Blingcrete – Concrete. Light. Action!
The BlingCrete project began as a series of artistic experiments with light-reflecting materials and the phenomenon of retroreflection. It is thus an exchange initiated from the artist’s position, in which ways of knowing and working that are specific to the sciences are harnessed in order to position and deploy them in artistic contexts – and vice versa. At the threshold between visibility and invisibility, BlingCrete reveals the contradictions of material representation. The research project picks up that thread, using such observations to generate further lines of inquiry and reconceive boundaries. BlingCrete represents a new genre of materials with its own logic of effect that cannot be described simply in terms of the usual categories of heavy and light or form, construction and surface. The material, also known as lightreflecting concrete, combines the positive characteristics of concrete (fire safety, solidity, building methods) with those of retroreflection. Retroreflecting surfaces send incoming rays of light (sunlight or artificial light) back precisely in the direction of the source. This optical phenomenon is produced by embedding glass microspheres in the substrate material. Crucial for the reflective power are the roundness, clarity and refractive index of the beads, as well as the bond between the glass microspheres and the substrate. The dialogue with light, lastingly integrated by the combination of materials, creates the special, dematerialised aesthetic. BlingCrete creates immersive environments by lowtech analogue modes.
BlingCrete offers high design potential, that derives from the production process. Basically, the building process and use are comparable to known procedural manners of prefabricated elements. Part of BlingCrete are novel High Performance and Ultra High Performance Concretes that are used. With these the adhesive composition of the glass beads and their position in the matrix can be controlled precisely. They could be positioned in any grid or pattern or in a random distribution on the surface, the colour of the matrix could be produced in a greyscale variety from white to anthracite (i.e. black), and colours like yellow, red, green, etc. The sizes of the beads range from 0.7mm to 7mm, with 4 mm as a standard size. Combinations of sizes are possible. The parameters for the matrix and ball resulting from the main components enable the appearance and properties of the surface to be manipulated.
There is not one BlingCrete, but several. The properties of BlingCrete open up various design possibilities in architecture, interior design and in transport safety areas. Potential applications are, for example, safetyrelated marking of danger spots in construction (stairs, pavements, platform edges, tunnels), as well as the design of integrated guidance systems and novel surface components (façade, floor, ceiling).
BlingCrete is faciliating new and unexpected ways of perception. In principle it is an unobtrusive material that is eye-catching or even flamboyant when required. The information is latently stored in the surface without dominating the architecture, its visibility is programmed by users walking paths and the position of the light and is fully visible at specific points. It is the concept of a material admitting the creation of subtle surfaces that manage to mediate between material and light and thus indirectly refer to the relationship between mass and surface.
The activation of the BlingCrete surface is contingent on the positions of surface, light source and viewer. At a certain moment, the reflective effect becomes perceptible, establishing a relationship between motion and a (material) property experienced as a state. Neither material factors nor the objects of the subject’s perception and action are sufficient by themselves to convey this property. The physical phenomenon of retroreflection transmitted by the material enables a flexible slice through a single, mutable whole. The concrete (the surface) changes from a passive to an active state. It makes no difference whether sunlight or a carefully positioned artificial light source is involved, or multiple light sources of different colours, directed at the surface from different positions. BlingCrete allows to transform any ordinary space into a highly immersive or interactive environment by lowtech analogue modes. Despite their flatness, the two-dimensional surfaces made of this material are creating a three-dimensional illusion. The visitor’s vantage point, that is normally perceived as the interior facing the exterior or vice-versa, is called into question due to this doubling. BlingCrete investigates the possibilities of enlivening materials by taking the surfaces as a starting point both conceptually and technically. It is a change of focus from the appearance of a material to the performance of surfaces.
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