Public Light and Space Monograph Text Preview for Correction
Monograph will be published in August.
To request a copy, please contact 219.765.5544
For more information regarding Correction and other public art proposals, please visit: www.publiclightandspace.com
If you are interested in pursuing a public or private project utilizing phototheraputic light, please contact the artist at firstname.lastname@example.org or 219.765.5544
Light has the ability to illuminate, transmit, reveal, captivate, and heal. One need only to look outside on a spring day to witness the uplifting effect sunlight has on our physical and mental states. While its capacity to transform perception and health is clear, the absence of light can be detrimental.
Sunlight deprivation is a frequent condition of civilized life. Indoor lifestyles and occupations, urbanization, industrialization, and overuse of sunblock all contribute to reduced exposure to sunlight. This, consequently, leads to an increase in psychological imbalance and other disorders. A lack of sunlight exposure is known to exacerbate both clinical depression and seasonal affective disorder—a mood disorder characterized by symptoms of depression coinciding with the winter months.
The Metropolitan Correctional Center (MCC) is an imposing triangular concrete structure in the South Loop that temporarily houses federal prisoners awaiting trial. A view of the MCC building from the starkly appointed plaza reveals that the sparsely distributed slit windows embedded in the building’s façade supply only a small allowance of light to those living and working inside. Many are shocked to learn that the majority of inmates within this institution are believed to suffer from at least one of the major types of depression. According to the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill, 16 percent of the prison population can be classified as severely mentally ill, meaning that they fit the psychiatric classification for illnesses such as major depression and bipolar disorder. Correctional center treatment guidelines for depression-related disorders focus on antidepressant medications and electroshock therapy. Critics of these strategies see them as oriented mainly toward managing symptoms rather than restoring underlying health.
While the incarcerated population of the facility and the unrestrained pedestrians in the plaza below are allowed no direct observation of each other, they have in common a limited accessibility to sunlight. This realization inspired the key concept of utilizing light to transform the overall MCC environment into a place of rejuvenation for prisoners and pedestrians alike.
New techniques and phototherapeutic devices that utilize light as a restorative tool, such as Sunnex Biotechnologies Lo-LIGHT®, afford an alternative to harsh drug treatments and electroshock therapy. The phototherapeutic light influences the body's assimilation of vitamin D as well as the production of melatonin, a hormone derived from serotonin, which is thought to influence circadian rhythms. The Lo-LIGHT® approach has been found effective in treating both seasonal and major depression and has been the topic of much research. A study published in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry reported that “thirty minutes of morning exposure to Lo- LIGHT® over a four-week period of treatment resulted in almost 80% of the subjects no longer suffering from depression.”
Correction addresses the inaccessibility to light for both prisoners and plaza visitors. By illuminating the Metropolitan Correctional Center from the inside out, the first component of Correction specifically addresses the lack of sunlight within the corridors of the MCC by augmenting the existing lights in communal quarters, such as dining areas, with Sunnex Biotechnologies Lo-LIGHT®. This intervention begins to address the lack of natural light in the facility and suggests an alternative approach to combating the pervasive depression among the population.
The publicly visible component of Correction provides a modest sitting area within the MCC plaza. This element addresses the seasonal and emotional needs of visitors within the plaza by creating a place for rejuvenation and contemplation. This distinctive area is structured around two wooden benches joined in a 90-degree angle, echoing the striking shape of the prison building. The visibility of the building itself is regulated by two incorporated glass panels composed of SAGE Electrochromic Glass®, which automatically darken upon engagement to provide an element of seclusion when visitors sit on the benches. Additionally, a motion sensor activated by the seating of persons in the area initiates a built-in Sunnex Lo-LIGHT®, causing a green light to radiate from within the wooden benches for a predetermined period of time, illuminating the invisible barrier that exists between people as well as providing visitors a restorative experience.
This project seeks to integrate insights and methodologies from art, science, and medicine in addressing an area of public need. The proposed intervention, while modest in scale, affords a tangible healing potential to those who experience its aura. As well, it is intended to serve as a conceptual proposition that we fundamentally reorganize our way of thinking about the environmental conditions in public institutions and spaces.
Sunnex Lo-LIGHT® provided on loan courtesy of Sunnex Biotechnologies® www.sunnexbiotech.com
Sage Glass® provided on loan courtesy of SAGE Electrochromics, Inc.