From Thin Air

With hanging mirrors, Plexiglas and video images reflecting around the room, the Robert Langen Art Gallery is a space transformed. Artist Ed Pien’s From Thin Air exhibition will be featured in the on-campus gallery from Jan. 6 through Feb. 13.

A Toronto-based installation artist, Ed Pien has had his work displayed internationally. Often creating physical engagements for viewers, Pien has done just this with his new exhibit.

Upon entering the exhibition, viewers are met with a series of diverse video images from flames to faces.

“Some of the images I picked, they were downloaded from the Internet,” Pien explained in an interview with The Cord.

“I was interested in looking for things that have no control over itself or themselves…. In one of the videos there’s a woman who’s being put under hypnosis so she’s out of control, and the fires are out of control…. And there’s a guy who’s laughing and he’s kind of out of control because he’s laughing so much.”

Pien’s piece is especially intriguing as reflections from the films jump from the Plexiglas to an eclipse on the wall and eventually encircle the entire room. “I know that when people come in it may be a little bit overwhelming to understand,” said Robert Langen curator Suzanne Luke.

Despite some bemusement concerning the meaning behind the piece, From Thin Air is quite captivating.

Set up in the gallery are two false walls that separate the exhibition from the rest of the room. Between these walls are numerous oval shaped mirrors and Plexiglas. Hanging from the ceiling at various heights, the ovals slowly rotate. On top of both walls are film projectors: each shining images onto Plexiglas at the opposite side of the room.

Wandering through this exhibition becomes a participatory experience as viewers gaze upon the various images as well as their own reflection as it appears in the mirrors.

“You’re standing there, and you see all the media imagery going around. But then you look and you’re sort of interactive in it….You’re drawn in because you see your reflection intermingled with reflections from different media sources,” said Luke.

“It’s a fairly small intimate space…. I thought by bringing the mirrors to a person’s size and height they are consumed by it as they walk around. It’s really just a play with different illusions,” said Pien.

With a soundtrack composed by Michael Stecky and commissioned by Pien, the mysterious and intriguing ambiance of this exhibition is complete. From Thin Air is a multimedia installation offering original artistic exposure.

“There’s quite an interactive engagement. So the different media allow for, I would say, kind of more materiality, texture, spatial play … it just becomes more sensuous somehow,” Pien explained.

“It’s this combination of a multi-layered installation, combining the invisible with the visible, the real with the recorded…. You’re a real person, and you have these recorded images that are being rotated around you, that encompass you as you stand there…. You become sort of sucked in because they revolve around you,” said Luke.

Ed Pien will be returning to Laurier on Feb. 8, 2010, when he will be lecturing on campus concerning the connection between communication studies graduate course Media Archaeology (CS610), and his exhibition, From Thin Air. Any interested members of the WLU community are encouraged to attend.