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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

FIRE AND FASCINATION IN CARLTON GARDENS

For me, the Carlton Gardens offered the most exciting experiences of Melbourne’s White Night. The south-facing façade of the venerable Royal Exhibition Building provided a superb screen for the captivating projection Rhythms of the Night by Sydney based Artists in Motion. The Southern edge of the park hosted the enticing Sonic Light Bubble by Iness and Tim Newman’s ever-changing Pixel Tree. But I was particularly lured to the Melbourne Museum Plaza. Situated here was the wonderful Nebulous, a pulsing, kinetic sculpture designed by Alex Sanson, a.k.a. Metaform, a strange cyborgian entity that seems to be both organic and mechanical. The intricate frame of the spherical creature, formed from delicate steel spokes and large, shiny sequins, slowly expanded and contracted, offering a quiet, mesmerising counterpoint to the wild Pyrophone Juggernaut some 300 metres away.

The Pyrophone Juggernaut, a futuristic ship assembled from junkyard metal and plastic lay enigmatically quiescent as coloured light played across its strange form. Suddenly though, a giant flame shot skywards from the mast and six riotous crew members clambered aboard to bring it to life, producing an unearthly, cacophonous music and a whirl of movement. The large freight liner alloy wheels and gongs were percussively thrashed as the three steel pipe organs that formed the ship’s sails emitted deep, resonant moans. These primeval sounds were generated by fire, that most elemental of light sources, projected from propane torches and shooting out of the top of the tubes. Swathed in ever-shifting colours of projected light, swirling dry ice and surging flames, the juggernaut is an awesome, compelling spectacle that conjures up both a post-apocalyptic future and an ancient, tribal pre-history.

 

February 20th, 2017 - 04:38am

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

Melbourne’s giant bauble

Besides the vernacular endeavours featured in the entry below, Melbourne has also commemorated the festive season by installing a giant illuminated bauble in the city centre’s Federation Square. Like the huge Christmas lights in New York featured on this blog two years ago (http://www.lightresearch.mmu.ac.uk/the-seasonal-lights-of-manhattan/), the bauble reimagines and honours an ordinary domestic decoration, a familiar adornment on the Christmas tree in millions of homes, but defamiliarizes it by enlarging it to gigantic scale.

From a distance, it looks magical, especially with the façade of St Paul’s Cathedral in the background. This six meter high white bauble, however, has an entrance on two sides and invites visitors to enter into it, so they may be surrounded above and laterally by thousands of tiny, glittering lights, so that they may also engage with the installation at close quarters. This is a design devised for the selfie generation, and indeed, throughout the evening, numerous photographs are taken of groups and individuals both outside and inside the bauble, producing a sociable, interactive hubbub on the square.

 

December 29th, 2016 - 10:00am

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

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