Wave. Particle. Duplex

Studio Swine explores the invisible elements that shape our environment


Studio Swine’s site-specific installation, which opened to the public at A/D/O in Brooklyn in mid-January, begins with a series of electrifying light sculptures. Entitled Dawn Particles, the hand-blown glass tubes are mounted on red walls and fluctuate between a single, static beam of light and a turbulent swirling of filaments that burst and flicker like flashes of lightning.

Natural elements have always figured heavily in the studio’s creations, and the new works are no different. Artist Alexander Groves and architect Azusa Murakami, founders of Studio Swine (Super Wide Interdisciplinary New Explorers), spent a large part of their six-month residency at Brooklyn’s A/D/O design hub experimenting with plasma.

‘We are making work with what is essentially star matter,’ Groves says. Plasma is the fourth state of matter, he explains, and it makes up the majority of the visible universe. ‘When you look at the sky, it’s essentially plasma. There’s something really amazing about that.’

The pair experimented with various gas combinations and power supplies, collaborating with local studio Urban Glass to create vessels that use magnetised plasma to capture bursts of light similar to those observed in the sun, stars, and comets.

The gleaming light sculptures are followed by the more serene Fog Paintings, a series of backlit vitrines containing swirling fog. These pieces are inspired by the transcendentalist landscape paintings of Turner and Thomas Cole, and are evocative of light passing through the atmosphere. In this sense, both works explore the energy of the invisible world.

Groves and Murakami first arrived in the city during an oppressively hot summer and recall being amazed by the dramatic skies and sunsets. Wave.Particle.Duplex was conceived in part as a response to the shifting light and weather patterns.

‘Because New York is coastal you get these amazing squalls coming in,’ explains Groves. ‘And you have changing light on the river and the steam systems that come up the street. The contrast to the urban environment is quite exciting, and we wanted to capture the convergence between the man-made and the natural.’ 

In the past, Murakami says, the studio’s work tended to be a more literal translation of inspiration. This project, she says, is less linear and more instinctive, with a focus on ‘creating atmosphere’.

Still, the way technology gives expression to natural systems recalls elements of the studio’s past works, particularly the wildly popular New Spring sculpture for COS, in which a tree-like structure emitted pale bubbles that dissolved into white mist as they burst.

‘We really love tangible materials and the expressive quality they have,’ says Groves. ‘In this case we’re using these ephemeral materials like fog, light and plasma, which act as an interface for the technology.’

The partners call this ‘ephemeral tech’.Their interest lies not in the lure of digital screens or projections, they say, but in using technology as a tool for exploring the edge between natural and artificial, a border that is increasingly difficult to locate.

Text / Sophie Kalkreuth
Images / Courtesy of Studio Swine and A/D/O