~e; photonic AcT-IF-ArT
Mon, 17 Dec 2001 09:40:24 -0600
[many may have heard of this exhibit because of the celebrity-factor
involved. happend to see it on the TV news, and the installation seemed
to involve an industrial fluorescent light box going on and off, on and off.
appeared that a big recessed light box, possibly with a transformer/ballast
which makes a large buzz when the lights are turned on, may be part of it,
such as when turning on an industrial lighting system. while the artist has
little comment, and at first i was dismayed at such 'stuff' due to its lack
of interpretative meaning, from the artiste, it makes a smile nonetheless.
a guess is that sometimes things cannot be explained, but are still full of
power and meaning. one indicator of industrial society has been lighting,
electrical, and a lot of meaning has been given to the idea of, at will, one
turning on and off the switch for harnessing this power/light source, via
the infrastructure that supports it. a few more thoughts are that, in the
act of turning on and off a light like this, it may have an uppper limit to
its materials, how much they can be turned on and off before becoming
inoperable, thus, a type of consumption and degradation of the material
itself (if it breached the upper-limit of testing standards. say, if the
light was turned on and off 100,000 times, it could fail sometime beyond
that threshold, if the threshold was at that rate). the other thing that is
disturbing is the automatism of this function, and the responsibility, some
may say 'morality' of choosing to turn the energy grid on and off at will,
are left to a programmed machine light. and then, its connection to the
larger grid, and the odd load this thing could create (if deployed en masse),
that it would create chaos, with the grid network opererators, in a most
extreme case, having to turn on backup powerplants to keep such a thing
going (not in this case, and hopefully it is on a independent generator) but
there are 'load-balancing' equations for power delivery that flucuate and
are likely measured in the second/millisecond range of power consumption
needs, and such a light sculpture/installation does not play be these rules
as would an electric washing machine that would be on for a period of time.
it is kind of crazy, and culturally, quite symbolic. mainly about the silent
acknowledgement of this device in our common culture. Jasper Johns or
whomever it was made a lightbulb sculpture in lead, the Oldenburgs made
a light socket out of stitched material and stuffing as a soft sculpture,
and others having used lighting, like Dan Flavin i think, in iconographic
modes. the only thing i wonder is why this 'visible' aspect is assumed
the common denominator, as the light itself is only a detail of a much
much larger infrastructure, which travels from e-cord to e-lines to
e-poles to e-transformers to e-substations to e-substransmission
lines and poles, to e-transmission poles, to another e-transformer
substation, to the e-powerplant, to the e-generator, and whatever
modes which are made to make energy into power for making this
a working light (such as coal, oil, gas, nuclear, water, wind sources).
and these power sources, themselves going back to natural resources,
mining, construction, even current geopolitical subjects not being
talked about in the open, in the public sense, where people are indeed
aware of the connections between a light and, say, war, or global
pollution as a result of this automatic on and off switching of artificial
light, something that is assumed to work. what would be interesting,
in a macabre way, would be if such free oppulance of using these basic
things were not willfully turned on, by independent choice, as they
become censored by ignorance of the larger impact of such assumptions
that this is somehow a right to artifice, and its control of light, or even
the non-human machinic automatic on and off of teneous resources. if,
for example, there were a global energy emergency, and this light
indeed was turned off, even censored by the power grid itself, as
a result of one of the very large and unsaid issues related to such
assumptions, well, it may give some more of the story of such an
installation. this does not seem to make anything 'more visible' but
that of the final consumer product. it was at first dissappointing to
consider such a thing, but in the end, the thoughts it brings to mind
is helpful. just wish that things were more understood. instead it
seems like the production of art-consumption, with a lot assumed
and a lot of ignorance about basic everyday events. it is the end
of expressionism, in whatever form. as meaning is not presupposed
in any one act. such a idea could really be interesting, but until an
artist investigates the deep structures it will consist of one-offs.
thanks to * for the fwd. ~e.org]
Lights working, anybody home?
