Constructed inside Brandon Lattu’s Eagle Rock studio (exhibited offsite from the MAK at 2861 W. Avenue 35), Reciprocity of Light is an interactive room wired with a grid of light-sensitive cells and lights embedded in the walls and ceiling, concealed behind a screen of tracing paper. A single bare, incandescent bulb hangs low in the center of the space. As my body enters, joining the two others already present, it casts its moving shadow on the wall which activates the built-in circuitry to create fluid, shadow-shaped fields of light within its bounds, inverting shadows into clusters of luminous orbs. The room theoretically transposes photography’s structural basis as a surface sensitized to intensities and obstructions of light into an architectural model that gets turned on by the presence of our bodies (…something like locating a structure’s erogenous zones).
The figures of light projected by the viewer-participants’ bodies are patterns of cool and warm spots diffused into soft-edged pulses by the mediating translucent opacity of thin tracing paper. The manual notion of tracing, and even drawing, imparted by the surface material is cast in performative and embodied terms as gesture, dance, and even just lumpen presence and solid mass. The body is instrumentalized and put to work lighting up the space. There is an initial, involuntary desire to hyperbolize this new-found power through motion and dance or, more precisely, I want to watch dance performed there; the space won’t be satisfied until it is used as the set for choreography, for a performance. And Lattu must know this because Reciprocity of Light clearly channels New York in the ‘60s and specifically draws from its cross-disciplinary history of collaboration and formative exchange between the experimentation concentrated at the Judson Dance Theater and the beginnings Minimalist sculpture. In fact, this piece could’ve been dated 1966 or thereabouts, in no small part because its location (off the gallery and institutional path) in the artist’s studio advocates for an intimate (noncommercial) experience and participatory audience drawn from the local art community and friends. It feels like a throwback (if a welcome one) at the same time that it shares topical affinities with contemporary interactive and phenomenologically-oriented electronic installations like those of Rafael Lozano-Hemmer concurrently on view thirty-odd miles south at UC Irvine’s Beall Center.
Despite the blinking volatility of lights synced to my movements, the entire atmosphere is one of diffusion, spray, softness, and quiet. A yellow-tinged warmth (from the pale wood framework and bulbs) permeates like candle-light and the enclosure strikes me on the whole as womblike, in fact the fuzzy breadth of each illuminated dot seems to travel through a vague thickness like light seen, or sensed, through closed eyelids. Yesterday was a good day to see it, to be in it and of it: the misting drizzle, nearly empty streets, damp silence, and dim whiteness dispersed throughout the unlocatable cloud layer subliminally prepared me and I immediately felt I could live there.
- Sarah Lehrer-Graiwer