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Light Research @ MMU

ACTIVE PARTICIPATION IN WHITE NIGHT

Melbourne is brought to life during White Night as over half a million people surge into the city centre for an all-night display of light, music and carousing. These crowds are invited to enjoy an array of attractions, comprising various installations, projections and performances. However, some critics assume that large light festivals offer a spectacle that is passively consumed by bedazzled onlookers. This was emphatically not the case at White Night. First of all, certain installations solicit the participation of visitors, without whom they would not be invigorating. Carla O’Brien’s Angel Wings encourage people to position themselves between two large illuminated wings and assume a heavenly pose for the camera, while Pierre Ardouvin’s installation, Purple Rain, devised in homage to popular music icon Prince, entreats visitors to collect a transparent umbrella and walk through a fine purple rain, an experience accentuated by the venue of the event: the narrow Little Lonsdale Street, with its tall buildings and reflecting wet tarmac.

Secondly, numerous festival-goers dress up for the occasion, some wearing absurd wigs or glamorous clothes, others clutching light sabres or adorning themselves with illuminated headgear. These participants significantly contribute to the festive atmosphere of White Night; they are an integral part of its success.

Thirdly, putting themselves firmly in the picture were around 100 protestors who were campaigning against the city’s rather harsh rough sleeping laws. Assembled across the forecourt of the State Library of Victoria upon the façade of which a colourful projection played, they chanted and sang, held aloft banners, brandished an illuminated sign, ‘No Homeless Ban’ and occasionally projected the same slogan across the portico of the library. In hijacking the display, they thoroughly contributed to the sense of event while powerfully making their point.

February 20th, 2017 - 04:42am

Fabulous Melbourne Lightworks

An array of diverse and stimulating works that use light are scattered across central Melbourne. First of all, I revisited the wonderful work of Yandell Walton, who has reconfigured hedancer-2r melancholic work featured on this site two years ago at the city’s  Abbotsford Convent. At a site called Testing Grounds, a space at which artists of all kinds can experiment and display prototypes, Yandell’s work was situated in a container. The skeletal iron structure of the ceiling of the convent’s laundry is redeployed to serve as the backdrop of two different projections: on one wall, a dancer is projected against a surface of white bricks found at the site; on another wall of transparent fibreglass, external lights and the vague outlines of  people from outside meld with the projected shadows of figures moving across the surface.shadows1

At the city’s famous National Gallery of Victoria, a different kind of work makes use of the light from outside. Leonard French’s 40 year old stained glass ceiling, one of the largest in the world, is a vibrant kaleidoscope of intense colour. Visitors are solicited to lie on one of the soft bean bags to gaze upwards at the glowing, multicoloured array above them. Extending the art first initiated by the craftsmen working in medieval cathedrals, French’s masterpiece underlines the extraordinary potency of sunlight reflected through coloured glass. stained-glass-roof

Finally, two very different neon works offer very different effects. Situated in another room of the NGV, Tracey Emin’s ‘The Passion of your Smile’ is a synthesis of the answers provided in a questionnaire that the artist sent to Hollywood actor, George Clooney Rendered so as to mimic Emin’s own handwriting, the neon text vibrantly captures a variety of impressions: glamour, romance, urgency.passion

Danae Velenza’s work is sited in a very different location: a side street just off Melbourne’s busy Bourke Street. Like Lost Children we Live our Unfinished Adventures is literally rendered on a wall by eight neon sculptures in shorthand. The neglected but ubiquitous form of writing deployed to rapidly pin down meaning is honoured by being situated here in the CBD, echoing the endeavours of the city’s admin workers over decades.shorthand

 

 

 

 

 

November 29th, 2016 - 05:00am

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

Atmospheric installation in industrial Melbourne

Over three summer nights (22-24 January), a team of three artists and one geographer (Fiona Hillary, Jordan Lacey, Eliot Palmer and Shanti Sumartojo) set out to explore atmosphere through a three-day ‘site-responsive’ artwork in Melbourne, part of artist Dagmara Gieysztor’s 3 month residency courtesy of Maribyrnong council, contain yourself.

