For Pierre Soulages, the space between the painting and the spectator comprises an essential part of the work. It’s especially there – in the interaction between painted material, light, the movement of the spectator and of the eye – that the eye itself plays a crucial role. However, it’s also there that its potential is most often restrained by the means of presentation: single, standardized and static light sources that provide paltry options for possible points of view into the work.
EPFL’s Signal Processing Laboratory 2 (LTS2) and the studio Fragment.in, coming out of ECAL, confront this problem by providing a variable display environment that genuinely becomes an integral part of the work. In their installation, an Outrenoir tableau is surrounded by an animated device that offers, under the same hanging conditions, several types of lighting options (frontal illumination, uniform, tangential, etc.). A motion detection system allows one or several visitors to adjust the lighting merely through their presence and their movements.
As successive modes of programed and interactive lighting progress, and the experience varies over the course of the visitors’ encounter with the work, the viewers are offered a constantly changing ballet of light which, in turn, reveals the peculiarities of the exhibited painting, such as the juxtaposition of its smooth surfaces against those in relief.
The visitor becomes an actor physically experimenting with his relationship to the painting, in a space where what hangs there is no longer a defined unit but rather infinitely variable data – making its presentation a crucial component of the work. Rather than a didactic discourse on the techniques of painting, the designers of the installation offer an artistic mise en abyme of the infinite potentialities in the relationship between artwork, lighting and spectator.