Week 5 Response / Takuro Osaka’s Visualizations of Light and Space

Week Five’s lecture presented a wide variety of works—including cinema, dance, illustration, and sculpture—devoted to representing physics concepts and phenomena. The Wilson web links led me to the works of Takuro Osaka, who creates light installations that play on space and cosmic rays—high-energy radiation originating in outer space that penetrates the Earth’s atmosphere.

Takuro Osaka, Perpendicular (2002)

As many types of cosmic radiation are not visible to the naked human eye, Osaka creates these installations as a means of visualizing or demonstrating the presence of such particles. Perpendicular, part of his 2002 exhibition Revelation by Cosmic Rays at the Chiba City Museum, consists of a red room with one wall lined with 256 red LED lights. A light temporarily extinguishes each time it detects an incoming cosmic ray. In discussing the work, Osaka describes himself as “a mediator to visualize a natural phenomena,” allowing viewers to both “feel the existence of space” and “feel the meaning or the will for our existence through the work” (eng.takuro-osaka.com).

Another view of Perpendicular

Osaka’s statement reminds me of Gilles Jobin’s quote from lecture when he describes the choreography of QUANTUM: “You don’t have to know everything about physics…now that I know everything is moving…it feels different to move my body.” As a dance inspired by particle physics, QUANTUM doesn’t necessarily explain the science behind the phenomena, but instead represents them in a visually poetic way that moves the audience to a different understanding and feeling of the physical world. Similarly, Perpendicular highlights a natural occurrence without delving into the how of cosmic rays, rather choosing to describe them with an aesthetic experience, giving viewers a sensory understanding of the normally invisible motions of particles travelling to us over millions of light-years.

Parallel is another piece in Revelation by Cosmic Rays, which plays on both light and space. From the red room, visitors to the exhibit are led to an adjacent room through a small tunnel, into a dark room with one mirror on the ceiling and one on the floor. Enclosed by vertical blue beams of light, the mirrors generate an endless pattern, reflections that produce a tunnel-like vision that seems to stretch on forever above and beneath the viewer. Yet the blue beams never intersect.

Takuro Osaka, Parallel (2002)

Osaka notes that “the universe inherently has such structural contradiction.” The exhibit space mimics this manner of the universe where space is always expanding in a way that keeps parallel rays of light on a parallel path, never converging or diverging. Osaka’s work thus offers a more abstract experience or way of thinking about the infinite space of the universe.

– Dorothy Boyd





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