According to colour theory, certain colours work together in complementary ways that impact how they are seen and understood. The immersive installation Total internal reflection draws specifically on Buddhist ideas and the understandings of colour in the Vedas, a canon of Sanskrit texts codified more than three thousand years ago.

In this multi-sensory light installation is operated by the signal path from analogue button inputs through to data processing and storage, and then on to the DMX for the PAR’s. Each of the PAR’s has a three circuit universal track adaptor fitted which provides mechanical and electrical connection to the lighting track at Te Papa. The installation explores the different energies and healing properties that colours possess within these belief systems. Total internal reflection is a therapeutic environment designed to encourage collective participation and reflection.

Visitors enter a blackened hallway towards a panel of seven illuminated coloured buttons: red, orange, yellow, green, blue, violet and magenta. The chosen colours correlate to the seven chakras or energy centres of Hinduism and Buddhism. After selecting a colour, the visitor proceeds through the hallway to enter a light-filled room. Singh likens the experience to standing in the light cast through the stained-glass windows of a cathedral1. The colour-saturated gallery space is left deliberately sparse, creating an opportunity for visitors to cast shadows and engage with the shadow play of others. The colour selected by each visitor feeds into the circuit of the light installation, which changes at the pace of human breath. This collaborative approach makes the visitor into a coauthor of the work, a gesture that reflects the artist’s ideals and ethos. The collective effort required to fill the room with light  is part of the social agenda of the work, and prompts individuals to reflect on their place within a larger community.

Over the duration of the work, each colour selection is recorded to create a data set that documents the colour choices over time. In addition to documenting visitor engagement, the data contributes to Singh’s ongoing enquiry into relationship between art and health. Providing  a visceral reading of collective wellbeing available as an opensource resource for future collaboration. For Singh, the data is a vital component of the artwork: it offers alternative insights into contemporary life that may continue to define and inspire -Nina Tonga Curator

1 ‘In conversation: Nina Tonga talks to Tiffany Singh’, Applause, The Arts Foundation, no. 23, 2017, pp. 18–19.

Total Internal Reflection has a audio component created in collaboration with Musican Steven Hue. Visit Steven's website here to experience this aspect of the artwork.
This experience allows visitors to experience sonic chakra matches with each colour. Hear colour is the  experiential audio guide as hosted by Te Papa.