and Vessel of Birth. The boat becomes a vessel of the fleeting
journey from the void to birth, and traveling through life
to the void at death. My current project is a commission
for the City University of New York, John Jay College for Criminal Justice, which is one block from Hudson River
in midtown New York. My goal was to create an artwork that
would promote the mission of the college, which is a research
in the field of social justice. So you enter the college,
and you see the optical fiber waterfall cascading down and shimmering
based on the sound of the Hudson River, but you don’t hear the sound. You just want to try hear the sound
through the light. 50 years ago,
Martin Luther King, Jr. said, in his famous speech
he spoke of creating social justice. In his 1963 “I have a dream” speech
he said, “We are not satisfied
and we will not be satisfied until justice rolls down like waters
and righteousness like a mighty stream.” Using a spectrogram and algorithm,
as you can see here, the statement of 25 seconds of his words
are translated into a visual form. You see it as a light pulsation. Physically and metaphorically,
the light cascades down, this intense blue light
cascades down like a “mighty stream” provoking both historical and current
perspectives on social justice. Again, you don’t hear his voice,
but you see his voice in a form of pulsation of light,
because justice is illusive, and we still have to work all together
to make the justice transparent. The title of this work
is “Transcendence of Justice”. 8 years ago, I knew nothing
about weaving, LED, optical fiber, green energy, DMX controller,
or interactive technology. Today, I use optical fiber,
a tool for global communication to reconnect people visually. I combine the natural world –
rain, wind, waves, and bird songs, with human sounds
like heartbeat and voices and I transform them into light. My goal is to activate awareness
on three levels: the environmental, social justice, and consciousness
of our ephemeral being and existence. My goal is to… again,
being a dialogue with nature, with people and the place and its people, its present, the past,
the future they create, made new, immediate,
and somehow timeless. Thank you. (Applause)

1 thought on “Water weaving light – interactive art of light and sound: Nobuho Nagasawa at TEDxSBU

  1. This is a beautiful talk – so inspiring. She's an incredible artist, and the light in these works is simply stunning.

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