Remember the first time you used a kaleidoscope as a child? Looking into a paper tube, simple pebbles in primary colors mysteriously become self-reflecting patterns of color and light. Dutch artist Julius Horsthuis drew upon similar mathematical principles, specifically fractals, for his audiovisual installation "Geometric Properties" at Artechouse in New York. In the former home of Chelsea Market's boiler room, 17 projectors and booming audio transform the raw, empty space into a seemingly endless journey through an alternate universe.
Standing in this space, the viewer is transported as self-reflecting shapes unfold and morph into structures with an infinite sightline. Horsthuis remarks that the creative process is similar to that of documentary making. "Using renders of previously discovered fractals I will storyboard them into a narrative structure," he explains. "But this storyboard is only a guide in the exploration of shapes and formulas...Sometimes you find something so compelling that just pulls the entire structure a different direction. New ideas emerge on every step of the process."
Rounding out the experience is slow, tonal music so loud it demands you to engage in what currently surrounds you. The effect is somewhat theatrical. "Music has the ability to suddenly put the work in a completely different light," Horsthuis remarks, "which is very interesting creatively."
While the installation seems like a form of escapism, the artist's world-building is rooted in nature. "Mathematical principles like the golden ratio have been used for centuries in architecture," Horsthuis muses, "both because they are somehow pleasing to behold and because they describe a natural balance between structural integrity and weight." The effect for the viewer is one of simultaneous comfort and wonder and, after a stagnant year of staying at home, this may be the chance for some to escape from everyday life and experience a sense of discovery.
"Geometric Properties: An Immersive Audio-Visual Journey Through Fractal Dimensions" is on view now at Artechouse. Safety protocols and social distancing are strictly enforced, and tickets are reserved in advance.