By NIGEL REYNOLDS
Tuesday 11 December 2001
Martin Creed takes in the view that won him £20,000
The £20,000 ($55,800) annual Turner Prize, sometimes also known as
the Prize for the Emperor's New Clothes, was awarded on Sunday to an
artist who exhibited an empty room with lights that flicker on and
off every five seconds.
Martin Creed had warned that people should not look for too much
meaning in his Work 227: The lights going on and off. Enthusiasts
called it a statement against the clutter and consumerism in the
But when his entry for the Turner Prize exhibition was unveiled at
the Tate Britain in London last month, it met with a mixture of
incredulity, attempts at deep philosophising and plain outrage.
Several visitors walked out, saying the exhibit was unfit to be
considered for the most celebrated prize in the art world.
Even by the standards of a prize that has been contested by Chris
Offili's elephant dung paintings, Tracey's Emin's soiled bed and
dirty knickers, and Damien Hirst's sliced and pickled animals,
Creed's work is widely considered exceptionally odd and is likely to
quicken debate about the prize's future.
After seeing the work of the four artists shortlisted this year, many
critics said the prize, for British artists under 50, had plumbed new
depths, was run by a self-selecting cabal and should, after a 17-year
run, be put out of its misery.
Artists are selected for the exhibition on the basis of their body of
work and then choose what they display. The other shortlisted artists
were: Mike Nelson, favourite with bookmakers to win, who works with
rubbish and exhibited a labyrinth of planks; Richard Billingham, who
exhibited photos and videos of his family, notably his alcoholic
father who lives in a Glasgow slum; and Isaac Julien, who exhibited
short films featuring homosexual cowboys.
The singer Madonna kept the controversy alive while presenting the
award to Creed, saying: "At a time when political correctness is
valued over honesty, I would also like to say - right on
motherf-----s, everyone is a winner!"
Channel Four, which was broadcasting the event, quickly apologised to
viewers. Other guests included the designer Stella McCartney and the
comedian Graham Norton.
Previous work by Creed, 33, who was brought up in Glasgow by Quaker
parents, include a scrunched-up piece of plain A4 paper, a ball of
Blu Tak stuck to a wall, and several neon signs bearing messages such
as "The Whole World + The Work = The Whole World and Everything Is
Going To Be All Right".
The artist, who recently moved to the island of Alicudi, near Sicily,
says his work is about the qualities of "nothing".
He says The lights going on and off "activates the whole of the space
it occupies without anything physically being added and I like that
because in a way it's a really big work with nothing being there.
"If I can make something without adding any objects, I feel more
comfortable. It's like, if I can't decide whether to have the lights
on or off, then I have them both on and off, and I feel better about
"My work is about 50 per cent of what I make of it and 50 per cent of
what people make of it. Meanings are made in people's heads. I can't
The judges of the prize, chaired by Sir Nicholas Serota, director of
the Tate Galleries, are more assertive. They insist that The lights
going on and off had qualities of "strength, rigour, wit and
sensitivity to the site".
Simon Wilson, the Tate's communications curator, says: "Creed has
said we live in a world full of objects. He wants to make art that
doesn't contribute to that clutter. He wants to make art where he is
doing as little as possible that is consistent with doing something.
"One year we have dirty knickers on show and people complain about
that - and then when you have something as pure and as spiritual as
this they still complain.
"Creed is a kind of very pure, extreme kind of artist. The fact that
many people find his work so baffling indicates that he's working on
As to why the flickering lights are artistic, Wilson says: "He's
making a work of art by manipulating the existing mechanism of the
gallery light system."
*Prince Charles has been awarded an honorary prize at the world's
most comprehensive exhibition of contemporary art.
He was honoured for "enriching" the Florence International Biennale
Exhibition of Contemporary Art after contributing 20 lithographs of
watercolours depicting his country estates.
electromagnetism / infrastructure / civilization