Anna McNay

Review of James Yamada’s Parasolstice Winter Light Project at Parasol unit


James Yamada: The summer shelter retreats darkly among the trees

Parasolstice – Winter Light 2011

Parasol unit

23 November 2011 – 18 March 2012

American artist James Yamada (born 1967) is known for his installation works which explore the interaction between nature and technology. For the inauguration of Parasol unit’s new annual outdoor winter project, Parasolstice – Winter Light, which will feature works by international artists interested in the phenomenon of light, he has created The summer shelter retreats darkly among the trees, a kind of aluminium gazebo with 28 neon tube lights built into its roof, blue and white, and at an intensity known as full spectrum light, mimicking the strength of the sun. These wavelengths are recognised by the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) to be highly beneficial for the treatment of SAD (seasonal affective disorder), whereby a lack of sunlight in the winter months can lead to depression, loss of energy, and sleep deprivation. As such, light of this intensity is commonly used in therapy. At Parasol unit, however, visitors are invited to bask in the winter sun for free, sheltered from the elements, and looking out on to the peaceful garden oasis, all the while only minutes away from the hubbub of Old Street roundabout. Small trees and shrubs growing by the pond reflect the bright white gleam of the artificial tree trunks supporting the structure – a collision of the natural and the manmade. These startling white buttresses stand out brightly against the grey winter sky, reflecting the sterile sanitation of modern medicine, and raising questions as to which is more salubrious: the proximity to nature with its hardy vegetation and vast sky opening up above the nearby high rise office blocks, or the antiseptic clinical science so commonly used to prolong life in today’s ‘advanced’ society? There is something awe-inspiringly sublime about the aspect of each, and their head on confrontation here is both calming and inviting of reflection, whilst simultaneously unsettling and thought provoking – an experience that takes you out of yourself and your glum day to day concerns, even if only for the duration of your exposure to the healing rays. 

Image Credit

James Yamada: The summer shelter retreats darkly among the trees (2011)

Parasol unit foundation for contemporary art, London, installation view, 2011

Photo by Stephen White

This review was first published by Roves and Roams at: