18 February 2016

Mandel Solano at LEA28

Now open at LEA28 is an untitled installation by Mandel Solano, who is one of five artists working collaboratively in the sim as part of the 5D group (5 Dimensions). At the landing point, instructions emphasize the need to employ advanced lighting model (to best effect with shadows enabled as well, set to sun/moon + projectors), and this is essential, because otherwise visitors will see little else than grey walls. Once prepared, visitors descend a spiral path to the heart of the installation. (The spiral is not particularly easy to navigate, and it might be necessary to dispense with the higher graphics settings until one reaches the bottom.)

At the main level, visitors will find themselves situated in a large hexagonal space, each wall of which is a projector. As the arrows on the floor at this juncture indicate, one is invited simply pass through any of the walls into yet another hexagonal space, and so on. There isn't any destination or endpoint — but many, many hexagonal rooms. "I think there are 12x13," Mandel offered, which would be 156 of them. Each is a distinct visual environment: the mesh surfaces that serve as projectors are themselves textured — sometimes with a monochrome grey, but other times something to lend them a three-dimensional appearance — and when projected lights are turned on they come to life.

The projected textures are all abstract, with one representational exception that I could see, that of a woman (image below). "It just happened," explained Mandel. "At first [I intended that] I should not have anything from Earth." Venturing from space to space, the content begins to seem almost limitless: a seemingly endless array of designs, shapes and colors. (And after a while it's difficult to guess how many of the rooms one has ventured through.) In some cases the textures slowly move, and many rooms have an additional light source in the ceiling, so that occasionally the observer will notice his or her shadow on one or more walls.

All that said, this is not a space that is necessarily easy to visit. I experienced difficulty even moving around, as did my partner, Kinnaird Fiachra. (Even Mandel, who encourages people to move about rather than cam around, admitted to me that he crashed in the middle of our conversation.) Additional installations from the 5 Dimensions group will emerge in LEA28 and adjoining sims over the forthcoming months.

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