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Yoshiaki Nishimura "Wind-lit" (風灯), 2001

Areas: transformation, nature, physical world processes, history adaptation

“Wind-lit” (風灯, 2001) is a poetic lighting object created by Tokyo-based artist and designer Yoshiaki Nishimura and inspired by the Japanese "Furin" wind bell (風鈴, The symbol "Fu: meaning "Wind" and "Rin" "Bell"). A Furin wind bell is a traditional Japanese article that listeners associate with a gentle, cooling breeze during a hot Summer's day and either made of iron, porcelain or glass. As the name says it is actuated by wind with a small flag attached to its hammer. The quality of its sound is a result of historic craftsmanship, tacit knowledge deciding over size, shape and material and resulting in the distinct sound of every bell.
In ancient times it has been used for fortunetelling and to wave of evil spirits from a temple or a family's home. It was seen as a playful yet symbolic object and embedded in a intricately intervowen holistic cosmology; a common cultural awareness that every detail mattered in a meaningful, aesthetic and interconnected world.

In Japan the traditional Furin bells can still today be experienced both indoors and outdoors; in large numbers in public parks and temples - or as single bells in homes; And the same can be done with the "Wind-lit."

Nishimura's "Wind-lit" is hung from above a tree or a ceiling and is about the size of a small cup. A little flag swinging with the breeze is attached underneath this cup and functions as a light switch that is being actuated by the wind. As the flag moves with the streaming air the "Wind-lit" emanates a warm, yellowish glow, similar to the flame of a candle, fading in or out.

In the example film clip a large number of "Wind-lit" are hanging from the ceiling of a restaurant and as they move with a breeze, each individual light element is contributing to a complex, vivid and poetic visual experience. Elegant functional simplicity leading to opulent visual complexity. (see below for URL of quicktime movie clip)

With "Wind-lit" Nishimura has created a felicitous twenty-first century rendition that (almost) retains the traditional Furin's innate enchanting and ephemeral qualities. And also a poetic fusion between its historic essence and a technological/digital beckoning.
As Furin bells have lately been not too well received in densely populated urban areas as their sound is sometimes regarded as a nuisance, "Wind-lit" is adapting to this modern notion by transforming its intrinsic poetic qualities to the realm of the visual sense. Thus creating a less permeating and more ambient spectacle. It is an interesting example of how cultural artefacts can be transformed and receive new meaning in a modern and design oriented society.

Digital vs. analogue

An innate quality of the Furin bell is the variety of sound events it can create. They range from fast and dynamic repetitions to sporadic and almost inaudible "brushing" sounds.
"Wind-lit" incorporates a similar range of states. Also in theory it can be seen as a binary or digital object as it seemingly oscillates between "on" and "off" states. Yet in practice this impression is erroneous. Its light slowly fades in and out creating a wide variety of possible lighting modes that are intrinsic to its dreamy and poetic nature.

Experience: hearing vs. seeing

In the values described above "Wind-lit" reminds of other natural physical phenomena that can create engrossing and hypnotic effect as moving water or the flames of a fire do. Whereas flames and water captivate our attention through our visual sense, sounds tend to nourish our imagination and sense of space. Sounds as wind in the trees or wind chimes moving in a breeze have reportedly created these effects.

Another - visual - experience of this kind could be curtains bulging in the wind and perceived by our peripheral vision as described by William Gaver.

Ambient vs. captivating

There seem to be fundamental differences between how visual and auditive signals are processed by people. The visual sense seems to have mostly dominating, hypnotic, captivating and "closing down" properties, whereas the auditive sense has rather stimulating and "opening up" qualities.

"Wind-lit" explores these poetic notions of the visual and the auditive and also reminds us of the indiscerible processes surrounding us waiting to be transformed into the perceptual realm to make our blunted senses susceptible to the natural world around us.

Transformation in wind-lit

Wind is being transformed into light fluctuations. Together these lights create a vivid meta-pattern.

Transformation & Spatiality in wind-lit

Spatial movement of the trigger actuates the light, transforming the air current into a visual experience.

Classification of wind-lit

It is probably worth discussing if wind-light is interactive and collaborative, but it is certainly not the opposite.


With a
Find two quicktime movies, efish and ecafe, are at the bottom of the page.
In 2005 a solar version of wind-lit was made:

"Edo Furin," a atmospheric little clip about traditional Furin bells in Tokyo.

An extraordinary interview with a maker of traditional glass furin-wind-bells is available here:
It gives interesting insights into some implicit, tacit and intuitive steps in the process of making.

Handmade glass furin bells to order:

An experimental art installation called "wind to light" by Jason Bruges from 02007. It symbolises the viability of wind power as small turbines power many small LEDs.

last update: 9/8/02008 16:03

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