The Roles of Light: Artificial Light as a Resource in Public Art

University essay from KTH/Ljusdesign

Abstract: In this paper, I will explore the role of artificial light in public art through a case study project. With the word role, I mean the visual and conceptual hierarchy of materials and resources in artwork. Light is a significant resource in public art. The artwork needs highlighting, especially in Northern countries where the winter’s darkness is inevitable. Light is not only a highlighter, it also tells a story of its own. 
First, I’m going to open up the concepts of public space, public art, light in public art and light art, to place the study in context. The literature review in the first part of the study allows better insight into the relation of light, public art, and light art.
The second part introduces the selected case study project, which is a concept design of a landscape artwork competition, for Tramway art in Tampere, Finland. Richard Kelly’s perceptual theory will be used to discuss the observations from the case study. Kelly’s theory consists of three fundamental elements of visual design: ambient luminescence, focal glow and play of brilliants.
The researcher’s subjective experience in the case study discusses with the documentations and observations of the project, to explore the circumstances and to examine the boundary conditions of the case study project. 
The role of artificial light in public art can be functional and make the space visible; it can be a highlighter and drag the focus into the artwork; or it can be the artwork itself. With the findings of the case study, I will divide the roles of artificial light in public art in functional, supporting and leading.

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