Last week we caught the end of a very popular exhibition of light-based art installations in Southbank, London. One was specifically designed to induce night vision, so the scout in me was happy on that basis alone. It was also nice to see a gallery with a very playful atmosphere.
The photos don’t do the pieces justice, as the installations were highly experiential and immersive. Half of the art was found in the behaviour of others’ reactions. Kids rolled around on the floor, people made funny faces for photos, elderly couples nipped around barefoot with cheeky grins, it was like everyone had been dropped into a blocky virtual reality world. Note the woman banging her head against the wall…
So while the photos aren’t a high-fidelity representation of the exhibit, they bring with them their own quirky insights. In the photo above, the lights on the ceiling appeared to our human eyes to be a deep blood red, but the electronic eyes of our camera struggled with the saturation and stripped the red out, leaving a rack of glowing gold bars.
Plus with photos you never have to stop dancing…
In theory viewers weren’t supposed to take photographs, and for the first few installations people restrained themselves. But as it went on the installations were in increasingly confined and private spaces, and they made such interesting and absurd images that people indulged themselves. By the end of the gallery it was a free for all.
Alongside the frivolous strobes and cinematics, there were some sombre themes like Abu Ghraib and Pinochet. This piece was lit up with overlapping text of leaked US embassy cables. The barrage of text in different colours let you follow a single thread at a time but never everything, a nice play on the limits of our attention when faced with information overload.
Other pieces harked back to simpler, pre-human forms of light, like the taste of moonlight intended for those who rarely see the sky without the glare of urban lights.