diffraction - LAb[au]

group exhibition with Mika Vainio, David Letellier, Jon Egeskov and LAb[au]

TAG institute
Stille Veerkade 19, Den Haag, the Netherlands

opening: 17.12.2010
19:00 performance Tessel by David Letellier
20:30 performance 2x540kHz by Mika Vainio
21:30 performance 'The drive' by Jon Egeskov

exhibition: 17.12.2010 - 17.01.2011
curated by LAb[au] / Mediaruimte

particle synthesis, audiovisual installation by LAb[au]
2x540kHz by Mika Vainio and LAb[au]
Tessel by David Lettelier aka Kangding Ray and LAb[au]
The Drive by Jon Egeskov

in the context of todaysart festival
Made possible with the kind support of Stichting Mondriaan & Gemeente Den Haag OCW
Many thanks to MediaRuimte, TodaysArt Festival, Janet Leyton-Grant, all the artists, participants and people who have made the reopening and this exhibition at TAG possible.

Curator Statement


The phenomenon of diffraction is richly significant in sound art, installation works and electronic music. Reducible to mathematical formulas, and yet unpredictable in its complexity, it embodies ideas of order, chaos and the tension between them. This exhibition brings together works from Mika Vainio (Pan Sonic), David Letellier (Kanding Ray) (both in collaboration with LAb[au]), and Jon Egeskov (Pixel), all known for their electronic music works on renowned German minimal electronic music imprint Raster-Noton, and a new development in Belgian art studio LAb[au]'s Particle Synthesis project. The works bring diffraction and its effects into focus revealing new perspectives on what is an often-overlooked geometric reality. These sharp and focused installations frame the beauty of our world through this phenomenon in startling and moving ways.
The natural effect of waves splintering, scattering is something that we normally take for granted, whether it's ocean waves breaking around a rock, the closely-spaced tracks creating diffraction-grating rainbows on the back of a CD or a particular space causing sound to distort in unique ways.

The term 'diffraction' was coined in the 17th century by Francesco Maria Grimaldi, from the Latin diffringere, 'to break into pieces'. Diffraction is however, much more than just degradation or destruction. It requires coherence. It creates patterns and it holds meaning. The spreading and distortion of waves as they pass through a gap or an object results in a change in the direction of the waves; If light passes through two thin, parallel slits, the slight bending of the light beam from each slit causes the different wavelengths of light to interfere with each other, producing patterns; when sound waves travel through open windows or doorways, they are diffracted so that the sound is heard round corners. Diffraction arises because of the way in which waves propagate and is described mathematically by the Huygens-Fresnel principle. This exhibition takes place in the newly renovated TAG space in The Hague, the city where mathematician, astronomer and physicist, Christian Huygens who first advanced the wave theory of light, was born. Huygens achieved note for his argument that light consists of waves, a principle which was fundamental in the understanding of wave-particle duality. This duality has in turn been essential for the development of specific


technologies such as granular synthesis and indeed electronic music equipment and electronics in general.

Mika Vainio's 2x540 kHz is an elegant and poignant study of sound diffraction through radio waves. A soundscape is developed in the space through the overlap and interference of the composed waves being transmitted through an arrangement of old radios. The pattern of overlap is intensified through though time-lapse of a second composition being played with the first. 2x540 kHz is a sound installation constituted of six vintage tube-radios on plinths. Two looping compositions of different length are sent through radio transmitters and played on 540kHz x 540kHz. The result says art writer Ive Stevenheydens, "is touching; it seems the radios communicate with each other. Or better: with creaking hum they seem to take a last breath. At the same time the installation looks stringent and minimal: placed on white, bright enlightened pedestals the sound objects from the past receive the statute of a sculpture."

Setting out from a more traditionally sculptural starting point is the work of David Letellier. Tessel is a kinetic installation combining the machinic tradition of Tinguely with the formalism of Alexander Calder. The installation comprises 40 suspended, triangular mirrors, 12 of them motorized and eight of them with audio transducers. The work sets up light and sound diffraction simultaneously, accentuating the effect with sharp edges and its highly reflective surface. The mirrors offer us an interesting, diffracting intervention in the space that demands a shift in perception and a reconsideration of everyday geometry vs chaos; order vs disorder.

The idea of the wave-particle duality - that all particles exhibit wave like properties - has its origins in the seventeenth century when opposing theories were presented by The Hague's Christian Huygens (waves) and Isaac Newton ('corpuscles' or particles). Very large particles in particular can interfere and therefore diffract and it was the diffraction of electrons and neutrons that became one of the most powerful arguments in favour of quantum mechanics, a theory that had its beginnings in the


discovery of cathode rays in the mid-nineteenth century and which ushered in the modern age of chemistry and physics. LAb[au]'s installation - a new edition within the Particle Synthesis project -engages directly with quantum theory as it relates to both light and sound. Starting from the position that both behave like particles. LAb[au] employs 3D particle engines (light) with granular synthesis (sound), with the aim of a convergence of visual, sonic and spatial elements rendered in a 3D multi-screen installation.

Although we are usually most aware of waves that travel on the surface of water, sound, light, and the motion of subatomic particles all exhibit wave-like properties. The diffraction of these waves, through bending around obstacles or when they spread after emerging from an opening, and the interference that results, are a fundamental and beautiful part of our world. The exhibition "Diffraction" encourages us to explore these processes in the context of light and sound and to appreciate them on a new and deeper level.

text by: Janet Leyton-Grant

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