The Beams, the newest cultural venue located in the Royal Docks of East London, is welcoming art enthusiasts and those interested in the intersection of art and technology for its debut exhibition titled Thin Air. The complex project is curated by digital artist Alex Czetwertynski and seeks to take its audience on a “transformative journey” through 55,000-square-foot space of a former warehouse.
Lights, lasers and sound
The exhibition asks us to challenge the assumptions of our tech environment and how we build ourselves within it. Using light and shadows, space and computation as core material, seven contemporary artists create immaterial architectures, impossible images and tangible sculptures. Dazzling light installations are integrated into the Beams’ industrial concrete jungle inviting guests to a mysterious journey into an empty night club or an abandoned spaceship.
The exhibition starts with the work by James Clar. The artist projects light at a wavelength of 110Hz, a frequency that’s known to have a calming effect. These colourful welcoming waves roll towards visitors as they progress down a corridor.
The second installation, brainchild of 404.zero, fills a gigantic and pulsating musty main room with 1,000 beams of light and apocalyptic noises programmed to stimulate visceral and awe-inspiring reactions. Stay close to your friends as you might lost them in the darkness, constantly flashing lights and roaring sounds.
In the next room everyone can relax on bean bags, grab a drink at the bar and look up at laser grid experiment prepared by SETUP design studio. The installation uses optical illusion and distortion to encourage us to think outside the borders that separate us.
About halfway round the show there are projections reflected off bug eye mirror panels forming a ghostly presence in the centre of the room. This is a mysterious project by Kimchi, Chips and with Rosa Menkman.
The UCLA Art Studio offers guests to stand in front of a camera and speak into a microphone while a screen re-renders their images in different digital styles. This work supped to represent selfies as art and TikTok filters as interactive gallery installation. Next door Robert Henke showcases enchanting landscape paintings crafted by ultraviolet light.
The final piece, ‘Leviathan’ is probably the most visually entertaining of them all. Matthew Schreiber’s immersive work makes use of hundreds of volumetric lasers that connect all dimensions of Beams with light, atmospheric haze and geometric space. Unlike in the popular ski-fi Resident Evil, these red lasers will not slice you in half, instead the whole thing responds and changes to the viewer’s body in the space.
Thin Air excels in showing us what technology and art are capable of when they combine forces. Some of the projects is really fun, some is thought provoking, some will look good on Instagram.
The location is not an easy one to get to, but Thin Air proves it is well worth the trip, especially if you combine this exhibition with IFS Cloud Cable Car (formerly Emirates Air Line Cable Car) and/or River bus (aka Uber Boat).
Thin Air will only be on show for a few months, running till June 4. Tickets can be found here.