Back in the days when retro-electro music found its way to the European club scene, I got to know this band from Liverpool called Ladytron and had the privilege to see them performing live.
This was nearly 20 years ago and I recall observing that one of the band members was an Asian man. Later I learned his name to be Reuben Wu, an artist born and raised in England to parents from Hong Kong.
Little did I know that, fast forward to the present day, I would stumble across his photographic art in the internet, most precisely two projects that left me downright mesmerized: Lux Noctis and Aeroglyphs.
Most things you will read about Lux Noctis regards the techno-gimmicky of Reuben Wu’s working process, which involves an LED light attached to a drone and a digital medium format camera.
You can check this 4 minute video here, where Reuben Wu himself explains his concept and how everything is done.
While the process in itself triggered some curiosity on me, this was eventually not my main point of interest. In fact, what really stroke me in the video was to realize that the locations photographed by Reuben Wu were totally dark, entirely black, at night time.
And, ultimately, because of this pure natural darkness – and its absence when the scene is artificially lit – Lux Noctis generated some unnerving feelings on me.
Not only because of any extra-terrestrial abduction imagery and reference I may have seen and built somewhere down my memory lane from years of exposure to sci-fi-esque representations, to which I have no choice but to associate with when I see these photos now.
In a way it’s no different from what I experienced previously with The Accidental Theorist from Edgar Martins’ and, to some extent, with the photographs first taken on the lunar surface by the astronauts of the Apollo expeditions.
Buzz Aldrin’s words on the Moon come to my mind: “Magnificent desolation”.
It’s just that there is something about an unusually well lit landscape against a dark or pitch black sky that feels surreal and eerie to me, but utterly attractive at the same time.
A separate project from Reuben Wu by the name of Aeroglyphs sees him taking the drone and LED light ensemble to a different application, now using the sky as the canvas.
While the sheer simplicity and minimalist look of the compositions may transpire a feeling of quietness and tranquility, I can’t help but to feel discomfort and even some anxiety, as if something imminently inadequate is about to happen, but yet to be captured.
Mind me, these are photos not to be experienced under the accompanying sound of Ladytron.
If anything, “Everyday” and “Saturday” from Yo La Tengo’s album “And Then Nothing Turned Itself Inside-Out” would be more appropriate.
Which, incidentally, has an album art consistent with this all.
Put the music on, look at Reuben Wu’s photos and you will experience the strange atmosphere in them and what I’m trying to express here.