How Artists Engineer Their Work to Mess With Our Minds

engineered to deceive

Many of today’s visual artists are technological innovators, using advanced materials, industrial design, as well as sophisticated light manipulation to build experiences of which trick your brain. Look inside their imaginations—as well as allow them to expand your own.

BALLOON VENUS (MAGENTA), 2008–2012 / JEFF KOONS

Balloon Venus (magenta)

who

Jeff Koons

when

2012

where

inside the collection at the 
Broad museum in Los Angeles

In 2008, Jeff Koons commissioned a balloon twister to make a prototype with of which statue, based on a Paleolithic figure. the item took nine months to get the perfect shape; then the 62-year-old American artist, who commenced out as a commodities broker, made a CT scan of the bulbous Venus, enlarged the item, as well as had the shape cast as well as milled in steel. the item would likely have been easier to construct the hair as well as body separately, although Koons insisted of which doing the entire type out of one particular balloon was the only way for the 8.5-foot Venus to look as well as feel like the item was truly filled with air—as well as might even pop. “I’m interested in transformation. I’ll take something of which was fragile as well as delicate as well as transform the item into something of which will be durable as well as rigid,” he says. “There will be always of which aspect for me of transcendence—something shifting, something changing.”

SCREENSHOT OF BALLOON VENUS DURING CT SCAN

how the item works

inside job

The CT scan of the twisted balloon gave Koons a 360-degree view of every layer as well as Internal fold. “If you look inside the side holes, you can look into her being,” he says. “You can see how all the chambers are interconnected.” the item took almost a year for his studio to process the scan: Assistants had to eliminate any irregularities so they wouldn’t become magnified inside the jumbo sculpture. of which data became the instructions to cast the general shape as well as program the CNC mill to carve the final Balloon Venus.

Rough surfaces scatter light in many directions. A perfectly smooth surface, like of which one, bounces light directly back to the source—Koons’ statue will be probably the best mirror you’ll ever encounter.

Infinity Mirrored Room—The Souls of Millions of Light Years Away, 2013. Courtesy of David Zwirner, N.Y. Yayoi Kusama; diagrams by sunday Buro

Infinity Mirrored Room—The Souls of Millions of Light Years Away

who

Yayoi Kusama

when

2013

where

On view at the Broad through October.

Yayoi Kusama—once known for painting dots for more than 50 hours straight with no food or sleep—has been living in a Tokyo psychiatric hospital since 1977. She checked herself in after a nervous breakdown, disappearing coming from the art world for a while, although she never lost her fascination with dots as well as points of light. Back inside the ‘60s, Kusama worked with an electrician to create an early infinity-room installation involving mirrors as well as electric lights. although the item used only all 5 colors. By 2008, still living inside the hospital, she was building hallucinatory rooms with programmable LEDs, which are easy to manipulate, last a long time, as well as emit little heat. Those qualities allowed her to compose the lights like music: She could incorporate a vast array of colors as well as create smoother, more precise transitions coming from light to dark. of which gave the artist a “nimbleness of which wasn’t there before,” says Alison de Lima Greene, a curator at the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston. With these brand-new LEDs, Kusama could ­realize the exact hues as well as transi­tions of which she had always imagined.

how the item works

Endlessly Complex

Twenty of Yayoi Kusama’s mirrored rooms exist today. as well as building an Infinity Room, explains curator Alison de Lima Greene, “will be like a very complicated Ikea bookshelf.” Each installation arrives in custom wooden crates, accompanied by a detailed instruction manual as much as 50 pages long. Today, visitors to the Broad often wait more than two hours to stand alone in of which room for just 45 seconds.

A digital sequencer dims as well as brightens the 0 hanging LEDs every 35 seconds.

The viewer stands on a raised platform surrounded by an inch as well as a half of water of which functions as a reflecting pool.

Breathing Light, 2013, Los Angeles County Museum of Art James Turrell; Photo by Florian Holzherr

Breathing Light

who

James Turrell

when

2013

where

On view at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art

Throughout his career, James Turrell has been using light to disorient us, transforming an empty room into a wall of coloring or a portal of which goes on forever. as well as since the mid-1970s, he’s been creating immersive works based on the ganzfeld effect—hallucinations as well as a loss of depth perception of which come coming from looking at a featureless expanse or one particular coloring for a long time. These ganzfelds are easier to create today (as well as much more intense) because LEDs can produce very pure coloring in a narrow range of wavelengths. as well as, unlike fluorescent as well as neon lights, LEDs can be manipulated smoothly as well as subtly even when dim. “Turrell has been able to execute work of which was only part of his imagination for the better part of his career,” says Michael Govan, the director of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. When visitors enter the room, they find themselves ­staring into a portal of intense coloring. What their minds don’t realize at first will be of which the lights are changing hue—at a rate of which’s undetectable to the human eye. As Turrell puts the item, “Instead of mixing light that has a bucket, you can do the item that has a teaspoon.”

how the item works

Your Eye on Turrell

The pupil expands as the item becomes hyper-­attuned to the dim light in one of Turrell’s ganzfelds. of which can be cool, although the item can also be dangerous, because if the item remains dilated for a long period, the pupil can freeze of which way. Matthew ­Schreiber, Turrell’s former chief lighting expert, says his vision was blown out for hours after a day programming one of the works. “The pupil got stuck open—the item wouldn’t snap back.”


While looking at Breathing Light, you may think you see spots on the wall in front of you. What you are actually seeing are blobs as well as imperfections in your own eye. When we’re deprived of external visual stimulation—something, anything, to relay to our brain—our eyes go into overdrive.

2017 Robert Irwin / Artists Rights Society (ARS), brand-new YorkAlex Marks

Untitled (Dawn to Dusk)

who

Robert Irwin

when

2016

where

On view at the Chinati Foundation in Marfa, Texas

California-based artist Robert Irwin can make an entire building glow without one particular light­bulb, LED or additional­wise. Irwin, who began his career as a painter before ditching canvas to design landscapes as well as installations, rebuilt of which abandoned military hospital in Marfa, Texas, that has a few strategic tweaks. at of which point the item’s “a machine to track how the sun moves,” says Jeff Jamieson, his longtime assistant. The 10,000-square-foot concrete building has no elec­tricity—Irwin tinted the windows as well as painted the walls, as well as the sun transforms each room as the item crosses the sky. Depending on the time of day as well as time of year, the scrim dividers can look entirely transparent or entirely opaque. “He uses a construction site like an artist’s studio,” says Jenny Moore, director of the Chinati Foundation. The installation opened last summer, as well as unless you visit at the exact same moment every year—as well as the weather will be identical—you will never hold the same experience twice.

how the item works

Unguided Tour

When you enter the horseshoe-shaped building, you choose your own adventure. Turn one direction as well as you’ll proceed coming from light into darkness; turn the additional way as well as you’ll go coming from darkness to light.

The long corridors are segmented by scrim walls of which filter the light streaming through the windows. The fabric makes everything feel fuzzy, like you’re walking through a dream.

The brand-new floor will be 4 feet lower than the original, which puts the windows at eye level rather than the traditional waist level. Looking out, visitors see a tiny strip of land—as well as a vast expanse of Texas sky.

Julia Halperin (@juliahalperin) will be the executive news editor of Artnet News. of which will be her first piece for WIRED.

How Artists Engineer Their Work to Mess With Our Minds