Benjamin Males' Perspective Chandelier

Benjamin Males' latest project blends bespoke electrical engineering with the magic of optical illusion. From most angles, what you see is a jumbled group of seven light bulbs. When you stand in a particular place, however, your perspective reveals another story.

The bulbs of the Perspective Chandelier flicker on and off, each at their own rhythm. A subtle clicking noise accompanying the random blinking reminds me of a neon sign reaching the end of its life, unpredictably flashing its last bits of luminosity. The chandelier also has an Abstract Expressionist quality - the array of tubes looks like a 3D Jackson Pollock form. Or maybe it is a frozen moment of an explosion, captured in time.

When you walk around the chandelier, notice how your perspective changes as you move through space. (see the video here.) At a certain point, Males' magic trick becomes clear. In classic "now you see it, now you don't" fashion, the bulbs coalesce into an arrangement that is immediately familiar.

Its seven distinct tubes align to become a small grid. They flash through their sequence, not randomly as you might have thought, but programmed to write out the numbers 1 through 9. You realize that you're looking at a numerical display, like an isolated digit from an alarm clock.

Males has been programming complex electrics for a number of artists and designers in London. His own artistic impulse is clear in the Perspective Chandelier, which follows in the long tradition of artists subversively embedding optical illusions in their work. Salvador Dali and Felice Varini are examples of artists who asked their viewers to take a double-look.

One of the most famous examples is Hans Holbein's The Ambassadors, which has an anamorphic skull at the bottom of the canvas. Holbein never discussed it, and for centuries, the shape was thought to be a "strange mirror or fish". It actually wasn't discovered until 1900 when a maid looked up at the painting from the right angle and instantly recognized the truth about the smudge.

Hans Holbein: "The Ambassadors" 1533

A classic 7-segment numeric display - inspiration for the Perspective Chandelier

The Perspective Chandelier leaves you with the uncanny sense that somewhere, in the midst of fragmented stories and missed connections, there really is an underlying pattern in this world.


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