Thu, Mar 18, 2010 - Page 14 News List

The tunnel at the end of the light

Tao Ya-lun employs lasers and smoke machines to create ethereal installations that probe the relationship between humankind and technology



Tao Ya-lun (陶亞倫) was formerly known as a kinetic artist whose contraptions used motion to explore primitive desires in the information age.

Then he saw the light.

Since 2003 Tao has been playing with lasers, using them both as a medium to create otherworldly realms of fog and light and as a metaphor for technology and its quasi-religious role in modern life.

“Most new media artists talk about images, information and their impact on human beings. But I am more interested in the medium of light itself,” said Tao, an assistant professor at the School of Film and New Media of the Taipei National University of the Arts (國立台北藝術大學) whose solo show is currently on display in several rooms on the second floor of Gallery 100 (百藝畫廊).

“[I see] light as a bedrock of our technology-driven civilization because practically everything is now conducted through optical transmission.”

During an experiment at home, Tao discovered that when a laser beam hits a piece of glow-in-the-dark paper, it creates a dark spot, as if the paper were, in his words, “branded” by the laser.

Tao uses this technique for his installations Branding 1 and Branding 2. In both works, viewers watch as a laser mounted on a mechanical arm “paints” on Tao’s custom-made light-sensitive paper. The finished image in Branding 1 depicts a man in a cage. In Branding 2, the same man sits inside a church.

Tao means for viewers to compare the two images. “Man strives to satisfy all his desires through technology, but he is keenly aware of his inability to transcend the limits of physicality,” he said. “At the same time, technology creates a new myth, a new religion and an infinite imagination despite [the limits of the physical world].”


WHAT: Tao Ya-lun Solo Exhibition — Impenetrable Superficiality (陶亞倫個展-切不開的表面)

WHERE: Gallery 100 (百藝畫廊), 6, Ln 30, Changan E Rd Sec 1, Taipei City (台北市長安東路一段30巷6號)

WHEN: Until March 28. Open Tuesdays to Sundays from 11am to 7pm. Tel: (02) 2536-2120


Light Film 2 generates an even more mesmerizing effect by using a laser and a smoke machine to create a tunnel of light. The green laser illuminates particles of dust that surround the tunnel like nebulous clouds, making the tunnel look like a black hole.

Tao says his installations trigger a variety of reactions. Art critics who approach his work through the lens of postmodernism think he’s exploring fragmented power centers and pluralistic identities, though Tao says he’s more interested in the idea of what he calls a “collective subconscious” that is at war with the limits of the physical world. One critique that particularly stands out in the artist’s mind, though, was offered by a former Air Force officer who used to fly spy planes over China and saw Tao’s Light Film series at the Taipei Fine Arts Museum (台北市立美術館) several years ago.

“He told me that my work looked exactly like the clouds he saw at dawn when flying at very high altitudes,” Tao said.


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