Dirt: Bootleg sunset
Stuck inside my bedroom with the subterranean bunker blues again.
Angella D’Avignon on sunset lamps, bunkers and wildfire season.
WOW, this blew up. Anyways, get a Sunset Lamp? During the first round of lockdowns and quarantine in the U.S., staying indoors felt like living in a bunker. A shitty crossfade between Daylight Savings and vaccination rollout in the U.S. made me particularly attuned to light quality—mostly the lack of it. For a brief moment, the question echoed across Twitter and my group chats: Should I get a Sunset Lamp?
The sudden mass passion for lighting concepts to address the monotony of our interior lives, coupled with a powerful Twitter marketing algorithm, meant Sunset Lamp was everywhere. But what is a Sunset Lamp? Let me tell you. Sunset Lamp is a lighting system that douses the interior of your space with red and orange light that simulates a naturally-occurring sunset. It is an aesthetic synthetic simulation. Sun cure, a heliotherapy, James Turrell.
Finding a Sunset Lamp is easy. Sunset Lamp is legion: I made a Möbius strip of screen shots I took of Sunset Lamp products, all of them in various degrees of degradation, some photoshopped, many borrowed and reproduced. All roads led back to Sunset Lamp anywhere I looked.
As I researched, I noticed that shots of Sunset Lamp in action resembled interior shots of wildfire season on my friends’ Instagrams. The tonal qualities were identical: matching nuclear washes of orange and red, dimensions flattened, and contrast heightened. In 2014, the air pollution in Beijing became thick and noxious, making visibility all but impossible. Across the city, millions of people gathered to watch the sun rise and set on huge, elongated LED screens.
I wondered if Sunset Lamp offered the rest of us a similar fate. Had the pandemic inadvertently prepped us for a future weather dystopia? Can enlightenment be measured by kelvins? If we only exist by proof of posted images, does the sunset need to be authentic? Any indoor activity was made sexy by Sunset Lamp: languishing on the couch in the late afternoon, procrastinating, writing weekend emails.
Allow me to include some translated marketing copy: “Sunset Lamp gives you main character energy. Essential of dating.” As if to say, you and only you have dusk and dawn on a dimmer switch like a 1970s cartoon of god in a white robe or maybe a Hawaiian shirt. You control your high. Your life experience is optimized. Create your own twilight, decide when the sun goes down or if it does at all.
As a metaphor, I prefer Sunset Lamp to Plato’s Cave. Apocalypse cosplay is more prescient and popular than ever, now complete with lighting concepts that give god-like control of one’s environment in order to cope with the stunning disappointment that is reality. If we can dream of the apocalypse, then it hasn’t arrived yet. Sunset Lamp is ideal for weatherless spaces, which is to say, bunkers and other viewless places. Like a 300-square-foot rented apartment.
Unlike a UV SAD Lamp which actually treats Seasonal Affective Disorder, Sunset Lamp offers merely an affect of the sun’s nourishing and destructive nature both; a bootleg of the sun cycles. When the heat of the sun destroys our planet after industrialism and technology run amok, the insides of our houses will mimic the cinematography of Wildfire Season by way of Sunset Lamp, and once we live in bunkers, we can relive those moments evening after evening. This is fine.
On average, a sunset lasts 2-5 minutes. With Sunset Lamp, it lasts forever. When you live in rarefied air, the lighting concept serves as your mood. “Alexa, show me the weather.” She tells you to look in a mirror: you are the weather. — By Angella D’Avignon