The Light Observer #1
The Light Observer is a smart new Kickstarter-funded magazine published in Milan by British graphic designer Hugo Berger. It’s title hints at a celebration of architecture and photography – a journal of aesthetics and visual observations. But it’s actually far more than that.
Michel Siffre’s time deprivation experiment, or ‘temporal isolation experiment’ is one of my favourite and most unexpected features in the magazine (above). Siffre went underground for extended periods of time, (either two or six months), in order to measure how his sleep patterns were affected with no access to light nor clocks – observational time.
Siffre was in fact responsible for discovering that human beings have a biological clock that ‘spontaneously chooses how long you are awake and the length of activity’, during an earlier experiment studying a glacier. The decision to live in the glacier without a clock was a last minute one – ‘I had nothing to lose’.
Computer game designers go to incredible lengths to re-create light so that the most fantastical of worlds will suspend our disbelief, whatever the narrative that plays out. Additionally, light is used to create atmosphere. But what if light itself is the story of a game? What if the game revolves around characters seeking to recover and redeem the fallen stars back to their constellations, gifting each other candles as they go?
Well, this game really exists, and it’s called Children of the Light. An interview with the creators, thatgamecompany, is the last feature published in the magazine, along with images of the world they created.
In Light, the lifespan of the characters amounts to a single day’ worth of light. Dawn is birth, and dusk death. There is even a foggy patch at midday, meant to mimic a midlife crisis! Lighting ‘helps with the subconscious role of prompting the player’, but here light is a character, rather than an anchor. The players loved Cloud, thatgamecompany’s first game so much that they emailed the creators, praising the fact that the game was ‘not centered around violence and competition’, but ‘something positive and healing’.
A clean, minimalist design throughout the magazine showcases each feature simply and clearly, whether it’s photography, illustration, or a poem. Other contributors include Nathalie Du Pasquier, Jessica Eaton and Mesura Architects.
The whole essence of The Light Observer is marked by its attempt to pin down something inherently intangible. It’s a project that could easily be marred by convoluted definitions of light, or made pretentious with lazy photography.
But what about a drawing that illustrates it, a building that occasionally catches it, or an experiment that changes our opinion of it? Perhaps that’s why this new launch quickly proves itself to be a worthwhile pursuit – it’s a journal determined to avoid clichés.