Miroir de Mer

Sea Mirror. Images courtesy of A. Dulyan, 2014.

There are many words that French artist Yann Kersalé uses to describe his architectural, heliostatic and digital artwork Miroir de Mer: “a geo-poetical signal…an allegory…a symbol of the sea in the middle of a city…”. But how did he conceive and achieve this multi-faceted sculpture?

Kersale Heliostat, Broadway View. Image courtesy of D.Turnbull

Kersale Heliostat, Broadway View. Image courtesy of D.Turnbull

Image courtesy of A. Dulyan, 2014.

Image courtesy of A. Dulyan, 2014

Part of a $2 billion development plan at One Central Park in Chippendale, Kersalé proposed a cantilevered heliostat that, by day, collects and redistributes light as designated by the architecture of the building; and, by night, rotates through a cycle of artworks meant to represent the sea. Due to its location and sheer size, Sea Mirror has become a permanent digital sculpture seen from the Central Park plaza and the Broadway street. It is one of many works that comprise the $8 million art collection of One Central Park.

Image courtesy of A. Dulyan, 2014.

Image courtesy of A. Dulyan, 2014

Art is not the only thing on display here. Heliostats have an interesting history, riddled with geometry and design. When I was young and expressed an interest in becoming an architect, my father cocked his head and commented, “there is a lot of maths in architecture, are you sure?” He is a ship’s captain and can teach celestial navigation, so I suppose he would know. I did not become an architect, but I was always in awe of beautiful buildings, and math! Both became these contained foreign languages that I knew of, danced around on occasion, read about, listened to, grappled with, but never fully grasped. What train ended up where in how many minutes? Skyscrapers are designed to sway in the wind? Never in my wildest dreams did I think one could program a computer with heliostat mirrors for input mechanisms to collected sunlight by day and display artwork by night, as a value add-on to an already impressive building. Clearly Yann Kersalé, being both a sailor, and a media artist, is way ahead of me.

Today, working as a curator, I’m incredibly interested in digital art as experience architecture. Spaces designed to pull people towards them as an escape; it seems exactly the beautiful kind of contradiction an artist would present to society. My math isn’t much better, but I spend time with people who not only understand the language well, but speak it eloquently and in the different dialects of surveying and topography.

Tornaghi Heliostat

Tornaghi Heliostat. Image courtesy of the Powerhouse Museum

The helio-type tools come in all sorts of types. What they have in common is sunlight, mirrors and communication. Heliographs transmit morse code using sunlight, for example, and heliotropes reflect sunlight over geographic locations to delineate surveying lines. Heliostats direct sunlight to a designated spot and used to be controlled by levers and twisty knobs. Today though, they are operated by computer to work in tandem; usually to collect sunlight as the sun moves across the sky, much like a plant will follow the light over the course of the day.

Heliostat Farm Solar

Heliostat Farm Solar

These surveying tools aren’t new, they have been around since the late 19th, early 20th-centuries. What they are is inspiring. In application, in functionality, and in concept, these simple surveyors’ tools are serving as ideas platforms for engaging architecture.

You can visit One Central Park via Broadway, just across from UTS Building 1 and admire the Miroir de Mer, Sea of Morror, both by day, or even better, by night when you can admire Yann Kersalé‘s sensational light show.