Disco, drama and physics at the Light Show

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Bring me home, please

The latest exhibition of the Hayward Gallery is quite hard to resist. If you're into scientific experiments and geeky installations, you're bound to find something that will excite your senses and curiosity. But the exhibition is also a joy to visit if all you're asking for is pure entertainment, disco and thrills.

The Light Show displays the works of artists from the 1960s to the present day who have used artificial light as a medium.

With all the word plays about light at their disposal (the journalists certainly had a field day writing about "stepping into the light", a "dazzling show", the "light at the end of the tunnel", etc.), the curators chose the simplest title at their disposal and I decided to borrow their minimal approach and visited the show without even reading the texts explaining the works. That was a first for me, and also probably a very dumb idea as i've missed most of the references and dimensions of the works. But i only realized it when i went back home and flipped through the catalogue (a little gem that one!)

Here's just a couple of my favourite works:

Ann Veronica Janssens' Rose is a room filled with fake mist that makes the intersecting beams of light appears as if they formed a luminous, tangible star.

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Ann Veronica Janssens, Rose, 2007. Photo Linda Nylind for the Hayward Gallery

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Ann Veronica Janssens, Rose, 2007.Image Happy Famous Artists

Katie Paterson never puts a wrong foot. I discovered her work only a couple of years ago and she keeps amazing me with each new piece. Paterson plays with moonlight, melting glaciers, dead stars, grains of sand and Gamma Ray Bursts. Light Bulb to Simulate Moonlight is a specially manufactured lightbulb that softly illuminates a small exhibition room with artificial moonlight, a light that, due to increasing light pollution, is almost never experienced in urban settings.

In the same way that lighting manufacturers created the standard incandescent 'daylight' bulb, Paterson worked with a lighting engineer to produce its opposite: a bulb that replicates the light emitted when the moon is in opposition with the sun. The finished artwork consists of a single, lit bulb together with a sufficient quantity of spare bulbs to provide a lifetime's supply of moonlight.

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Katie Paterson, Light bulb to Simulate Moonlight, 2008. Image Happy Famous Artists

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Katie Paterson, Light bulb to Simulate Moonlight, 2008. Image Happy Famous Artists

Carlos Cruz-Diez's neon-lit installation, Chromosaturation, gave me an almost physical understanding of the expression 'solid colours'. You walk from one red room to a green one, to a blue one. A few geometric shapes interrupt the monochromatic environment.

'Since the retina usually perceives a wide range of colours simultaneously,' Cruz-Diez explains, 'experiencing these monochromatic situations causes disturbances. This activates and awakens notions of colour in the viewer, who becomes aware of colour's material and physical existence. Colour becomes a situation happening in space.'

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Carlos Cruz-Diez, Chromosaturation, 1965-2013. Photo Linda Nylind for the Hayward Gallery

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Carlos Cruz-Diez, Chromosaturation, 1965-2013. Photo Linda Nylind for the Hayward Gallery

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Carlos Cruez-Diez, Image Happy Famous Artists

Ceal Floyer casually threw a puddle of light on the floor.

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Ceal Floyer, Throw, 1997. Photo: Linda Nylind

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Ceal Floyer, Throw, 1997. Image Happy Famous Artists

Bill Culbert's Bulb Box Reflection II easily tricked me. It looks like an incandescent light bulb and its reflection in a mirror but it's actually the opposite. The bulb's reflection is alight while the actual bulb itself is not.

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Bill Culbert, Bulb Box Reflection II, 1975. Photo Linda Nylind

The exhibition isn't overly socially-engaged, it is mostly sheer distraction from the grey London February. However, one of the works on the top floor is a huge stock exchange-style display of LED texts taken from declassified US government documents exposing the operations, interrogations and abuse that took place at Guantánamo.

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Jenny Holzer, Monument, 2008

Another politically charged piece is Reality Show. Iván Navarro invites visitors to step inside a phone box. Once you've closed the door behind you, you discover that the illuminated space above and below you seems to go on for ever. The sides have one way mirrors and when your eyes try to escape the vortex below and the one above, all they can find is your own face in the mirror. It's disturbing, with this infinite space that makes you feel isolated from the rest of the world. The work is a reference to the interrogation rooms and disappearances that characterized the brutal regime of Pinochet in Chile, where the artist grew up.

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Ivan Navarro, Reality Show. Photo Linda Nylind for the Hayward Gallery

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Ivan Navarro, Reality Show. Image Happy Famous Artists

A couple more images and i'll close shop for the day:

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Philippe Parreno, Marquee, 2008. Image Happy Famous Artists

Just for the title:

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Cerith Wyn Evans, S=U=P=E=R=S=T=R=U=C=T=U=R=E ('TRACE ME BACK TO SOME LOUD, SHALLOW, CHILL, UNDERLYING MOTIVE'S OVERSPILL...')

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Leo Villareal, Cylinder II, 2012. Photo Linda Nylind for the Hayward Gallery

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Ivan Navarro, Burden. Image Happy Famous Artists

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Conrad Shawcross, Slow Arc Inside a Cube IV, 2009. Image Happy Famous Artists

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Anthony McCall. Image Happy Famous Artists

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Carlos Cruez-Diez. Image Happy Famous Artists

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Brigitte Kowanz, Light Steps, 1990. Image Happy Famous Artists

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Jim Campbell, Exploded View, 2011. Photo Linda Nylind for the Hayward Gallery

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Image Happy Famous Artists

Light Show is at the Hayward Gallery in London until Sunday 28 April 2013.

Previously: The Magic Hour.
See also: Ann Veronica Janssens at the EACC in Castellon, Spain.

This way for the photo set. But Happy Famous Artists has a much better one.

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