• Lumia - the art of lighting the void in time: Prototyping new instruments as a historical discourse

Kim, Trent, 2024, Thesis, Lumia - the art of lighting the void in time: Prototyping new instruments as a historical discourse PhD thesis, Royal College of Art.

Abstract or Description:

This practice-based doctoral research discusses the genealogy of Lumia, a historical art form using light as primary material, and analyses historical and contemporary Lumia practices including my own experimental practice. Three original concepts — void axis, technological voyeurism, and ‘un-site- specificity’ (a new term: conditions of a subversive space) — illuminate the historical and contemporary meanings and practice of Lumia.

Lumia shared particular influences: late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century chromaticism (conceived by western art music composers and abstract film-makers); and the notion of lighting as an exploratory artistic tool, which gained momentum with the advent of electrical lighting technology in the nineteenth century. Thomas Wilfred (1889-1968), argued that Lumia was the eighth art form, following painting, poetry, sculpture, architecture, music, dance, and drama. Over half a century, Wilfred staged his Lumia performances in music halls, theatres, and museums, and was a pioneer in the dissemination of Lumia art in non-live settings, including home entertainment equipment, automated kinetic art, indoor and outdoor projection installations. Wilfred viewed Lumia as a distinct art form and a source of inspiration for these other lighting practices.

Current academic research on Lumia focuses on three aspects: Thomas Wilfred’s career; the intermedia appearance of Lumia (between traditional art forms); and the interpretation of Thomas Wilfred's aesthetic style. However, art historical discourses mostly dispute that Lumia is an independent form of art, which I — as a contemporary Lumia artist — examine through the lens of Technologically Extended Aestheticism (TEA) to make a critical case for the art’s independent status. This thesis argues that traditional art historical approaches, complemented by practice-based research, show Lumia to be fundamentally distinct: to have a particular role to play in understanding the aesthetic reality of lighting.

The main research question asks: what is the medium-specificity of Lumia and how does it inform contemporary lighting art and re-present Lumia within the history of art? This research hypothesises that Wilfred’s prototype Lumia performance instruments, Clavilux, may be used to connect the idea of Lumia with the materiality of light as its medium - Clavilux is not a mere instrumental artefact but generates a comprehensive art historical discourse, aiding the search for the medium-specificity of lighting. This contrasts against investigating Lumia as an abstract and symbolic concept (such as Theosophical associations and Bergsonian interpretations of duration) and Clavilux as a media archaeological artefact. Such approaches are inadequate, negating contemporary Lumia artists’ continuation of the art form. To appreciate Lumia’s historic and current significance, it is imperative to evidence Lumia’s contemporary position through practical observations, experimentations and demonstrations.

The knowledge of the medium-specificity of Lumia is applied to establish aesthetic methods of material, technological and intermedia interventions in creating new Lumia works. The new Lumia artworks created as part of this research are performative; they follow medium-specificity to evoke new ways of perceiving objects through lighting. This thesis initiates a contemporary dialogue with a historical art practice through the prototyping Clavilux, demonstrates prototyping as an alternative research method, and will encourage lighting art practitioners, art historians, and artist-technologists to discuss and promote Lumia’s historic legacy and contemporary manifestations.

Qualification Name: PhD
Subjects: Creative Arts and Design > W600 Cinematics and Photography > W610 Moving Image Techniques > W615 Animation Techniques
School or Centre: School of Communication
Uncontrolled Keywords: Lumia; Clavilux; Lighting; Medium-Specificity; Prototyping
Date Deposited: 30 Apr 2024 09:32
Last Modified: 30 Apr 2024 09:32
URI: https://researchonline.rca.ac.uk/id/eprint/5829
Edit Item (login required) Edit Item (login required)