Shift, the collective name for three installations designed by Petra Bachmaier and Sean Gallero, together known as Luftwerk, opened at the Chicago Cultural Center in September 2013. The settings, each in its own room, examined the relationship among light, color, and movement. In the first room, a field of colors on a wall was hit by projected light of many colors. The result was an almost endless variation of hues as the 529 colored panels painted on the wall blended with the projected rotating basic colors. The second room had a large white square on the floor. As viewers stood on, touched, or walked across the square, they threw shadows of color as they blocked different aspects of the projected light, the colors intermingling as the shadows crossed and cast on one another, an audio soundtrack seemingly dancing with the colors. The third room was a puzzle in black and white. There, mirrored panels reflected vertical beams of light, creating illusions of space and design while suggesting the existence of various portals in and out of the room. Taken together, the three rooms challenged conventional notions of visual perception as well as the relationship between the seen and the heard. The center room, Synthesis, is on display at El Museo Cultural de Santa Fe.
Bachmaier, in a phone call from Chicago, told Pasatiempo that Synthesis requires viewers to become part of what they’re seeing. “It’s really a very minimalist installation. You can explore the ways you’re changing the colors — you’re creating, participating. Yes, the colors come as shadows. Without the shadows, the projected colors cancel each other out, and all you see is white light. The viewers create their own synthesis. Your shadow — all the shadows — become a color field. It’s very engaging as the shadows begin impacting one another.” The mechanics of Synthesis are simple, but the staging, keeping the colors melded as white when they’re not shaded, is not. “There are no projectors, no gels for color. It’s just three LED lighting devices that provide the color spectrum. That spectrum changes as viewers block part of the lighting.”