Look To The Skies

Edoardo Dionea Cicconi on bringing the wonder of the Northern Lights to the skies of Europe

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The Italian artist Edoardo Dionea Cicconi has been illuminating skies across Europe in recent months with ‘AKR’ The Light Sculpture In The Sky – a stunning column of light that has accurately reproduced the otherworldly colors of the aurora borealis and transported them to the likes of Rome. Inspired by cosmology and driven by a philosophical sense of deep wonderment, his latest large-scale public intervention employs cutting-edge technologies to investigate physics, time and our shared sense of the infinite  – codifying the colors of the aurora borealis in digital form to create a movable feast of a sculpture in the physical realm. Arguably his most ambitious work to date, ‘AKR’ The Light Sculpture In The Sky was first beamed from the historic terrace of the Palazzo Reale in Palermo, Sicily, headquarters of the National Institute of Astrophysics – the colors swirling in motion as they reached for the heavens, inviting members of the public to pause, look to the skies and consider their place in the mind-bending vastness of the cosmos. Here, the artist speaks to Flaunt about his desire to activate wonder, the vagaries of individual perception and the haunting power of the seemingly ethereal.

Where does your creative drive come from, and what made you want to create an installation that referenced the aurora borealis?
I am fascinated by science and nature, and as an artist I feel a need to start an insane game with my surrounding space, which has naturally led me to installations. It is a mission for me to create. It is a need. The aurora borealis has always fascinated me, and I have a double feeling when I consider it – firstly, there is the sense of wonder, and only the wonder with no other words or thoughts, secondly, I begin to imagine a solar storm when I consider it, and the idea of an atomic blast happening in the very far distance. It is a double feeling, in a sense, and I hope I will keep that feeling forever because it is the inner battle between the eye of a child and the eye of a scientist. The idea to code and recreate the colors of the aurora initially came from ‘150-93’ The Triangular Glass Prism installation I made, which preceded ‘AKR’ The Light Sculpture In The Sky. I simply wanted to create something ethereal, yet still enormous and powerful, because this contrast is exactly what it is.

What is your personal definition of beauty, and how does that play into the work? 

Beauty is like a key, and this key can have infinite shapes, opening infinite doors. I feel a very strong sense of dualism in nature itself – a sense of two opposites constantly pushing for balance, and I find ‘beauty’ in what this contrast represents – everything is connected from a common thread in our existence; everything is part of exactly the same thing, and there are so many geometrical patterns that could be replicated eternally. It is a big part of my work to highlight this concept of duality – the micro versus the macro, from an atom to a galaxy. The metaphysical aspect of creating an installation is something that connects my research to what I call the ‘in-between’ – in our world, a sunset is an ‘in-between’ moment, and that's why we tend to feel a sense of wonder when looking at it. Science is an ‘in-between’ process also – looking at a microscope will make you feel a sense of wonder, and looking through a telescope too.

What do you hope the work will activate in the viewer?

My work doesn’t have a real manifesto. I try to work with universal themes – something with no flags, no messages – and I try very much to play with our sense of time. It is important to me to create metaphysical installations in which our perception is trying to tell us that we don’t need to take everything for granted – pushing our feelings towards something different, perhaps towards a sense of wonder. Having said that, I don’t have any specific hopes for what the viewer experiences, and I don’t want them to feel anything in particular. There is not so much to expect about something related to our sense of time, because, of course, everybody will see a different layer of the onion depending on what they perceive – one person may witness an act of creation, another an act of destruction, or an act of transformation. What is important, though, is to feel something, bad or good. Once I was near an installation I was creating in a desert called ‘150-93’ and I met this couple that were really curious about the project. We spoke about the main concepts, and they suddenly started to cry. We ended up hugging each other at night, in the middle of nowhere in front of this huge glass triangular prism. It was probably one of the most powerful moments I had in my career.

How has the work been received differently in the different places it has been installed?

There will always be different feedback, and this is a beautiful thing. Every project is unique, and every space is different, although there is always something in common. I tend to consider the people experiencing the exhibition as part of the artwork. For my most recent show – ‘AKR’ in Rome – I was watching the people in the crowd and I was really shocked by a group of kids who were just nine years old. One started to ask his friends what the installation was, and one kid answered with all of you can imagine about the scientific aspects of the aurora (he knew all of it!), but then there was another kid who was saying to the group: guys, this is art! It is art that seems like the aurora. It was so sleek as an answer. What you get is so different from all the people, all the time, but speaking only about the aurora scientifically is like seeing a marble sculpture and only speaking about the material – knowledge is infinitely layered, as is perception.

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Edoardo Dionea Cicconi, Northern Lights, John-Paul Pryor