Luftwerk is the artistic collaboration of Petra Bachmaier and Sean Gallero.explores light, color, and perception in immersive, experience-based installations. Focused on the context of a site Luftwerk applies their own interpretive layer, integrating the physical structure, historical context, and embedded information into each piece. Since founding in 2007, Luftwerk has amassed a significant body of work ranging from site-specific installations to experimental projects that interpret data. In each project they are interested in the abilities of how light and color can be utilized to shift perception and enhance experience.
What is your background and when did you know you wanted to create art installations?
We first met in 1999 at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago at the cross-section of a broken record player and a German performance artist roommate. Upon our first meeting we started collaborating, jointly exploring ways to merge live performances with installation based media, like sound, light and sculpture. Over the years, the performance element has faded away and immersive, experiential art installations became center focus.
Which are your biggest inspirations?
We love discovering new places and to dive into their stories, which makes the narrative of places one of our biggest inspirations. Perception of color and light is another subject that never fails to inspire us. Last year, as part of designing an intervention for a garden, we uncovered Werner’s Nomenclature of Colour, a color guide book published in 1814. This book and its references based on colors in nature, vegetable, mineral and animal has been an inspiring respite; exploring curious science based environmental research always sparks our imagination and widens our perspective to view the world with an ever expanding lens.
What is your process when approaching a new work?
Since many of our projects are site specific and often unique, our practice stays dynamic and evolving. Our process often involves in-depth research, from informing ourselves through reading, going through archives, while connecting with specialists, ranging from historians, to scientists to other creatives. We draw, sketch and write until we feel one idea settles that feels like it encompasses our thought process and is our voice in dialogue with the context.
The underlying thread that connects all of our art work and weaves into an interconnected artistic universe is the use of light. In our studio we constantly explore ways to sculpt with light, projecting color, casting shadows, creating custom sculpture—we integrate light into every project to explore its ephemeral and shifting nature.
What is the balance between technology and art in your installations?
We strive for technology to disappear. Ideally our audiences feel exposed to an immersive experience that inspires and awakes a sense of curiosity, rather than a review on the use of technology and how the work functions.
Technology constantly evolves, yet how can we use it in a way that captures a sense of timeless design? How can we utilize a piece of technology that remains viable for years to come? Several of our projects are temporary, like Geometry of Light (2019) that took place at both the Mies designed Farnsworth House and German Pavilion in Barcelona; yet for more permanent pieces we have to be very considerate of how technology ages and can be maintained over time. To balance our practice we embrace using traditional art media like paint, printmaking, and currently neon.
What is your dream project?
It can be so satisfying to see an artwork come alive; a realized idea always feels like a dream come true, some more others less so. Yet, since you are asking, taking inspiration from artists like Donald Judd, the big dream is to find and create the dedicated space / landscape for our practice to fully unfold.
What is the big challenge of art in this particular period?
The challenge is an opportunity. We are asking ourselves How can we propel and be part of the transformation that is inevitable? It feels important right now to stay creative; making art keeps a sense of sanity alive.