This interview was originally published in Spanish by Catálogodiseño (07/11/14) LINK
Dawn B. Haleta: from mixed media arts to the Biomimicry of the Sun
‘By utilizing the brackets of the rising and setting of the sun, this clock does not over extend itself. In this sense it signifies our humanness and need for a society that is not ‘always on’. ‘ (Haleta, D.B., 2014)
Dawn B.Haleta moves with comfort in the waters of theory. Maybe is her fine arts background what plays a key part in her ability to contemplate for long periods certain phenomena that for the majority go unnoticed, and maybe it is this what characterises so strongly her practise as designer. Biomimicry of the Sun marks her entry to the world of objects design; she does it bringing the vast experience acquired while developing visuals and animation along with Michael Haleta, the creation of experimental knitwear and the work on interiors for retail.
With Biomimicry of the Sun, Dawn addresses and questions certain conventions that rule our everyday life, such as a standardised time tracking system or how influenced we are –despite living in highly artificial environments– by the different types of sunlight and its different stages throughout the day and year cycles.
Haleta invites us to go back to our time of “worshippers of the sun” to review our daily cycles and recognise ourselves in them; she proposes a lifestyle more accord to these biological clocks which, despite seeming forgotten, keep influencing our biological functions more than what we think.
DT: How did your background as an artist inform Biomimicry of the Sun and how does it make your design practice different?
DH: For years I worked collaboratively with Michael Haleta on graphical sound and visual animations. Here the timeline became my medium. With so many contemporary options for integrating audio and motion into objects today through sensors and other interactive controls, I wondered what it would be like to transfer the timeline from the editing screen to a machine… a device. This was part of the process that informed Biomimicry of the Sun.
DT: How did the project change your relationship with the sun?
DH: I am more observant of the changing sunlight, the patterns the sun creates, the temperature, the color of the light. These things have become more relevant to me now, partially because they have become my material. The seasons change, the brackets of light change I view the passage of time in measurements of fast and slow as opposed to long and short.
DT: Based on your research of chronobiology, what would you say is the type of relationship we currently establish with the sun?
DH: The light from the sun is something humans evolved with over time, it changes in color temperature, drives our internal clocks and directs every organ in our body to do a job. A signal from the different kind of sunlight at different times of the day is sent to the pineal gland in our brain to instruct hormones to be sent through the body throughout the day. But we don’t get the same signals from most of today’s artificial light, so our bodies are suffering because of it.
DT: How do you see your practice in the near future?
DH: I will continue to look for new timelines to work with. To integrate them into today’s active lifestyles, asking how can we deal with time in a society that travels at outrageously fast speeds. Where will nature and technology merge? I would like to continue to use light and optic lenses throughout the process.
DT: Can you tell us an anecdote that you remember from the process of Biomimicry of The Sun? How did it change the process if it did.
DH: In Februrary of 2014 I moved into a flat in East London with four sky lights and 2 big glass doors at either end. During the day I would watch the sun literally move from the East to the West to sunset across the interior space. Shadows were cast throughout the rooms, watching the motion of the light and shadows played a large part in how I designed BioSun. The light that is projected around a room became a method of tracking time.
DT: Tell us about the ideal place where you would like to see the lighting piece you designed for the project. You must have something in mind don’t you?
DH: The work really has a strong relationship to the history of the sun but also, industrial clocks and watches. I would love a room at Greenwich Observatory to show the work for a week, or a year perhaps?! Events would be scheduled around the winter and summer solstice. Meals will be organized where we can‘watch’ the sun set. Also on the agenda is a lecture about Chronobiology and a history of time tracking.
DT: What is the change you expect to cause in the viewers/users of the lamp?
DH: Biomimicry of the Sun was designed to be a clock that uses an alternative system to numbers to track the passage of the day. We rely so heavily on standardized time keeping of a 24-hour system and we jam pack our work and every task possible into that span of time. But actually if we change our focus from condensing our ‘to-do’ lists into compounded bits and attempt to expand our understanding of the passage of time we might experience life much differently. Perhaps our ideas of what we value could change.
©Daniela Toledo 2014 for Catálogodiseño, Chile