Art in transformations
Slow cycles of light transform both shape and color in cp-kik studio’s recent installation at Frisbie Hospital in Rochester, New Hampshire. cp-kik, a partnership between artists Caroline Parent and Kathleen Kimball, created the “diodic art” piece Transformations using fused glass and programmed LED (light-emitting diode) technology. As the colors of light and glass slowly morph, visitors are likely to perceive a reduced waiting time, according to cp-kik’s art-brain research on three brain properties: priming, mirror neurons, and neural plasticity.
Transformations is comprised of three panels of fused glass installed in a custom box, inside of which sits the LED lights, a computer sequencer, and power pack. The technology is programmed for a specific sequence of color and light. “The fused-glass shapes move from the very solid geometry of the square, up into the triangle, and into the middle piece where you see it breaking apart, awakening—transforming, if you will—and then opening up,” explains Parent. “All the while, the light recirculates and changes the imagery.”
Parent says showing patients and visitors images of renewal and transformation will help slow them down and “allow their brain to be primed, get into a better rhythm, and recalibrate on their own.” Light can have a deeper impact on occupants than an unlit painting or photo. Parent says the LED lighting makes the art transcending and therefore ideal for healing environments.
“People see color before shape,” says Kathleen Kimball, who earned a PhD in world art from Union Institute & University in Cincinnati, Ohio. “So the color in this is extremely important—it goes from warm to cool, light to dark. Like the four seasons that renew themselves, this is a loop that comes back again and again. It’s long enough that you don’t memorize it and it keeps you engaged, but it’s short enough that your brain sees, ‘Yes, this is a cycle.’ As opposed to linear time, in which you are born, you grow old, and then you die, this is cyclical time.”
According to cp-kik’s art-brain research, what humans are exposed to by choice, education, or chance is replicated in the brain, which then seeks out the familiarity again, and is altered by the very seeing. Kimball, who has been studying the science of consciousness and neuro-aesthetics for more than 30 years, says the three brain properties—priming, mirror neurons, and neural plasticity—are all implicated in Transformations. By showing the viewer’s brain cyclical change, the piece gives him or her the opportunity to literally rewire for renewal.
The priming brain property involves one’s brain looking for what is familiar—in other words, what your brain sees, it looks for again. The second property, mirror neurons, involves one’s brain replicating what it sees. “Let’s say that you were wired to eat a banana, and I am watching you eat the banana,” Kimball says. “Then my brain will wire in the same way as yours, and it will literally fire in the same way, as if I’m eating the banana, but I’m only watching you eat it. There is a mirroring taking place.” The third property, neural plasticity, involves the altering of the brain when the brain perceives something. “By the very act of perceiving things, you are actually altering and rewiring your own neural apparatus,” Kimball says.
“So when you put these three together—what you see you look for again, and you replicate in your own brain, and as you replicate, your perceptions rewire and alter you—what you get is that your apparatus, your brain, and your working methods of it conflate to allow you to quite literally rewire yourself by what you view.”