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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

Light Touches: an innovative history of 19th century illumination

Alice Barnaby’s recently published book, Light Touches: Cultural Practices of Illumination, (https://www.routledge.com/Light-Touches-Cultural-Practices-of-Illumination-1800-1900/Barnaby/p/book/9780415663373) offers a fascinating, theoretically sophisticated and critical exploration of the development of 19th century light. By drawing on a remarkable range of examples, Alice demonstrates how the everyday world was dramatically transformed by the use of illumination and daylight, with the emergence of new materials, innovative designs and novel aesthetics. Yet rather than considering this as a top down process through which capitalists, scientists and bureaucrats dispensed illumination, people themselves were intimately involved in the evolution of new ways of presenting public space, their homes and their own bodies. In middle class homes, ladies of leisure experimented with new forms of painting that relied on light to produce transparent images. They also investigated the properties with muslin as a material with which to drape across windows, furniture and their own bodies, playing with its diaphanous qualities. Gin palaces and sites of amusement lured in visitors to enjoy the multiple reflections produced by new technologies that deployed mirrors, creating spaces of fascination, sociability and display, with their refracting shimmers and multiple reflections. People participated in illuminated patriotic, royalist and military celebrations, yet such occasions could be unruly, offering opportunities for violence and political protest before their later evolution into more peaceful events. And in developing a range of contesting aesthetics, artists and gallery owners initiated the use of daylighting to enchant the works they displayed. In drawing on a diverse array of theories and examples, Light Touches reveals that the radical transformation in sensory experience heralded by new techniques of illumination was not merely part of governmental systems of control and rationalisation nor generated by passively consumed spectacles. Instead, in working with the possibilities offered by these developments in illumination, ordinary people fully participated in the dramatic changes in how the world was perceived, produced and judged through experimentation, imaginative play and adaptation.

January 23rd, 2017 - 00:53am

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

The soon-to-disappear lighthouse

Lighthouses have been a crucial  fixture in showing the safety of land to those at sea, often acting as a guiding light to the imperilled mariner. In times when very little illumination was perceptible after dark, it is now difficult to imagine the impact that the beam of the lighthouse would have had as it cut through the gloom. While most lighthouses are now automatically operated and still remain important in guiding ships at night, they have been supplemented by GPS and satellite technologies. In addition, they are increasingly the object of nostalgia, and serve as holiday homes, heritage sites and art galleries.  One lighth ouse on Denmark’s north west Skaggerrat coast has not got long to go. The tall Rubjerg Knude Lighthouse was first lit in 1900, was the home of three lighthouse keepers, and was once equipped with its own gasworks to fuel the illumination and foghorn. When it was first built, the lighthouse was 200 metres inland but over time, the sea has eroded the fragile cliffs and moved ever closer to the building. Simultaneously, the wind has blown the huge sand dunes that now surround and engulf the lighthouse, where formerly there were none. At times, these dunes obscured the landscape from the sea and muffled the sound of the foghorn, and in 1968, the lighthouse ceased to operate, subsequently hosting a museum devoted to explaining sand drift. Eventually, this also became susceptible to sand incursion and closed.swamped

The lighthouse now provides a compelling spectacle with its high white tower entirely surrounded by large dunes. The local authority has recently inaugurated a new staircase that allows visitors to climb to the top of the building to witness the dramatic scenery and pay homage to the lighthouse in its last few years. At present, a different form of light currently shines with the installation of a huge kaleidoscope that casts a dancing sea of light inside the tower as it reflects the sun’s rays, a ghostly reminder of the long extinguished, powerful beam that once cut across the sea. A wind powered prism catches natural light and reflects it down a mirror lined shaft around which the staircase winds. It is anticipated that this attraction will have a short lifespan, for the lighthouse is expected to succumb to tidal incursion by 2023.rujberg-kaliedoscope

 

 

 

September 22nd, 2016 - 08:55am

Matlock Bath Illuminations 2015

Matlock Bath Illuminations run each weekend throughout early September to late October. Attracting around 100,000 visitors annually to this small Victorian holiday resort in England’s Peak District, the central attraction of the event is a parade of locally designed illuminated and decorated boats. Throngs of spectators crowd each bank of the wooded valley of the River Derwent. On the side that lies adjacent to the town, a fairground and food stalls cater to the thousands of visitors, while the other side is arboreal and darker. At an assigned time, the ten or eleven boats, all made by members of the Matlock Bath Venetian Boat Builders’ Association, move into position and one by one turn on their lights as their designers row down the river.Matlock Dr Who

The event was first held to commemorate Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee in 1897 and to honour these earlier displays, a candle-lit boat continues to make its way down the Derwent at the start of the parade. The illuminations on the boats are primarily created via simple bulbs and LEDs, some animated, are powered by lorry batteries, and are co-ordinated to evoke designs drawn from popular culture. They utterly transform what is by day a romantic riverside walk, their bright lights reflecting in the dark waters, seeming to glide past independently.The designs are judged and the winning boat is awarded the Arkwright Cup.Matlock Eiffel Tower

For 2015, the victor was Mickey’s Steam Boat, a design featuring Mickey Mouse and his paddle steamer. Other designs included the Eiffel Tower, a space ship battle, Postman Pat, the Batmobile, and a Tardis and Dalek from Dr Who. This vernacular festival highlights the innovations and creative energies of those who use lighting to create vernacular, festive designs, creations about which this blog is particularly enthusiastic  Matlock Thunderbird

October 25th, 2015 - 19:04pm

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