by Roberta Rocca, feature photo: ‘Hesitation of Light’ by Michael Harder
When you meet Signe Klejs, it is strikingly clear that her art and her personality are pervaded by the same tone, the same energetic way of diving into things with an extraordinary deal of passion and enthusiasm. The versatility and innovative potential of her works, which bridge different art forms and medias, is just one more coherent expression of this same driving force. During her career Klejs has worked with digital media, installations and light; she’s worked with opera and stage theatre, with landscape art and with iOS apps.
A bridge of lights
Her installation for the Ringgadebroen in Aarhus, part of the city’s year as European Capital of Culture, is just one of the latest, majestic steps in an artistic path in which contamination between different fields and artistic traditions play a fundamental role. The light installation is a spectacular artwork which aims to put our experience of landscape and architecture in an osmotic interplay.
Indeed, this 300-metre-long artwork is shaped by the surrounding environment and lighting conditions, while in turn reframing our perception of the site it is instantiated in. As Klejs explains, it aims to make us hesitate. What Klejs wants the observer to do is take a break, indulging in the light of sunset that invites you to collect your thoughts on the day that just passed.
It is about stopping the flow of time, recollecting and reframing memories, appreciating the tiny but unbridgeable gap between things while they happen, and the way we make sense of them.
The title of the work already tells a lot about Klejs’ versatility in welcoming inspiration and contaminations from different fields. Indeed, ‘Hesitation of light’ refers to the way the Danish astronomer Ole Rømers named the time lag between the emission and perception of starlight. It is an admirable example of an artistic project that shows how inspirations from art and science can walk hand in hand, a coupling of artistic and scientific sensitivity that dates back to the early modern age and that has always been re-emerging constantly in the history of the two disciplines.
As Klejs points out, art and science are driven by the same force: an urge to dig up the foundations of the way we are in the world. In this particular case, art acts as a means to qualitatively explore the deep phenomenological aspects of light phenomena across natural and artificial environments.
After all, art and science both aim to echo the language of nature. While the latter targets its hidden mathematical regularities, art speaks its narrative language.
Creating new realities
Klejs began her career by diving into Media Art and Interactive Media Design, driven by an early ease and passion in dealing with digital media. But far from being a fascination in the technical medium per se, working with digital media means something more fundamental to Klejs.
While in principle digital media allows you to master nature and time by manipulating environments or creating new realities, in Klejs’s work it is quite clear that the unbounded potential of the immaterial serves lived sensory experience. In her view, digital media is to be used as a means to force us to dwell on the shades of our everyday experience, on every aspect of our sensations. Digital art is virtuous when it succeeds in leading us to better awareness of the way we interact with our environments. It is vicious when it takes us away from them. Even the roughest city landscapes, huge rusty ships and giant concrete buildings, can be turned into objects of reflection on our experience.
At the roots of Klejs’s decision to work with light there are different sources of motivation. Among them, there is certainly an early deep fascination for light phenomena natural environments. As she explains, “our experience of what surrounds us is inescapably determined by the presence or absence, as well as the quality, of light. The way you navigate the world is about light.”
On the one hand, stresses Klejs, “few people feel comfortable in the dark. No light implies a dissolution of your own self into the shadows”. But on the other hand, “being in the sunlight could be just as uncomfortable. Being in the sunlight, especially in open spaces, means being exposed and therefore vulnerable.” Subtle orchestrations of light seem to evoke a whole range of fundamental aesthetic experiences that seem to have something to do with our animal nature.
This early fascination is strengthened and complemented by Klejs’s first experiences within the art world. Her work as light assistant for Hans Olof Tani and Marie Brolin Tani at MBT Danseteater in Aarhus, now replaced by BORA BORA theatre, marks a foundational milestone.
The volatile nature of the light, in contrast with the steadiness and rigidity of matter, is what motivated Klejs to go deeper into this art form in the course of her career. Volatile materials – dynamic in nature – are able to reproduce the flavour of the constant flux of creation and recreation that make up the substance of life.
This constant, cyclic flow of creation, destruction and recreation is also what is at stake in ‘Den 4 Morgen’ (‘The 4th Morning’), an upcoming performance at BORA BORA, which will be on stage from January 31st. The piece is introduced by a video performance in which, through intriguing techniques, Klejs takes us through a very suggestive exploration of frames from an imagery of primordial experiences. In the second part of the performance, a child and three characters lead us through emotional stories of birth, death and recreation.
Her latest work, ‘Breathless Moment’, a new fascinating piece of visual art and music by Klejs and Niels Rønsholdt, has just been released this past Monday, in cooperation with DR and EditionS. Hard to classify within traditional art categories, Klejs and Rønsholdt ’s work is halfway between opera, Greek tragedy and multimedia art. The whole art form is entirely new: it is an interactive iOS app that takes you into a journey through series of beautiful anamorphic puzzles, floating in the void, which illustrate episodes of a story of love and death told by Rønsholdt ’s music.
Once again, a mature, inspired and aesthetically minded use of digital media opens a magic breach bridging the inside and the outside, allowing you to see your inner self and the world as one. With both the moving rawness of drawings and the sophistication of the interactive environment, the experience claims the whole of your senses.
And that is, in the end, the bottom line of Klejs’ work: turning the whole of your perception upside down, then softly driving you back to reality, gently taking your hand to look at things in a different, deeper, more meaningful way.
‘The 4th Morning’ is staging at BORA BORA from January 31st. Follow this link for tickets.