Each year, many students leave home behind thousands of miles away to attend Yale, but that sense of home may be closer than they think.
Over the summer, Thaddeus Lee ’17 traveled to Sweden, Finland, the United Kingdom, France and Japan through an architecture travel fellowship from Yale. While studying architecture, he also found time to reflect on the meaning of home. This reflection manifested itself as an audiovisual project, which took on its final form as “A House of Light & Sound.”
The project featured two large screens facing one another onto which photographs of places Lee had visited while traveling were projected. The audio component was composed of ambient recordings also taken during Lee’s travels. Photographs and sounds did not always line up, as the recordings playing alongside any given photograph were not necessarily recorded in the same place as the picture.
Both visual and audio aspects were taken spontaneously, whenever something caught Lee’s attention. Together, they depict a variety of subjects, including landscapes, buildings, music and conversations.
“Each and every one of us has a home and we build that from our memories,” Lee said.
In a description on the gallery wall, Lee writes that both the photographs and recordings do not correspond to specific places, but rather weave a loosely joined narrative around his own conceptions of home and belonging. The story revolves around certain aspects of home, including some of which he categorizes as sacred, familiar and natural. To that end, the project features images and recordings from churches, the outdoors, summer homes and a Japanese temple.
At a reception on Sunday evening, roughly 20 attendees gathered to take in the full experience. The space was thoroughly immersive, both visually and aurally, and the projector screens dominated the space while the audio was played in full stereo. Depending on the viewer’s location in the room, the sound varied, simulating the effect of actually being in the recorded environment.
Lee explained that he wanted to capture the feeling evoked when a person is an unfamiliar setting but still feels a sense of belonging. The project dealt heavily with questions of shared and transcendent experiences and places that bring these experiences to life. Lee spoke in particular about a church in Helsinki designed by an architect who is not a Christian, yet still manages to capture a sense of universality through its architecture. Lee said that he tried to incorporate this same universality into his project.
“Hopefully when people watch this they get a sense of nostalgia,” Lee said.
The reception also featured performances by poets from Jook Songs and Voke, two undergraduate spoken-word groups on campus. Attendees gathered in a circle in the darkened room, illuminated by the glow of the projector as poets performed their pieces, which each touched upon the theme of home.
Although his project included very few portrayals of people, Lee said that he still thought it was important to include live performances at the reception. The most powerful sound is made by the human voice, he said.
Despite the event’s communal atmosphere, the project still encouraged viewers to deal with differences and difficult situations.
“We don’t all have the same image of home,” Lee said.
Lee explained that while traveling, he essentially spent the summer alone. While he was able to feel at home in unfamiliar places, he found that was not always “comfortable.”
Lee said that he also drew inspiration from the challenging conversations about Yale and its community which took place last November. Lee noted that what gives Yale a sense of home is not the University’s physical space, but rather the community of people present at the school.
A House of Light & Sound is up in Maya’s Room in Silliman College until Friday.