An exploration of Minnesota’s first large-scale outdoor light art installation
Seemingly infinite fields of crystalline windmills and crisscrossing luminescent wires stapled with kaleidoscopic clothes pins, mesmerizing ever-changing mandalas arranged flawlessly three by three stand before me. Winter nights in Minnesota are frigid and still, but with the endless stars above and the entrancing structures below, numb fingers and dripping noses are easily forgotten.
Bruce Munro’s “Winter Light” premiered at the University of Minnesota’s Arboretum in Chaska in early November. The exhibition is open Thursday to Sunday from 5-9 p.m. until April 9. British artist Bruce Munro’s renowned works have flitted across the globe, each appearance usually with new installations to suit the different climates and environments. “Oreum,” “Rhadamanthine Club,” and “Reflections” made their dazzling debut in Winter Light at the Arboretum. Using optical fiber, acrylic pegs and prismatic rods, the Arboretum features six of his expansive and intricate displays.
In place of the sprawling flora that usually thrives in the gardens of the conservatory, Munro’s innovative pieces provide an immersive experience unlike any other. Munro’s six light-based installations are centered around the idea of the persistence of change. His influences are often based on fleeting moments and encounters: from literature to exotic excursions to spiritual concepts. In his works, he uses changing light and fluxing audio to plunge the viewer in the emotions he strives to share. As a viewer walks through the gardens, lights blink and flicker, soundtracks swell and fade, and each moment passed is completely distinct from the last.
Life seems to be a continuous blur that whips and whirlwinds, but Munro’s exhibit seems to freeze time, even for just a moment. With each display, I couldn’t help but linger, a bit dumbstruck. While some displays are a little tamer, most of them skim on a sort of sensory overload. Suddenly, in the hush serenity that accompanies nightfall, there is light, an ever-changing multicolored spectrum. With the light comes an audio backdrop: some thundering instrumentals, others consisted of ambient noise like those coffee shop or thunderstorm soundtracks.
Hesitantly, I took my first step. Then another, and another. As I made my way around, over, towards, away, I found myself washed over with unexplainable emotions and a barrage of questions. What does it mean? What am I supposed to understand? Where in Munro’s world am I supposed to be? With each step, the answer seemed another inch closer.
Winter Light does a phenomenal job fusing art and experience. Some displays submerge the viewer into otherworldly, dreamlike wonderlands, others a bit more off-putting and bizarre, but all, without a doubt alters something within. This is no typical holiday light display: no overplayed carols, no gaudy Christmas paraphernalia. The seriality and immersive quality of Munro creates a powerful visitor experience. Prepare for a Minnesota winter like no other.
For more information, visit http://www.munrowinterlightmn.org/. Discounted tickets are available for UMN students!