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Major courtyard installation brings the sun down to earth
Kimchi & Chips, Halo © Doug Peters Press Association.

LONDON.- This June, a large-scale, futuristic sculpture – consisting of over 100 mirrors that track the movements of the sun – will set in Somerset House’s spectacular neoclassical courtyard. The innovative installation creates a seemingly otherworldly halo – a shape suspended in the air above Somerset House - but it is, in fact, produced from the power of the sun.

Devised and designed by Seoul-based experimental art studio Kimchi and Chips (founded by Mimi Son and Elliot Woods), Kimchi and Chips: Halo invites audiences to look at one of London’s favourite public spaces through a magical new lens, and to consider how the potential of one of the world’s most precious natural resources can be harnessed sustainably.

Situated within Somerset House’s famous fountains, Kimchi and Chips: Halo is constructed of two 4-metre-high towers and one 15-metre-long track, which feature around 100 heliostats – motorised mirrors that move in line with the sun throughout the day – and groups of fine water jets. The mix of mist and mirrors will reflect the rays of the summer sun and redirect it to draw a halo, formed entirely of natural light and floating in mid-air, suggesting how nature and technology can cross-pollinate in powerfully positive ways.

Next to the courtyard, an open studio will reveal the inner workings and ideas of the ingenious installation, with the opportunity to meet the team behind it on special occasions. This space will also showcase previous works of Kimchi and Chips, which often study the intersection between the material and immaterial, and aim to actualise fictional states into physical experiences.

For Kimchi and Chips, the site of their new piece is particularly apt; Somerset House was the longstanding location of the Royal Society, the world’s oldest independent scientific academy, where astronomical discoveries, such as the existence of Uranus, were first reported. In a mirror image of times past and present, Kimchi and Chips: Halo echoes the endeavours of such prominent pioneers of astronomical sciences across Europe, who used to engineer enormous architectural sun tracking devices to precisely pinpoint the date of the summer solstice.

One of Kimchi and Chips’ ongoing series is ‘Drawing in the Air’, which inspires this latest work. The Anglo-Korean duo were the first to draw artworks in the air with condensed light; in 2014, ‘Light Barrier’ crossed millions of calibrated digital light beams to create ephemeral 3D effects at New Media Night Festival in Nikola-Lenivets, Russia.

For the first time, however, Kimchi and Chips: Halo focuses fully natural, rather than artificial, light to form this installation. Bringing the sun down to earth will wholly depend upon the strength of the sun, creating an experience which constantly evolves and to which the artists will have to respond daily.

Kimchi and Chips: Halo follows the contemporary tradition of large-scale, open-air works over the spring-summer season at Somerset House, with former installations including Ai Weiwei: Circle of Animals/Zodiac Heads and John Gerrard: Western Flag.

Over the spring-summer 2018 season, Somerset House presents an inspiring series of artworks and activities, connecting nature and technology, to showcase how contemporary artists contribute to our critical understanding of the world around us in new ways. It includes The Unseen: Choropleth, a new flag commission from 22 April. Flying over Somerset House at the same time as Kimchi and Chips: Halo, the unique flag uses revolutionary inks, which react to triggers such as temperature, light and air quality, to reflect in real-time the impact of pollution and climatic changes in the environment around Somerset House.

Halo is co-commissioned by Arts Council Korea and Arts Council England Joint Fund and 2017 Gwangju Design Biennale. Presented by Somerset House with the Korean Cultural Centre UK.

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