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‘Virtual light sculptures’ to debut at Marin Headlands

Artist’s chance encounter with old Army batteries births something arresting

Starting Sunday, the Headlands Center For the Arts in Sausalito will host a new “augmented reality” and “virtual light sculpture” installation by India-based artist Vishal K. Dar.

What in the world does that mean?

According to the announcement, “Visitors to the exhibition will pick up a map and download a smartphone app at the Headlands campus, then head out into the coastal terrain” to the disused Army bunkers and artillery positions overlooking the bay.

Similar to Pokemon GO’s interface with city streets, the app then makes Dar’s surreal digital sculptures visible in the headlands:

Viewers can use smartphones or tablets to view light sculptures overlaid on the sites. The artist calls these abstract sculptures “engines” for their state of constant motion; far from static, they spin, turn, tumble, and oscillate in response to the environment.

The “engines” stay active around the clock, morphing between pigment black and particle light as day changes to night. [...] In creating his site-specific works, Dar often choses to work in ruined spaces, such as the Marin Headlands batteries. “There is something hauntingly beautiful about encountering sites of abandonment and ruin.”

Photos courtesy of the Headlands Center For the Arts

According to the Marin Independent Journal, Dar discovered the batteries while visiting the Bay Area in 2015 and found himself smitten. In concept art for the not-yet public virtual pieces, a hypnotic and slightly intimidating alternate reality appears to bleed into the scenery.

Hailing from New Dehli with an MFA from UCLA, Dar’s artist statement says that he “uses satire and scale to address deeper personal issues.”

His 2016 installation Storm Deities consisted of “a shallow pool made of felt, bricks, water and a truss affixed with seven beam lights” that Dar used “to ‘bore’ his audiences into [a] state of consciousness about time,” according to Scroll.

And his 2011 installation 24 invited viewers to wander through actual abandoned houses, to which Dar added touches like “a Venus de Milo torso in a toilet, roosters huddling in a cold room, or a mute projection of a lips on a wall.”

The headlands piece, titled Twilight Engines, is on display through March 3. Dar will lead walking tours of the battery sites in January and February.