Hologram by Dieter Jung
Holographic Art, although being made by artists in locations around the world, is difficult to find in most art museums and galleries. During the late 70’s and most of the 80’s there were many exhibitions of holography happening all around the world, but in recent years they have been a little thin on the ground.
Recently I have begun to see a shift. It began last summer with the New Museum in New York which presented a show of holograms created by established artists. Although it mostly reflected works by artists who were known for working in other media and it didn’t include works of contemporary holographic artists it was an important step. This summer, James Turrell (who was the one artist in the New Museum show who has sort of embraced holography) has 3 major retrospectives, (the Guggenheim, LACMA and Houston Museum of Art) which include his holograms. ZKM - Center for Art and Media, in Karlsruhe, Germany, has just opened a show of holograms from their permanent collection which contains some important works from holographic artists such as Margaret Benyon, Harriet Casdin-Silver, Anait Stephens, Rudie Berkhout, Sam Moree, Dan Schweitzer, Brigitte Burghmer, and Dieter Jung. Their curator, Bernhard Serehxe, describes holography as “a successful, comprehensive spatial representation of objects and structures, which in their potential application, extend far beyond classical photography.” While I agree with him that as a medium holography extends far beyond photography I think he hugely under values this medium by viewing it as a spatial representation of objects and structures.
While “Analogue Holography” may appear to be a technique for recording physical objects with laser light, you will find that many holographic artists have transcended this seeming limitation and have gone far into the realms of abstraction, the realm of pure light and into totally new realms that only holography can make possible. With multiple exposures, techniques for changing colors with chemicals, and optical techniques that produce unique effects there are a host of ways to go far beyond being a technique for spatial representation. Likewise with the possibility of creating content digitally the door is wide open for an infinite range of possibilities.
I will digress a moment to briefly address the evolution of holographic art from it’s roots in analogue holography to what is evolving today in the holographic digital realm. In the 60’s artists began to make holograms with lasers, optics and complex vibration isolation systems that were needed to just make basic recordings. These systems became increasingly sophisticated and challenging to work with. A core of dedicated artists persisted and evolved some extraordinary work but in the 90’s the lack of supply of special holographic film (caused by the major manufacturers - Kodak, Agfa, Ilford, Fuji and Polaroid - dropping out because of the lack of a mass market) forced many of these artists to stop working. During the 90’s we also saw the development of a number of systems for creating holograms from digital content. These systems are highly sophisticated and still use special holographic film as in analogue holography but they are essentially printers that can create holograms from digital content. The financial instability of these new companies, and the high cost of production in these early years coupled with a digital divide for many of the artists already working in analogue holography (but with few skills in the realm of 3D animation and computer graphics) made this a difficult medium to access.
Right now I feel that we are on the brink of a shift. There are many artists with skills in 3D animation and others with experience working in video and stereoscopic 3D. There are also a number of more stable companies out there who are now offering digital output to holograms with carefully prepared data for a range of sizes, styles and types of holograms. The missing link is gaining the knowledge about analogue holography (which I believe is essential for artists with CG skills entering this new medium) and the specifics of preparing data for each of these different digital holographic systems.
In the analogue realm we are also seeing a resurgence of new small businesses who are supplying high quality holographic film - new, fine grain panchromatic emulsions that permit full color holographic recordings. There has also been a revolution in laser technology with the development of tiny diode lasers at vastly reduced prices. During all this time (since the early 90’s) a core of artists have continued to work despite the difficulties and we have a small community of artists with highly sophisticated skills in analogue holography that are producing extraordinary work.
Some of this work is beginning to surface. Right now there is a small show of holographic art as a part of a mixed media show, “Light As Art” at the Ann Street Gallery in Newburgh, NY. Last summer there was a show in Scotland, of work by the Royal College of Art’s students of holography, 'Holography Unit (Royal College of Art 1985 - '94)'- shown at Glue Factory, Glasgow, 14th September - 6th October 2012. This was a retrospective of the holograms that were produced at the RCA from 85-94 in the now defunct Holography Unit. Opening July 24th there is a retrospective of the holographic work of Georges Dyens, at the Centre d’exposition de Repentigny, Quebec, and we have another show of the work of 17 artists 'Interference:Coexistence' that will run September 4-28 at the Queens Clocktower in Long Island City curated by Dr Martina Mrongovius (Holocenter, New York / Academy of Media Arts, Cologne).
It is my hope that these new shows will open the eyes of artists and the art world to this whole realm of creative expression that offers so much potential for images of our time. Holography is a new visual medium for artists to express the ideas that are surfacing in this rapidly changing world. Holography permits the expression of ideas that challenge our concepts of Time and Space, of how everything is interconnected, how dimensions can intersect, and where we fit in the infinite complexities of life in our universe. As artists we are just beginning to learn how to work in this totally incredible medium and as viewers of art we are also just beginning to learn how to look deeply into this revolutionary dimensional art form.