It’s become Omaha’s unofficial selfie central.
Stop by Kaneko and you’ll see visitors snapping photos of themselves posing in front of color-shifting cubes, exploring a structure lit by thousands of LED lights or standing inside a mirrored room where moving images make your reflection appear to stretch on infinitely.
These attractions are just part of the creative center’s “light” exhibition, a show designed to get visitors thinking and interacting with light on a personal level.
“Light is simple when you think about it,” Kaneko director Chris Hochstetler said, “but we wanted people to experience and see it in a way that’s very responsive versus just looking at it.”
To do so, Kaneko summoned what Hochstetler called “pioneers of light,” including scientists at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and international, national and local artists.
Adam Belt, who maintains a studio in San Diego, works with light in several ways. His 3-D rainbow will make Kaneko patrons believe they can reach out and touch it. He also has created windows with whimsical names; “Down the Rabbit Hole” is barely four inches thick, but it appears to be at least several feet deep.
Belt uses sleights of light to create what he called “a startling sense of presence and an element of surprise.
“The best art haunts and sticks with me, and I hope my work does that too,” Belt said.
There is mystery in Belt’s installations, Hochstetler said. “People spend a lot of time trying to figure them out.”
In Kaneko’s main gallery, you’ll find “TRIPH,” an immersive light experience created by Dutch audio-visual collective Circus Family. Large suspended and stationary cubes interact with people as they navigate the installation. Colors change and sounds ring out in response to your movements.
“It’s like an electronic Stonehenge,” Hochstetler said. “People just hang out here because they can get such great shots and selfies.”
Wouter Westen, creative director for Circus Family, said the installation is designed to do more than prompt visitors to take photos. “We also want to challenge them and make them wonder,” Westen said.
Plenty of wonder occurs in the exhibition’s “Infinity Room,” where an animated abstract black-and-white projection constantly moves about the room as visitors stand on a mirrored floor with a mirrored ceiling above them. It’s designed by Refik Anadol, a Turkish artist based in Los Angeles, whom Hochstetler calls “the world’s leading projection mapper.”
You’ll most likely agree when you spend time in Anadol’s installation. Cast your eyes up or down and you’ll see your reflection stretch on forever — essentially, to infinity. It’s an intense virtual reality experience — minus the glasses.
“The idea is to play with basic instincts of visual perceptions and to have new experiences of life,” Anadol said. “Our life is very linear; it eventually ends. This nonlinear experience is a very refreshing way of looking at life.”
Anadol is gratified to hear that “Infinity Room” has become another selfie hot spot. “I love hearing and reading people’s reactions. There are so many. The experience is a memory that’s recorded. It’s making an experience through visual experience and saying, ‘I was here.’ The room becomes a stage for any actual memory.”
San Francisco artist Taylor Dean Harrison creates a powerful setting for a memory with “Enunciation,” a stainless steel structure illuminated by LED lights. Lights change at the push of a button, creating the effect of standing in a miniature church, ablaze with abstract stained glass windows.
The installation has shown at Burning Man and other locations, but Harrison says Kaneko is his favorite venue to date.
“You can be bathed in light and just exist in it,” Harrison said. “It’s quiet so you can have a one-on-one experience and a private moment with the sculpture.”
Omaha artist Corey Broman is more subtle in his interpretation of light. He spent half a year creating more than 60 small and medium-size glass sculptures expressly for this exhibition. Each accentuates light, whether it be through startling clarity or a riveting way to cast shadows.
“Glass reacts well with light,” Broman said. “It reflects and casts shadows and makes you see something you otherwise wouldn’t see in any other material.”
There is a lot to process within a display created by UNL’s Extreme Laser Laboratory. The lab’s name is no exaggeration. It’s home to the Diocles laser, the world’s brightest.
“It’s the highest intensity ever done,” said Donald Umstadter, the lab’s founder. “It’s trillions and trillions times the intensity of the sun on earth and billions (stronger than) on the surface of the sun itself.”
The laser’s capabilities are akin to creating a star or small sun right here on earth, and the mini Diocles featured in the exhibition shows visitors how it works and what its applications are. Imagine X-rays that are clearer and carry no radiation risks or machines that can see through steel shipping containers or vehicles to detect bombs, IEDs and other threats.
The lab also has loaned Kaneko another of its creations: the world’s largest synthetic sapphire. “It’s like an amplifier for light,” Umstadter said. “Think of it like a speaker system that takes music and makes it louder. This takes light and makes it brighter.”