Passers-by looking in the windows of the Wellcome Trust’s central London headquarters this summer may be surprised to find two giant pairs of eyes staring back at them. ‘Eye Contact’, a video installation created by artist Peter Hudson, will occupy the windows of the Gibbs Building on Euston Road for the next year.
The artwork consists of over 650 coloured pixels, lit by over 16,000 LEDs. It uses real footage of the eyes of 68 volunteers that changes in the course of the day – displaying the idiosyncrasies of each individual’s gaze. The eyes will be ‘awake’ and active through the day and will close at sunset to ‘sleep’ through the night. Unless, that is, they are woken by a passing pedestrian.
The piece was inspired by themes drawn from Wellcome Trust research in neuroscience and perception, and challenges the viewer to consider how our reliance on digital screens has changed the way we interact with images and each other. Close up, the pixels are an abstract mosaic of flickering colours and light, but viewed as a whole the image resolves and a pair of eyes gazes out from the window.
The artist, Peter Hudson, a recent graduate from Camberwell College of Arts, says: “Through this installation, I’m exploring how the digital screen mediates the way we consume images and how the emotional content is affected. Eyes are both a symbol of perception and an instantly recognisable human feature, so by presenting them through a heavily pixellated video display, I’m challenging the usually fluid process of recognition. The pixellation leaves enough detail that regular viewers of the installation, such as commuters, should be able to identify the same participants’ eyes recurring throughout the year."
Clare Matterson, Director of Culture & Society at the Wellcome Trust, says: “The collaboration between the Wellcome Trust and University of the Arts London has provided a unique platform for talented young artists to draw inspiration from the research areas of image perception, memory and neuroscience supported by the Trust. Peter Hudson’s installation is an arresting piece of art which challenges us to re-assess our own powers of perception.”
‘Eye Contact’ is the second winning entry from a competition run by the Wellcome Trust in 2014 for students at the University of the Arts London. The first winning piece, ‘View’, by artist Phoebe Argent, was displayed in the window last year.
The eyes featured in ‘Eye Contact’ were provided by staff from the Wellcome Trust. A full list of participants is available on Peter Hudson’s website.
‘Eye Contact’ will be displayed in the windows of the Gibbs Building, 215 Euston Road, until July 2015.
Image: 'Eye Contact' window installation, by Peter Hudson.
The Wellcome Trust Windows Commission is curated by Sigune Hamann, artist and Reader at University of the Arts London. Inspired by the Trust’s funded research into areas including neuroscience and memory, it is an opportunity for undergraduate and postgraduate students at the University of the Arts London to explore the changing ways in which images are registered and perceived.
About the Wellcome Trust
The Wellcome Trust is a global charitable foundation dedicated to achieving extraordinary improvements in human and animal health. It supports the brightest minds in biomedical research and the medical humanities. The Trust’s breadth of support includes public engagement, education and the application of research to improve health. It is independent of both political and commercial interests.
About University of the Arts London
Operating at the heart of the world’s creative capital, University of the Arts London is a vibrant international centre for innovative teaching and research in art, design, fashion, communication and performing arts. The University’s unique creative community is made up of six distinctive and distinguished Colleges: Camberwell College of Arts, Central Saint Martins College of Arts and Design, Chelsea College of Art and Design, London College of Communication, London College of Fashion and Wimbledon College of Art. Renowned names in the cultural and creative sectors produced by the University include 12 Turner Prize winners and over half of all nominees, 10 out of 17 fashion designers named British Designer of the Year, more than half of the designers showcased in London Fashion Week, 12 out of 30 winners of the Jerwood Photography Award and seven winners of the Prince Philip Designers Prize.