Last week Pizzy took me to see The Paper Cinema’s Odyssey. The epic tale was told using beautiful hand drawn images projected onto a screen. It was accompanied by a live score, with the addition of some quirky sound affects, including popping bubble wrap to evoke a crackling fire and an electric drill as the engine of a motorbike (the story was modernised). It was an imaginative and creative telling of the ancient Greek poem which kept on the right side of twee; definitely a theatre company to watch out for.
Entering the Light Show at the Hayward was like entering a succession of otherworldly realms. The exhibition demonstrates the power that light has to utterly transform a space. It is an immersive, spectacle of an exhibition; the type that the Hayward does so well.
On entering you encounter what appears to be a gigantic sparkly chandelier.
The sculpture includes 19,600 white LED lights, which create endlessly changing patterns, like fireworks or glittery snowfall. The work is a decadent show stopper, a pleasure to look at; the Kim kardashian of artworks if you will.
There were several powerful installations in the exhibition. Light sculptures work well in their own room, so that the spectator is surrounded by the atmosphere created by the light. One such work was You and I, Horizontal by Anthony McCall. The work is in a dark room, with a projector emitting moving rays of light that the viewer can walk through. The eerie atmosphere is heightened with the use of a haze machine. Walking into the almost tangible light sculpture brought to mind being on one’s death bed and “walking towards the light”. It is probably as close to an out of body experience as you can get to in an art gallery.
A similarly futuristic and trippy installation was Wedgework V by James Turrell. The artist somehow managed to create the deception of what appeared to be another room beyond the room where the spectator is, using angled planes of deep red light.
Perhaps my favourite piece was Ann Veronica Janssens’ installation Rose. You entered the room through a door topped by one of Philippe Parreno’s ‘electric tiaras’ which was perfect the perfect portal for the heavenly ambience inside.
Janssens describes the experience of her indoor haze installations as as being close to altered states of consciousness such as those produced under the influence of drugs or hypnosis. The work contained intersecting beams creating a luminous star and the room was filled with a heady rosy haze. It was an utterly pleasing experience; I felt I could curl up and daydream in that room forever.
Works using fluorescent lights by Doug Wheeler and Dan Flavin were also about the experience of intense colour. They brought to mind what Mark Rothko’s abstract expressionist paintings might look like if they were made out of neon light.
Another memorable piece was Katie Paterson’s Light bulb to Simulate Moonlight. Due to light pollution natural moonlight – a mix of reflected sunlight, starlight and earthlight – is an increasingly rare experience. Paterson goes some way to make up for this by creating a room full of artifical moonlight. Despite that the light came from a light bulb it didn’t feel artificical to me; once in the room I imagined standing by a lake at night in the middle of nowhere, as the artist managed to mimick exactly how moonlight looks reflecting off water.
It is a sensory, romantic, awe-inducing show; primarily about visual pleasure. In the words of Damien Hirst, “what the fuck is wrong with visual candy?” Nothing at all, if you ask me.
PS. I’m loving this video