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Thomas Wilfred (1889-1968)’s Lumia as a Schema for Postdramatic Theatre - ' Mythopoetic Prototyping' as an Alternative Historical Method for Practitioner-Historians

Thomas Wilfred (1889-1968) was an artist-inventor who emerged in the inter-war period of the United States and his works were developed under Lumia and projected scenery. For Wilfred, the former was referred to an independent art form of light and the latter was referred to a projection art within stage design. In respect to Thomas Wilfred’s artistic practices, the relevant literature primarily focuses on Lumia and Lumia as an early 20th century abstract art and abstract film, hence from perspectives of modern painting and early cinema. Wilfred’s declaration of Lumia as the eighth addition to the classical arts: painting, sculpture, architecture, poetry, music, dance and drama, was either ignored or assumed to be one of the precursors to the history of cinema, Despite the terminological distinction between Lumia and projected scenery, both shared a same technical foundation, and made original contributions to the field of theatre. In the beginning, this PhD project acknowledged the limitation of researching Thomas Wilfred’s Lumia solely by the existing literature, and developed an original methodology for historical research on what I define as ‘mythopoetic practices’ by artist-inventors where art, history and technology were fused to seek a new schema of being human beyond technically advancing and standardising creative practices. I have named my historical methodology ‘mythopoetic prototyping’ to stress the important focus on ‘schema’ by art and technology and ‘insight’ of being an artist-inventor and practitioner-historian. After Thomas Wilfred, the history of Lumia has sporadically continued/discontinued due to the absence of an official route for Lumia to be passed down to next generations of artists, but, the small collection of Wilfred’s survived Lumia automatons and few journal and magazine articles by Wilfred, encouraged new Lumia artists to be inspired and reinvent the art themselves. The thesis of this project, argues for a need to research histories as a practitioner-historian, and through the case study of Lumia, it demonstrates how one can discover deep surfaces that connect texts, artefacts and surviving practices and translate them into a research methodology to evaluate contemporary meanings of the histories. In conjunction with the thesis, I have created a living digital archive of Lumia to share the process of my PhD project, representing Lumia as an independent performative art form that continues to inspire new generations of artists who are interested in light.

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More about Trent

My name is Trent Kim and I am a Glasgow-based South Korean born Scottish artist. I was trained in theatre lighting design and art-based research, and I am most interested in the medium of light and researching how lighting reveals the world to us.

I am currently a part-time PhD student at Royal College of Art revisiting the art of Lumia by Thomas Wilfred (1889-1968) through a lens of a practitioner-historian.

BA Stage Management and Theatre Production at Queen Margaret University, Edinburgh

MA Advanced Stage and Screen Practice at Queen Margaret University, Edinburgh

MRes Research in Creative Practice at Glasgow School of Art, Glasgow

PGCert Learning and Teaching in Higher Arts at Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, Glasgow

I worked as a technical theatre practitioner between 2002 and 2012 nationally and internationally as a designer, producer and consultant, and gradually moved onto teaching and my own light art practices. I have been a full time lecturer in New Media Art at University of the West of Scotland since 2016 and have guest lectured at various higher education institutions including Glasgow School of Art, Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, University of Glasgow, Royal College of Art, Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, Greenwich University and Yale University.

In addition, I currently serve as a board member of Vanishing Point and a member of the Scientific Committee at xCoAx. I am a co-investigator in Paisley School of Arts project (funded by Renfrewshire Council and in partnership with Dr Rachael Flynn); an advisor for Dynamic Dunure (in partnership with South Ayrshire Council); and an advisor for Bridging Digital (funded by ERASMUS and in partnership with Intercult (Sweden) and Fablevision Studios (Scotland).

2020 Lumia without Light, Seeing Sound, Bath Spa University (Online), UK

2019 Hyperobjectivity in the Art of Lumia by Thomas Wilfred [b.1886, d.1968], Sound Image, Greenwich University, UK

2018 Reflection of Light as a Methodology for New Lumia, Seeing Sound, Bath Spa University, UK

2017 Lumia: the Art of Folding, LUMIA | Symposium, Royal College of Art, UK

2016 Demystifying Body in Lumia via Embodied Simulation: Lumia after Thomas Wilfred, Seeing Sound, Bath Spa University, UK

2018 Organiser, LUMIA | Symposium, University of the West of Scotland, UK

2017 Organiser, LUMIA | Symposium, Royal College of Art, UK