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Light Research @ MMU

FROM LIGHT TO DARK: DAYLIGHT ILLUMINATION AND GLOOM

FINALLY…. My book has now been published by Minnesota Press!! The contents provide in-depth analysis of many of the themes discussed on this blog within three distinct sections: daylight, illumination and darkness. More specifically, here is the chapter outline:

Part I. Light
1. Seeing with Landscape, Seeing with Light
2. Under the Dynamic Sky: Living and Creating with Light
Part II. Illumination
3. Electric Desire: Lighting the Vernacular and Illuminating Nostalgia
4. Caught in the Light: Power, Inequality, and Illumination
5. Festivals of Illumination: Painting and Playing with Light
6. Staging Atmosphere: Public Extravaganzas and Homely Designs
Part III. Dark
7. Nocturnes: Changing Meanings of Darkness
8. The Re-enchantment of Darkness: The Pleasures of Noir
Conclusion: The Novelty of Light and the Value of Darkness

The book can be accessed at http://www.combinedacademic.co.uk/from-light-to-dark

It’s reasonably priced!!

March 27th, 2017 - 03:40am

Progress Illuminated in Blackpool

In current times, Blackpool is a seaside resort more typically associated with the past, perhaps through a nostalgic lens. However, two outstanding place-specific art works installed as part of the town’s Lightpool Festival (http://www.blackpool-illuminations.net/LightPoolWalk.htm) suggest how the town was once particularly future-oriented. In making works especially designed for the occasion, Mark Titchner reminds onlookers of how Blackpool was once a hotspot of modernism and forward thinking. plenty-and-progress

His Plenty and Progress and What Use is Life Without Progress recall that the motto of the town is PROGRESS. This was never an empty boast, and was underpinned by a range of historical developments: the construction of the remarkable Tower, the early use of electric light, the early adoption of a tram system, and the mechanical marvels and rides that still enthral visitors to the Pleasure Beach. Plenty and Progress is projected onto the façade of the Town Hall and these words are surrounded by a shifting myriad of animated light designs, foregrounding how the resort’s illuminations are also part of this modern thrust, and refuting contemporary prejudices that modernism was invariably austere and functional.  The inference is that Progress is productive of plenty, not just of food, commodities and work, but also plenty of pleasures too. The colourful embellishments also recall the beautiful neon illuminations that adorned the seafront in the 1920s and 30s, with their clear lines and curves, notably conjuring up the designs of Claudegan, whose designs on paper can presently be viewed in the Grundy Art Gallery. progress

Facing the seafront, the larger work, What Use is Life Without Progress, offers a bleaker, more insistent message, in which progress is conversely associated with compulsion and instrumentality. The very form of the display evokes an authoritarian form of propaganda issued by the state, urging citizens to strive for improvement. Two very satisfying and provocative works.

 

October 31st, 2016 - 11:55am

Neon Extravaganza in Blackpool

The current exhibition at Blackpool’s ever-interesting Grundy Gallery is The Charged Line, a riot of neon that comprises a survey of the multiple creative applications of this most prolific form of illuminated art. We have suggested before that neon evokes many symbolic associations, including the futuristic, nostalgic, seedy and commercial, and the works in the exhibition do trigger many resonances. It is difficult to do justice to the richness of the show so three examples must suffice.

green-pimpDavid Batchelor’s outlining of a encrusted, time-worn concrete mixer with garish green neon transforms a utilitarian object into a magical thing, highlighting its shapely form and drawing attention to its battered material form. Green Pimp, from 2006, also captures something of Blackpool itself in its combination of the earthy and the glamorous. It also reminds us of the labouring bodies and industrial machinery that typified the working worlds  of the places from which millions of tourists flocked to the resort in search of thrills and glitter .f-morellet

François Morellet’s three dimensional work, Triple X Neonly, occupies a corner of the gallery with six lines configured to form three cross-cutting X’s that conjure up the abject  areas of the city in which the sex industry prospers. Yet this work of geometric abstraction easily transcends these all-too apparent cultural references, providing an immersive work that bathes room and visitor alike in a warm red glow that dazzles and charms visual perception. More broadly, the work amply demonstrates how light art invariably radiates effects beyond the symbolic.kosooth

Joseph Kosooth, an early pioneer of the approach, joins other artists that feature in a room devoted to neon works that foreground language and text. His iconic work from 1965, Neon, blurs the distinction between an object and the word that represents it – since the word seems to be rendered in the very material that it describes.  However, what masquerades as a cool white illuminated form produced by neon is in fact filled with another gas, namely argon. Thus the sign does not in reality represent the word that it features.

