Thin Air | A Groundbreaking Exhibition Exploring Light & Space
Get ready to disappear into Thin Air.
Because, on figurative level, this new exhibition playing with light, sound and space envelops your senses in a way that you may have never experienced before.
And, on more a literal level, it’s housed in a space so vast, it almost feels possible to actually get lost inside.
That space is The Beams, an enormous refurbished industrial complex in the Royal Docks (across the river from Greenwich). Since opening last year, the place has been put to use first and foremost as a nightclub & gig venue – and if you’ve not been yet, it is all-caps, underlined, italicised, HUGE. It’s 55,000 square feet of warehouse-style space, and this unique scale has allowed artists from around the world to finally come together and exhibit their vast luminous installations in London for the first time.
Many of the works on show have been designed specifically for the space, like James Clar’s corridor of soothing colourful waveforms, which acts as a kind of portal from the outside world to the sensory spectacle that awaits. Then there’s the sheer impressive scale of the installation by 404.zero, who use algorithms and code to fill The Beams’ largest, hangar-like space with rippling curtains of light, accompanied by booming sound. It’s genuinely impossible to see the end of the room, giving you the sense of inhabiting an infinite futuristic void.
If the ground floor installations flex pure sensory clout – exploring extremes of size, volume, light and darkness – the tone upstairs is more meditative. Artists Kimchi and Chips have used carefully engineered convex mirrors to reflect beams of light in such a way that they create shimmering, shape-shifting rainbows in the middle of the room. Accompanied by a philosophical monologue by Rosa Menkman, it encourages you to think more deeply about how perspective is shaped by vision.
Meanwhile Robert Henke’s ingenious installation applies super-fast laser beams to a bed of phosphorus (the same stuff those childhood glow-in-the-dark stars are made of), which holds onto the memory of that light for half an hour. The result is an ever-shifting landscape that bears the dimly glowing tracks of the past, whose future is entirely unpredictable, and which, at the end of the show, will completely fade away.
On this floor, too, you’ll have the chance to influence some of the artwork itself. One of the smaller rooms houses a live coding station programmed by UCLA, which, almost like a set of DJ decks, allows artwork to be created and adapted in real time in response to your movements and even your voice. Students from Goldsmiths will be taking over here to experiment on Friday and Saturday nights, which the show-runners are hoping will help to inspire a new generation of light artists.
Capping off the show is a stunning ‘volumetric laser array’ from Matthew Schreiber, who makes sculptures out of light itself. It really has to be seen to be believed, but it feels a little bit like being inside maths.
Thin Air is going to be open pretty late most days (9pm on Weds & Thurs), with plans for Friday night Lates that’ll stretch on until 11pm.
After which, you’ll have to disappear…
NOTE: Thin Air is showing at The Beams from 17th March – 4th June 2023. Tickets cost £25, and are available here.
Thin Air | The Beams, Factory Road, London, E16 2HB
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