The Surface of Spectral Scattering
Townhouse Factory Space
Work on view Saturdays through Wednesdays, 7 pm – 10 pm
This radiation appears to come from a spherical surface around the observer such that the radius of the shell is the distance each photon has travelled since it was last scattered. This is the last scattering surface. To visualize this effect, imagine that you are in a large field filled with people screaming. You are screaming too. At some time, t = 0, everyone stops screaming simultaneously. What will you hear? At any time t, you will hear some faint screams, but the closest and loudest will be coming from people a distance vst away. This distance defines a ‘surface of last screaming’ and this surface is receding from you at the speed of sound.
--The Routledge Critical Dictionary of the New Cosmology, 1999.
“The Surface of Spectral Scattering” diagrams a long-passed affective moment whose presence still persists like a phantom pain, but the memory of which is rapidly receding toward a threshold of imperceptibility.
To conjure and intensify that fading point, Magdi Mostafa created a site-specific, 600 square meter, multi-channel sound and light installation, in the Townhouse Factory Space. The installation translates the city of Cairo into a high energy discharge system with boundaries dictated by a poetic physics of transmission, where human actors play the role of inert conduits charged by abstract, external forces of zeal and fury.
Electric currents pulse through roughly 10,000 hand-embroidered LED lights, pumped by 15 different power centers through more than 23,000 hand-soldered electric connections. Each power supply is triggered by sound waves radiating from the periphery of this field of scattered illumination. A consistent thrusting of deep frequency sound defines the sum total of the shape of light, while intermittently, the speakers transmit a parallel track of high frequencies — the aural equivalent of the sharp point of the individual LED light itself, the basic unit of the work.
The work hangs between a series of tensions — between the intense pulling in and pulling out movement generated by the contrasting acoustic poles; the impersonal abstraction of a map and the deeply visceral, personal experience of the installation; and the seemingly cold, industrial use of technology and the laborious, craftsman-like process of creating the work.
But beyond those dichotomies, “The Surface of Spectral Scattering” is suffused with a reverence for that which is felt, but not understood — and for the deep memories that are increasingly known only by the shape of their absence.
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