Glimmers of light

In her works, internationally renowned light artist Victoria Coeln interweaves controversial socio-political issues, science and art. 

Another important topic for her is the Gaia Paradigm: According to this theory, the Earth and its biosphere can be regarded as a single organism that is as vulnerable as other living beings. For some, the current Covid crisis seems to confirm this theory.

A Josefstadt resident for three years, Victoria Coeln also moved her studio here shortly before the coronavirus crisis first hit. At the moment she is working on a major local art project that highlights Vienna’s special role as a Human Rights City: ‘Wiener Lichtblicke’ (Vienna glimmers of light) is a path of 10,000 steps linking 10 light interventions across the city. Opening on International Human Rights Day on 10 December, the one-month project intends to encourage young and old alike to move body and mind and re-establish social contacts – all while adhering to the relevant Covid regulations, of course. Based on the 30 articles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, a path of light unfolds across districts 1, 4, 7 and 8 (Tigerpark). Ten interventions shed new light on the urban environment and point to talks with experts who help to promote human rights.

Light has fascinated Victoria Coeln since her teenage days. She remembers a State Opera production of ‘The Woman without a Shadow’ where the set design by Günther Schneider-Siemssen left her deeply impressed. ‘I wanted to know how that thing with the light worked.’

At university, she studied set design and mathematics. Why the latter? ‘Mathematics was my first love, art only came later. And everything led to light. In mathematics you use spatial thinking, you build multidimensional spaces in your head.  I started to think in spaces of colour, and the most intense colour is, of course, generated by light. … My career as an artist began when the Cold War was still an issue: nuclear bombs, quantum physics, the overkill – these were all important topics for me in that context. Besides, light has always played a central role in all cultures and religions – not only but also as a tool of power.’

In the mid-19th century, light came to be seen as a technical medium. ‘Light allows us to communicate. The science is still evolving, and the next generation of quantum computers will bring further change. … In my work I want to create space and open it for everyone.’

With Covid infection rates still high and the recent terror attack shocking the country, Vienna has not had much reason to celebrate. That is what makes initiatives like Victoria Coeln’s ‘glimmers of light’ so important: they light up these dark days and provide some comfort, both in analog and digital form.

▶ Victoria Coeln:

issue 04/2020