Cathedral Square will transform this month. Two dozen sculptures will light the park, with lanterns hanging from tree branches and large polyhedrons projecting colored light and shadow in complex patterns onto the ground. The dazzling display, which runs Jan. 19-May 5, is a new art installation called Lightfield from HYBYCOZO, a Los-Angeles based duo of Yelena Filipchuk and Serge Beaulieu.
The two artists first collaborated on a sculpture installation for the Burning Man festival in 2014. Their name references the Hyperspace Bypass Construction Zone from Douglas Adams’ The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, in which Earth is demolished to make way for a bypass. “A big part of our practice is showing concepts from mathematics and nature,” Filipchuk says. Their pieces take seemingly rigid and flat ideas, like geometric principles and ratios, and bring them to life in large-scale sculptures filled with lights that shine in different hues when night falls.
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Filipchuk and Beaulieu, whose background is in industrial design, use manufacturing techniques like laser cutting and 3D printing to create the sculptures.
HYBYCOZO has permanent installations around the world including Dubai, Istanbul and New Zealand, and the pair’s work has been shown at The Smithsonian.
Milwaukee’s Lightfield installation includes some of their first sculptures as well as a few of their most recent. It also includes online lesson plans about the principles behind the complex sculptures, which are available through milwaukeedowntown.com.
“Art can be a gateway for kids who don’t think they’re good at math,” Filipchuk says. “It really is one in the same. … At their essence, all artists are scientists and mathematicians.”
Q&A with Yelena Filipchuk
Education is an important part of your work. Could you explain a bit about that?
An important moment for us was in the first couple of months [after we started working together.] We got asked to do an installation at the Exploratorium, which is a children’s and adults’ science museum in San Francisco. There was something about seeing all these young kids’ and their parents’ wonder and curiosity as they walked around the sculptures. They didn’t know what these shapes were – they were familiar yet unusual. We thought that that could be like a path toward science education.
We like to say that art can be a gateway for kids who don’t think they’re good at math. It really is one and the same. Creativity really has no bounds. At their essence, all artists are scientists and mathematicians. I think that as the world develops, and more artificial intelligence takes over rote tasks, the most valuable thing is going to be creativity and the ability to create something new. And art and math and science are the pathways for that.
How are these sculptures inspired by mathematics and science?
A big part of our practice is showing concepts from mathematics and nature and making them larger so that people can really feel the correspondence between the two-dimensional pattern and the three-dimensional shape. We try to find interesting relationships between these two-dimensional forms and see where that fits in a three-dimensional form. So if there’s a symmetry of five [in the shape], then the pattern [designed on the surface] will have a symmetry of five or symmetry of 15. There’s a ratio between the two-dimensional form and the three-dimensional form.
I think we often interact some of these concepts on just a flat piece of paper. We want to show this geometry at a very large scale, so it feels human-scale or even bigger than human-scale.
How did you build them?
Serge has a background in industrial design, and so we’re able to use advanced manufacturing techniques like laser cutting and 3D printing to create these shapes. All of the pattern work is unique and designed by us.