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Brecht Wright Gander’s kinetic light sculpture dramatically enlivens matter
Flesh Light by Brecht Wright Gander
Video: Courtesy of Brecht Wright Gander

Brecht Wright Gander’s kinetic light sculpture dramatically enlivens matter

New York-based designer Brecht Wright Gander creates a kinetic wall sconce named ‘Flesh Light’ that moves in a Sisyphean repetition, breathing life into inanimate objects.

by Sunena V Maju
Published on : Mar 10, 2023

Recently, social media platforms were buzzing with the discourse around a surprising finding that detailed how certain people think in visuals while others think in words. Scientifically, 30 per cent of the population relies strongly on visual or spatial thinking, another 45 per cent uses both visual and spatial thinking, and 25 per cent thinks exclusively in words. However, the concept note from New York-based designer Brecht Wright Gander about his latest wall sconce generated intrigue about how visual perceptions of a theory can give rise to a design thought. For those familiar with American political theorist and philosopher Jane Bennett’s works, the theories discussed in her book ‘Vibrant Matter’ offer an insight into abandoning our human-centric worldview and conceiving the co-existence of inanimate matter (things) and animate life (us). A read on understanding matter without its associated reliance on human subjectivity. However, for Gander, Bennett's theories are an extension of his explorations with kinetic conceptual furniture.

The Flesh Light draws from the coming together of the designer's interest in understanding the vitality of matter and the creative freedom to translate it into lighting design, which in motion becomes a kinetic sculpture. The kinetic wall light has a Sisyphean movement, aided by a large mechanism that creates continually shifting tensions in a fleshy silicone form. The motors continually adjust the tension on the silicone form so that it performs a slow, eerie dance while suspended in front of an illuminated disc. As the tension in the silicone adjusts, there are slight shifts in the intensity of the diffused light.

Flesh Light is meant to probe out certainties about the divide between things and beingsImage: Courtesy of Brecht Wright Gander

Owing to its name, the silicone is said to evoke flayed animal skin—cut away and stretched for tanning. “In thinking about my work, I’ve found it useful to refer to Jane Bennett’s theorisation of the ways that inanimate matter can possess often underappreciated forms of vitality. Flesh Light is meant to probe out certainties about the divide between things and beings. The inverse operation, whereby beings are demoted to things, has been widely discussed in contexts of sexuality and mass violence. And the question of what exactly separates consciousness from non-life has become especially timely now, during the nascence of artificial intelligence . All reasons to give some consideration to the idea that we humans may be more thing-ly than we credit ourselves to be—and also to consider the ways that personality and identity might also be possessed by objects,” shares Gander.

With an educational background in foundational philosophy, the American designer ventured into the world of design after gaining sufficient technical experience by working at an architectural atelier in New York. Gander’s unconventional journey led him to create works ranging across different mediums and scales, relating to topics of interactivity, humour, and surprise, enlivening the familiar and routine. “The furniture machines I make tend to enact a kind of Sisyphean repetitiveness, performing closed loops of action. The question of 'why' is one that expands outwards from the work — ‘why does a chair walk’ refers us to the question of why we do,” mentions Gander about his approach to design.

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