I hadn’t really considered light as an artistic medium until a few months ago. In February last year, I co-curated an event called Unorthobox in Tooting Market. A host of lighting artists transformed and reimagined the space which was otherwise dead at night. The evening was magical, well received and thought provoking, thanks to the brilliant participants.
Since then, the power of luminosity (or the lack thereof) has been increasingly apparent to me. The creative energy that surrounded the firepit at our 354 Coldharbour Lane project was notable. More recently, I enjoyed the sensory installations at IBT13 in Bristol, such as Simon Faithful’s Fake Moon and Alex Bradley’s Field Test. But it wasn’t until I met Leni Schwendinger that I really thought about the poetry of light.
Leni is a New York based lighting artist with an infectious passion for her medium. She spoke at a consultation salon we had been invited to by the cultural masterplanning organisation, Civic Works. In just a few minutes, we were considering the progressive municipal lighting of Cairo in 1000 AD, the spot-lit stage of the street corner, and the playfulness of projected mazes in the snow.
These days the world is a sparklier place (which is remarkable when you have a business partner with a penchant for glittery stationery). Because of Leni’s perception, I’ve noticed the shattering reflections in wind-blown puddles, the thick shadows lent by the railway bridges of Brixton, and the ubiquitous orange glow of street lighting which so often bleeds away lucent subtlety.
So I was delighted when I heard about Light Show at the Southbank’s Hayward Gallery. Tickets sell out most days and you can see why. Not only does it come at a perfect time of year for the sun-deprived but – to put it bluntly – people like light. It doesn’t have to be explained by a critic or understood in the context of Dadaism. From the toddlers giggling in Carlos Cruz-Diez’s multi-coloured rooms to the woman chuckling about BBQing bits of meat against Cerith Wyn Evans’ heat-kicking columns, everyone seemed to have a smile on their face. That includes the particularly brilliant exhibition invigilators who guided us in to near-pitch black rooms with singsong reassurances of ‘Keep to the right and there won’t be no fright’. Glittering LEDs and strobe lit fountains triggered happy memories of the dance floor whereas Anthony McCall’s simple installation encouraged such playfulness noone wanted to leave. In fact, I enjoyed almost every piece. As did my dad who struck a rather fine Elvis pose in a set of red spotlights, of which I did not take a photo.
If you can, go. The show is fascinating, accessible and a great use of the Modernist gallery space. Indeed, as the exhibition organisers put it:
“Light has the power to affect our state of mind as well as alter how we perceive the world around us”
Happily, The Brick Box’s adventures in light continue this spring with the third event in our Unorthobox series. It will be an evening of physical theatre, projections and installations and the official opening of the Wandsworth Arts Festival hub on 4th May. We’re collaborating with the brilliant Karavan Ensemble and Passenger Films collective so make sure you’re there because it’s going to be very special and very sparkly.
So, in the words of a dear friend and Brick Box security guard: love and light folks, luv n lite.