Yael Erel’s Work Featured in Immersive Art Exhibit

Yael Erel’s Work Featured in Immersive Art Exhibit

By Tracey Leibach

September 23, 2022

Yael Erel, assistant professor in the School of Architecture at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, is participating in WAITING ROOM/Immersive Art for Wellbeing, an exhibition by six artists who use light, shadow, and movement to create immersive experiences. The show is hosted by HOT•BED, a gallery and creative lifestyle space in Philadelphia that unites art, horticulture, and design.

Each art installation is set up as a “waiting room” for the audience to spend time becoming immersed in the experience, with the intention of calming, inspiring, or transforming.

Research shows that art can have a positive impact on health care environments. Most existing research in this field focuses on painting, prints, and sculpture. Recent studies examine the use of virtual reality in pain management and anxiety reduction. One of the methods in this process is the use of immersive experiences. Artists and interactive designers have long used light as a medium to create dynamic sensory experiences. Solid state lighting, coding, and digital projection mapping have amplified the possibilities of this field. In health care environments where patients are often confined for extended periods of time, this type of immersive experience is not only potentially beneficial as a stress reducer, but may offer patients a level of control over their environment. 

As part of ongoing research, viewers will be able to take part in a survey to collect feedback on their individual experiences of the various installations.

As an architect and light artist, Erel sees light as a material that allows us to construct dynamic environments oscillating between drawing, sculpture and architecture. She uses simple means —a point light source and a reflector — to amplify minuscule conditions normally overlooked. The result unfolds micro-scale events as otherworldly light drawings on an architectural scale. 

Erel’s work ranges in scale from small light-box objects to full architectural and urban spaces. The intent of her work is to engage the viewer’s curiosity and extend their way of seeing their environment. As viewers interact with the work, microscopic transcription blends aspects of natural sciences with spatial reverie.

“Similarly to viewing subtle changes in nature — gazing at a fire or looking at the waves by the beach — the work developed for ‘WAITING ROOM’  contains a slow transformation meant to engage views’ attention and gaze,” says Erel. “ An attention that is sustained by the dynamic movement and its otherworldly qualities. It also activates the viewers curiosity to comprehend the apparent contradiction between the reflector flat surface and the resulting seemingly three-dimensional image. This engagement draws one's attention from the harsh realities of a health crisis into an alternate meditative focus; a productive distraction that may positively affect one's well-being.”

In addition to Erel, the exhibition features artists Aidan Fowler, Alyson Denny, Lyn Godley, Jessica Judith Beckwith, and Philip Hart, along with the winners of the 2022 Immersive Arts for Health Global Student Design Competition. Rensselaer students Andy Martin, Danny Blanco, Kara Nedvar, Amber Reich, and Amatullah Kose earned an honorable mention in the competition, organized by the Jefferson Center of Immersive Arts for Health, a design, research, and academic initiative dedicated to studying the impact of dynamic and interactive art and design on healing.

A panel hosted on October 15 by HOT•BED as part of DesignPhiladelphia will feature artists and medical professionals in conversation about the process of creating these works and their effects.

 The exhibition will be on view through November 19.


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About Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute

Founded in 1824, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute is America’s first technological research university. Rensselaer encompasses five schools, over 30 research centers, more than 140 academic programs including 25 new programs, and a dynamic community made up of over 6,800 students and 104,000 living alumni. Rensselaer faculty and alumni include upwards of 155 National Academy members, six members of the National Inventors Hall of Fame, six National Medal of Technology winners, five National Medal of Science winners, and a Nobel Prize winner in Physics. With nearly 200 years of experience advancing scientific and technological knowledge, Rensselaer remains focused on addressing global challenges with a spirit of ingenuity and collaboration. To learn more, please visit www.rpi.edu.