People and Lasers: David Ogle

Take one look at artist David Ogle’s installations and he will have you seeing landscapes in a whole new, transformative light.  Using lasers, ultraviolet light, fishing line, weather balloons, smoke, pyrotechnics, and objects, Ogle’s work is the perfect confluence of topography and imagination.  He makes landscapes and urban spaces feel otherworldly, beautifully and spellbindingly revealing the possibilities of reimagining a place temporarily transfixed in time and space.   I stumbled across Ogle’s work via Wired and had to talk to him about a common interest: lasers.  He kindly obliged, agreeing to be the first contributor to People and Lasers.  Really, he was the primary impetus.

A Picture of Me (2)1) When did you start working with lasers?

DO: My work with light really began as an attempt to translate some of my drawings on paper into more immersive, experiential works. I found that using more traditional sculptural materials (such as wood and wire) made the resulting piece feel too heavy and static, and I wanted something that would produce the massless quality of a line on a flat surface.

After a period working with ultraviolet light to illuminate very thin strands of colorless material, I started experimenting with lasers to further this idea; refining down the amount to physical ‘stuff’ in my installations so that viewers would be confronted with an object comprised entirely of light itself.

2) What drew you to them?

DO: Light has a volumetric quality to it, like water, that it fills a space and molds its shape to the architecture of its surroundings. It was this that drew me to using lasers in the first instance, that with reflection and a viewer’s perspective, I could create sculptural works that were a direct response to the sites in which I was working.28 (3)

Additionally, I found that as I decreased the amount of physical material in my work I was able to work on larger and larger scales. It was really through this experimentation with lasers that I found I could create work directly in the landscape, at a scale where the pieces wouldn’t feel dwarfed by their environments.

3) How do you pick a location?

DO: For interior spaces there are inevitably some pragmatic considerations; such as the need to blackout the area of the work and use a haze or fog machine to reveal the beams in mid-air. Though what I’m really interested in is the way that a viewer will navigate the environment and stumble across the pieces in a surprising and impactful way.

1 (4)Whilst I enjoy the ‘blank canvas’ of more traditional gallery spaces, the pieces that I feel work most effectively are those that respond to an unusual location. Warehouses, tunnels or outdoor locations have so many interesting elements that can be utilized within the work and create a more engaging experience.

An important goal of these works will be that the viewer feels a greater degree of relationship with the locations, that they have experienced something uniquely theirs and inseparable from the environment in which the encounter occurred. From my previous experience of creating works in unusual locations/situations (and recent work with art in the landscape), I feel that the value of these approaches stems from a kind of tension, a space becomes transformed and difficult to classify, no longer a functioning urban environment, but not an art-space either. Visitors enter an environment that is unknown, without pretence or expectations, the encounters they have within these spaces attaining a weight of personal significance in the process.

4) Ultraviolet light vs. lasers, how do you determine when to use which, and do you prefer working with one over the other?

DO: The ultraviolet pieces are very intricate and take a long while to install. For a longer exhibition in a space unsuitable for lasers (due to light or smoke restrictions) I would normally choose the ultraviolet works. However, due to the way that these are built, with each strand of monofilament tensioned across a space in order, these works are immovable once built and no final changes can be made to the arrangement.

Lasers on the other hand are far more agile, and many different compositions in the space can be experimented with until a piece is functioning effectively. This makes the production of these works a lot more fun and allows for a greater consideration of the environment as opposed to focusing on more technical intricacies.

In the past, viewers have often mistaken the ultraviolet works for lasers (even standing very close to the piece) and I have always had to make repairs when some unruly audience member has been compelled to hurl themselves through the work! Thankfully, lasers alleviate this problem and I can actively encourage people to interact with the works.


5) There is something innately cool about lasers. When a player sees them pop on for the first time in the maze, they either react with awe or trepidation, but mostly awe. Your pieces have this other-worldly quality about them, how do most people react when they see them?

DO: I think there is something about lasers and light in general that draws people in and makes a viewer want to spend time with the installations. Having light frozen in space in some way in a static shape makes for an encounter outside of everyday experience and produces a tactile quality to something ordinarily immaterial.

The responses I love are when someone is unable to explain what they’re seeing and doesn’t attempt to rationalize the piece but enjoys it as a purely aesthetic experience. It’s like you’re entering an environment where the normal rules of physics and nature have ceased to apply.

6) What is your favorite movie scene involving lasers?

DO: I would opt for that famous scene from Goldfinger where the titular villain attempts to hemisect Bond with a ferocious (but predictably slow-moving) red beam.

It’s a great moment and one that, I imagine, started the trope for the more Machiavellian antagonist to consistently employ scary rays of light for the fulfillment of their schemes. From Dr Evil’s laser sharks to the Death Star; nothing denotes cunning and malice more than the acquisition of a big laser (!)

Agreed!Visualisation (3)

7) Does your next project involve lasers and can you tell us about it? 

DO: Alongside some indoor installation pieces, I’m currently building on my work with the landscape, looking for more expansive locations and scaling up the kinds of pieces I produce, recording these interventions into natural environments through photography and film.

These are pieces that will only exist in a specific, remote location (and for a very narrow window of time) but I like the idea of capturing something strange and elusive out in the wilderness.

Whilst most people will only ever see the documentation of these works after the fact, I’m hoping that in making them, a few spectators may witness these odd occurrences out in the landscape; assigning their own personal meaning and significance to the strange rays of light appearing in the distance.

Well, I for one will certainly be on the look out.  Thank you, David for sharing!

To view more of David’s work— it is totally worth the cybervoyage- visit his website.


Original Posting Date: June 2, 2016