There is an light that can be observed only when the eyes are closed and the mind is intently focused; in this performance, I seek to collect and share it.
— Lia Chavez
Luminous Objects is a performance through which Lia Chavez delves ever more deeply into questions of visual perception, the mysterious nature of interior space, and the role of lens-based technologies in mediating how we see and understand the universe. The performance was first commissioned and presented by the Armory Show in 2013, which was followed by a presentation by Two Rams at SPRING/BREAK Art Show in 2014.
Luminous Objects is a meditation performance which belongs to the artist’s ongoing investigation into the depths of human consciousness and the wondrous nature of “the inner cosmos.” In this performance, she explores the nature of meditation-induced light experiences, a phenomenon which has been empirically documented throughout cross-cultural meditation traditions and is subject of the artist's pioneering research in cognitive neuroscience at Goldsmiths College in London. Throughout the performance — which has lasted up to ten hours a day for two weeks continually— the viewer is invited to witness the detailed topography of her imaginings as it develops.
For Luminous Objects, Chavez combines contemplative practice and neuroscience to investigate the frontier of visual perception. She utilizes the practice of durational meditation to cultivate sustained gamma wave activity in her brain. The accumulation of this particular neural activity eventually generates dazzling, primordial visions within her mind's eye. Throughout the performance, she sustains an observation of the radiant aesthetics of her inner optical realm, and in the style of a reporter, periodically shares her visions with the audience in the form of calligraphic drawings. These gestural words capture the mental meteorology of hues, densities, and volumes which ceaselessly erupt and erode within Chavez’s inner visual landscape.
Working with the idiom of photography, Chavez becomes analogous to a camera lens, exploring the inception of the creative spark by delving deeply into a state in which her mind is penetrated by a type of light for which science has only recently begun to account. Of the process she has stated, "In durational meditation, I experience cataclysmic visions of vortices, fibers of electricity, clouds of short-lived photons, cascading firebolts, and embryonic stars. It's a process of observing passionate dances between the elements…storms of consciousness as they develop and diminish over a passage of time.”
With a title referencing the science of astrophysics, Chavez captures this primal action of time and the motion of bodies in space. A “luminous object” in the world of physics refers to an entity, such as a star, which is capable of generating its own light. Hubble Ultra-Deep Field imagery collects the light of such objects by focusing a Wide Field Camera into seemingly vacant portions of outer space. Lengthy durations of exposure reveal black fields to be teeming with the ancient light of the first galaxies. As Chavez has trained her mind to meditate for lengthy durations of time, she has discovered that the gradual intensification of gamma activity in the brain enables her to access a similar superabundance of otherworldly visions — but within the realm of her interior space.
In Luminous Objects, the artist presents us with a reminder that our relationship to the world — both outside and within — is shaped by the dynamics of time, space, and light.