Lumen Spiritus Sancti
Media: electric light, cable, electronics.
Lumen Spiritus Sancti begins with a field recording made in the control room of Battersea Power Station using the iterative process developed by Alvin Lucier for his piece "I am sitting in a room" (1969).
The source material is a performance of a séance in which the spirits of the place are entreated to reveal themselves. This recording is repeatedly played in the control room and re-recorded, played and re-recorded. After many iterations, the result is distorted beyond recognition but encodes the unique acoustic properties of that space.
In the installation this final recording is amplified until it is powerful enough to illuminate a solitary mains light bulb. The sympathetic flicker of the fragile light links back to the room where the recording was made and provides a visual representation of something previously unseen, and unheard since the days when the power station was in full operation.
The viewer is provided with a small receiver and headphones to wear, then encouraged to "walk towards the light". As they do so the cycle is completed: energy emitted from the bulb is converted back to sound and they are presented with the control room's response to the séance.
The piece explores the sacred-profane dichotomy and the blurring of this distinction through a process of consecration and de-consecration reflected in the feedback cycles of reproduction and representation. The installation is also a cenotaph for the engineers who built the power station and worked there.
© Andrew Back, 2010