The exhibition continues until January 7th  2017, and visitors are advised to include this masterful show in any outing to Blackpool Illuminations or a trip to sample the resort’s  many vernacular charms.

October 24th, 2016 - 20:37pm

Voice Array: Lozano-Hemmer in Blackpool

Blackpool’s Grundy Gallery (http://www.grundyartgallery.com/) recently inititated an annual exhibition of light-related art that will synchronize with the two months of the year when the resort displays its traditional lluminations. The exhibition, Sensory Systems, featured fantastic work by  renowned light artists Angela Bulloch, Anthony McCall, Conrad Shawcross and Ann Veronica Jansenns. The gallery is small but the show generated  much excitement, especially the extraordinary Voice Array (2011) shown by  a fifth artist, Rafael Lozano-Hemmer. In a bare, rectangular room, visitors were invited to shout, scream, relate a sentence or make any vocal noise into a microphone placed adjacent to the entrance to the room. This sparked a subsequent repetitive recording of this utterance, which corresponded with  the flashing of a light close by at about shoulder height.

hemmerThereafter, this brilliant white light moved along a horizontal band  that encompassed the whole of the room, and as it did so, the recording merged with a growing array of previous pronouncements to progressively create an accumulating medley of sound, the extending light pulsing in response. At the end of the journey, the travelling illumination has accompanied the cumulative sound of the 288 vocal interjections that constitute the piece. Yet the addition of one more contribution means that the last recorded utterance must disappear forever. Accordingly, upon completing its voyage around the room, the light briefly ceases, and this sound is heard for the last time in isolation. So it is that one can participate as part of a shifting community of gallery visitors, with separate contributions each translated into flashes of light and compressed together in time and space. Astonishing.

December 5th, 2015 - 19:49pm

Sex work, liminality and light

Posted by Mary Laing, Northumbria University

I really enjoyed reading Emily Bowe’s blog entry: Massage parlours: an alternative Blackpool illuminations (http://www.lightresearch.mmu.ac.uk/massage-parlours-an-alternative-blackpool-illuminations-posted-on-behalf-of-emily-bowes). The post appealed to me on a number of levels; initially because I grew up not too far from Blackpool, and regularly as a child and later as an adult, made the trip to walk along the prom to see the illuminations and to eat hot salty chips with a wooden fork, through gloved fingers.

chips at the illuminations

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Photo: Chips at the ‘luminations  (Image with permission of Ed Gibney, 2012)

But also, it interested me because like Emily, I have recently started to think about spaces of sex work in terms of their illumination (or lack of). I have visited the window districts of Antwerp and Amsterdam, the massage parlours of Manchester as well as the heady night-time sex spaces of Bangkok, and my memories of these spaces centre on the colourful neon signs lighting up the night; they contrast starkly with the ‘gloomier’ and less illuminated spaces of street sex work I have visited in Manchester, Liverpool and Vancouver. Indeed, spaces of sexual commerce are traditionally depicted to ‘come alive’ at night-time, and the night has long been (re)presented as an appropriate play-scape for those seeking transgressive and sexual pleasures in the city

soi cowboy

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I intend to collaborate with artist Gloria Ronchi (http://www.axisweb.org/p/gloriaronchi/), whose practice uses light as a medium to create immersive art spaces, Alessandra Mondin (University of Sunderland) and visual anthropologist Michael Atkins on a project exploring themes of sex work, liminality and light.  Throughout the residency we will consult with sex workers and other experts and work towards the creation of a public art space to explore these themes. We will ask questions like: how does light affect access to different spaces (physical, digital and psychological; private and public) and why? How does the (lack of) illumination of public spaces influence the affective experiences of those spaces? Levels of light and darkness provoke ‘affective and emotional resonances, cajoling bodies into movement, activating passions, instigating sensual pleasures and discomfort’ (Edensor, 2013: 456), so how does this subtle balance affect the ambiguity of red light landscapes? And, how are concepts of sexuality reinforced, challenged, or subverted through the dark?  Through the work we will seek to develop a more nuanced, corporeal, sensate and visceral reading of sex work and commercially sexed spaces. We hope it will develop unique and original insights, whilst challenging public perceptions of sex work through art.

November 3rd, 2014 - 11:38am

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