86°
UMass Boston's independent, student-run newspaper

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

A Light in the Darkness

Photo by Mrcia Dolgin, copyright 2006

Photo by Mrcia Dolgin, copyright 2006

It takes a unique vision and an acute perception to find the natural relationship between galactic star clusters and Japanese fireflies. But to UMB student and local artist Andrew Hyman, the connection is obvious. Hyman has a passion for discovering the common element that he sees between these seemingly dissimilar entities. He calls this, structural illumination.

“I started getting into science and astronomy when I was young,” Hyman explains before going into a brief description of the formation of planetary nebulas, auroras, and galactic clusters. “But when it came down to it, I noticed that what I was really interested in was their beauty.”

Sitting outside the Campus Center’s cafeteria underneath the shadow of the giant sailboat display, Hyman, speaking about his wide range of influences, steadily worked the subjects of our conversation in descending magnitude. From galactic formations in space, to the visible nighttime skyline, to the illuminated city, buildings, clocks, to a discussion on firefly breeding facilities in Tokyo.

A few weeks ago on April 20, 2006, Hyman was able to bring to life this passion for the transformational ability of illumination and how it can compliment existing structural design as he performed his installation piece titled Sequenced Spaces. Here he was able to utilize LED lights, architecture, and color.

In Hyman’s opinion, Sequenced Spaces was not just about the installation itself, but also about the experience of how it interacted with both the existing architecture and with the audience who witnessed it. Due to limitations with the availably of the space during planning and setup, it was an experience that Hyman himself was very much a part of. “When you saw it, that was the first time for me, too.”

Working closely with Chuck Coyne, the UMB Facilities Director, Hyman was able to create an instillation that transformed the existing architecture of the UMass Boston Science Building by using the three windows of the eastern wing of the building as his canvas. Viewers stood outside in the plaza in front of the Campus Center entrance looking up at the three 8 foot by 8 foot windows as they glowed and pulsated with a computer programmed sequence of colors. Four-foot light-emitting diode (LED) strips were placed below the window on the floor. They were out of sight but they lit up nine-foot sheets of fire proof Polystretch fabric that was placed behind the window frames. The overall effect gave the man-made static lifeless structure, an organic sense of feeling and movement.

“You have the color of the building during the day, but at night you don’t have the sun so you end up with just a dark structure,” said Hyman. But with architectural lighting things are different. “You can totally reinvent the structure; its emotion and personality.”

The total performance lasted about 35 minutes, during which time some members of the audience in attendance may have been unsure of the proper way to respond to such an unconventional work of art. But when Hyman explains the literal meaning of his own work, it is surprisingly direct.

“You can’t have just a dark building at night. You need to fill in the void.”

In fact, as many spectators left the UMass campus following Sequenced Spaces, the impact of lighting and nighttime architecture even in our very own city of Boston became more obvious. Right across the harbor on it’s Quincy side, opposite the Campus Center is the location of an apartment complex that is a perfect example of how architectural nighttime lighting can work in an urban environment. The recent construction of the Zakim Bridge, by the Charles River locks is another example of the practical application of architectural lighting.

Hyman’s project was accomplished with generous donations from several local sponsors including Color Kinetics, Rose Displays, and Rose Brand. Hyman was also recently awarded the Book Prize, and award given to students and chosen by the UMass Art Department faculty.

Sequenced Spaces was part of Andrew Hyman’s Capstone Class that was taught by Erik Levine. The class has two gallery shows coming up on May 1-5th, and the second show, in which a video of Hyman’s project along with prints, will be on May 8-12.

About the Contributor
Denez McAdoo served as the following positions at The Mass Media for the following years: Arts Editor: Spring 2005; Fall 2005 Editor-in-Chief: Spring 2006; 2006-2007