Melbourne - view of bunbury street bridge - smallThe installation took place in two shipping containers located adjacent to a heavy freight rail bridge, which crossed the Maribryong River to reach a giant container yard. Our response to the site used light, sound and vibration. Jordan Lacey has blogged about the sound here ( https://soundandmind.wordpress.com/2015/02/11/live-industrial-soundscape-the-maribyrnong/), but light also played a crucial part.
Melbourne - view of two containers in daylight - smallThere were two illuminated elements to the work. The neon aspect consisted of different lengths and colours that were hung in a bright sketch that recalled the lines of the site. The effect in the daytime was of distinct rods of colour, gentle but vivid. As the twilight turned to evening, however, the neon appeared to grow in strength and luminosity, and the colours became more immersive. The neon blended and mixed, sometimes pulsating gently in response to the vibrations. Glowing colour
Melbourne - view of neon with bike - small The second use of light came with projections of photographs. These captured the subtle textures and patterns of the site that can easily slip out of conscious noticing. Images of paving, cobblestones, weeds, the patina of the rusted steel bridge, tree bark and rippled river water quietly glowed in a low corner. Like the neon, the images only became clearly visible as the light changed, hinting at the quotidian transformation of day to night that shape our experience and perception of space.Melbourne - view of projectionVisitors stepped in and out of the open container, sometimes looking at the neon, sometimes looking out at the view across the river, which had its own lightscape to enjoy. The installation thus drew on its sensory surroundings for inspiration, blending with and into its spatial context.

 

Melbourne - view of container yard - small

February 12th, 2015 - 10:23am

Gavin Turk’s Neon Art at the Bowes Museum

gavin  Turk LobsterOn the night of the 24th January, with other fellows of the Institute for Advanced Study, I visited the Bowes Museum, the fantastic 19th century building rendered in the likeness of a French château, in the North Yorkshire town of Barnard Castle, to enjoy the opening of a fabulous exhibition devised by Gavin Turk. http://www.thebowesmuseum.org.uk/VisitUs/WhatsOn/GavinTurkNeons.aspx?gclid=CNjXr8TgmbwCFZShtAod3H0AnwGavin Turk NailGavin Turk Candle

Bringing together all of his neon works made between 1995 and 2014, these pieces resonate with iconic works by old and modern masters, with popular culture and with themes explored in Turk’s earlier work. Installations include an animated lit match, a large egg, a banana, the radiating vision from a single eye, the Greek letter Phi, a star, an iron cross, a lobster, a candle and three doors in the middle of each wall, matching the one viewers enter. These are accompanied by a work on the outside of the building, Seven Billion Two Hundred and One Million Nine Hundred and Sixty-Four Thousand and Two Hundred and Thirty-Eight (also the title of the show), a number intended to capture the median human population of the earth at the time of the exhibition’s opening. This is matched by another work inside that assesses the amount by which this number has increased during the time it takes to make your way into the interior gallery from the outside – specifically, to 7.201,966,413. The various pieces conjure up various associations of this most evocative of lighting technologies: neon’s early allure as futuristic design, its use in propaganda, the seedy but romantic demi-monde conjured in film noir, the gaudy enticements of Las Vegas, the proliferating mid-20th century urban nightscape of advertising promotion, and the work of other artists. (see Christoph Ribbat’s Flickering Light, http://www.amazon.co.uk/Flickering-Light-A-History-Neon/dp/1780230915 for a detailed account of these changing  cultural uses and meanings of neon.) Yet these works also stand apart from these resonances, the glow of neon picking out their economical, singular lines, enchanting their symbolic and affective charge.Gavin Turk Door

The show will subsequently visit the New Art Centre at  East Winterslow, Salisbury and most appropriately, the Grundy Art Gallery in Blackpool.

Thanks to Julie Westerman and Ulisses Barres de Almeida for photos.

January 25th, 2014 - 16:57pm

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