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Artist of The Week: Sunni Colón

Sunni Colón is the musician and lighting installation artist on everyone’s radar. Based between Los Angeles and Paris, and armed with his global perspective, self-proclaimed “art rock/soul” sound, and immersive art pieces, Colón steals the spotlight in various mediums and crafts. We sat down with Colón to chat about his design agency TETSU, the science behind light, and how he attempts to create spaces of freedom. Read our full interview below accompanied by exclusive photos from Swedish photographer Madeleine Dalla.

Tell us about TETSU. 

TETSU is essentially a design agency. Currently, the primary focus is to design spaces and create experiences, however, there are other entities that will exist within TETSU in the near future that are in development.

How did you get involved in lighting?

For as long as I can remember I have had an appreciation for light. I remember as a child, I would close my eyes in the sunlight and would be attracted to the various color patterns intensely forming inside of my eyelids. I’m sure you’ve experienced this before, it’s pretty whirly. I learned we biologically produce light particles, which causes us to emit light. This intrigued me; revealing the possibilities of manipulating internal and external light.

Whom would you say are some of your biggest inspirations in the lighting installation world?

Olafur Eliasson, Yayoi Kusama, James Turrell to name a few.

Can you describe the process of creating these spaces? How do you immerse your audience? What do you want to engage them in?

My process begins with a streamline of thoughts and ideas. Asking questions like, how do I want it to feel? What do I want people to absorb? After understanding the ethos of the project, then knowing what to integrate in the space is more seamless. Creating an autonomous space will always be the goal. I feel like this approach to art has somewhat of a form of holistic healing, alleviating the mind and in some way elevating the human consciousness. I’m interested in the physicality of sonic and light just as much as the dynamic structural design; all of these elements have a sincere purpose.

How does color theory impact your work, if at all?

Color theory has a special impact on my work and daily life. We have a phycological response to various wavelengths of light and colors. Certain colors evoke distinct emotional responses. Blue can signify sadness but also can convey bliss and clarity. Red can represent danger and aggression but also symbolize love and passion. It all depends on the shade, chroma, and light or darkness. All of these components affect the overall tone of my approach and dictates the undercurrent of the story I am trying to tell.

What story are you trying to tell? 

My approach is to not impose but to layout a blueprint for us to experience our complete truth without parameters. Overall I guess the story would be freedom.

What other forms of art are you interested in?

I’m interested in architecture, film, photography, and music. I love all forms of art including martial arts.

It makes sense that architecture is compelling to you—what role does architecture take in your installations? Can you tell us how you create these spaces from the first step—what is the foundation? What are the technicalities that you must account for?

Architecture will always be integral in my installations. It’s my method to communicate to an audience physically and visually. The foundation of a space is centered around “the purpose.” After flushing out the general concept, the next step is assembling a team of individuals who can actualize the idea. The most important thing to account for is organization.

And, in regards to music—you’re also a musician, are you involved with lighting for your shows?

Yeah, I’m involved with everything in my live show.

As an artist, it seems that creating a mood or space to feel is really important. How does this translate to your live shows and musicianship?

Things like sound selection, equipment, even lighting to song order distinguish the mood of a live show.

You’re based in Paris and Los Angeles—what impact does that have on the work you create?

I pull inspiration from every place that I’ve ever lived or live in. Paris and Los Angeles are different culturally, socially, and politically. My environment definitely impacts my mood and work.

Can you cite any main differences you’ve noticed—being in those two places? 

There is a difference in lifestyle generally. Everything from education and food to privacy and law.

What current artists do you look up to in and outside of your field?

I admire Romain Gavras, Zara Hadid, Erykah Badu, Joshua Kissi, Veronika Franz to say the least. They’re all unique futurist and pioneers in the world.

What’s next?

My new album is coming out.

The next installment for the Manifest series.

And another album.

Images courtesy of Madeleine Dalla; stylist: Hodo Musa

 Stay tuned to Milk for more artists on the rise.

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