Reality is a tricky thing. Just ask Plato or Christopher Nolan or better yet, anyone who’s eaten one magic mushroom too many. It’s an unwieldy rabbit hole of a concept, which is precisely why it’s been fodder for so many philosophers and artists throughout the years. James Clar is only the most recent.
The light artist (who we’ve written about before) recently opened SEEK, an exhibition taking place at Carroll/Fletcher Gallery in London. The show is filled with Clar’s signature geometric neon light sculptures, all of which look to pose the question: What is reality, anyway? Or more specifically, what’s reality in the age of technology?
Some of Clar’s work ask the question in the form of hypotheticals. Blue Star, a bursting array of blue and violet tubing ponders what life might be like if our sun emitted blue light instead of red. The Other You, a polished piece of aluminum with neon 10^10^28 asks us to imagine a world 10^10^28 meters away in which we might find the exact replica of our sun, earth and selves.
Other pieces like Space Is a Hologram, an illuminated 2-D cube that appears to be 3-D, are meant to prompt a more literal rethinking of the way we perceive the world. Agues Clar: If our brains are capable of jumping between two and three dimensionality this easily, who’s to say we’re not living in a 2-D hologram? “It’s really weird to get your head around,” says Clar. “But I created this piece to push somebody’s thoughts in that direction.”
Clar, similar to James Turrell and Olafur Elaisson believes light is an effective method for challenging our concepts of reality and perception, but this long-held belief can be seen as far back as Plato’s Allagory of the Cave. In the story, a group of prisoners is chained to the wall of a cave; their only source of reality are the shadows flickering on the wall in front of them. We all know better—there’s an entire world out there these prisoners know nothing about—but to them, the shadows are the only reality that exists. “Instead of having shadows on the wall, we have screens and technology,” says Clar.
It’s a fair comparison, and it does make you think. We like to make the distinction between digital life and “real life.” We even have an internet-approved word (“IRL”) to signify the difference. But Clar’s work is a reminder that IRL is increasingly becoming an obsolete phrase. Much like our inability to tell the difference between 2-D and 3-D, our digital lives are our real lives now.
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