The Enlightenment

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In Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man, McLuhan famously used the content-less light bulb to explain his philosophical slogan "the medium is the message," noting that switching one on "creates an environment by its mere presence." Now Pixel Gallery, in the techno-sage's old stomping grounds of Toronto, showcases two projects that create light-environments from two unusual technologies that go way beyond the bulb; the show, "Living Light," co-presented by Year Zero One for the Subtle Technologies Festival, continues until June 15. Diane Willow's Cascade and Circling, part of her Light Sensitive series, consists of installations employing sea water inhabited by bioluminescent algae. Visitors can touch the sculptures, prompting the liquid in the containers to move and create varying fields of luminance as the clouds of microorganisms shift. French Canadian collective Experientiae Electricae offers a differently volumetric experience with Pixy, which uses electroluminescence to generate light from a variable system of large, independently movable square sheets. Positioned and programmed, each square then corresponds to an individual pixel of a video, and can be spread over objects to create large, three-dimensional, low-resolution images. Pixy expands moving-image video into an architectural space, thereby throwing a few more twists into McLuhan's elucidations of technology's form-content problem. - Ed Halter


Image: Diane Willow, Cascade and Circling, 2008

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