The Art of LightThe Art of LightThe Art of LightThe Art of Light

     |    Friday, der 9. October 2009

Light Art from Artificial Light, curated by Peter Weibel and Gregor Jansen was an the exhibition at the ZKM (Zentrum für Kunst und Medientechnologie) in Karlsruhe from Nov. 19, 2005 to August 6, 2006. Below you can read excerpts from the press release and find out more about Thomas Wilfred’s positions in the world of Light Art.

The world of the visible is the world of light. Art as a visual field – as painting shows– has always been bound to the universe of light. Albert Einstein solved the mystery of light’s essence in 1905 through wave-particle duality. Light is both an electromagnetic wave and a stream of particles. It’s a form of energy that would travel in a vacuum at a speed of 299,792,458 meters per second. When light hits a prismatic structure, it splits into differing wavelengths that are visible as colors. Illumination is measured in units known as lux. The quantity of light emitted from a light source is measured in lumens.

Painting has concentrated primarily on depicting natural light and the wave phenomena that are known from optics and other fields. It wasn’t until 1889 when Heinrich Hertz discovered in Karlsruhe »that electric waves travel in the same way as optical waves« (Max Planck, 1894) and at the same speed, that there the real and symbolic relationship between light and electricity was understood. Since, the universe of artificial light has had a influence on all of us. .

Electrical light has revolutionized and democratized our living environment more than any other medium in the past century. The most diverse areas of daily life, of working life, of consumer activities, media etc. have been transformed by artificial light– as has art. Since the beginning of the last century, artificial light has increasingly illuminated ever more streets, shop windows, billboard signs and houses in an unprecedented abundance and form. We live in cities and gardens of light. Observed from airplanes and satellites, the nighttime Earth glows like a cluster of stars. Works of light become artificial stars, changing the visible world and people lives as a whole. Ever since the victory over the night and the sun, we have been living in a paradise of artificial light.
For nearly a century, artists have been using this immaterial medium in the form of light bulbs, fluorescent and neon lights, glimmering LEDs or powerful floodlights. Art has increasingly turned from the illusionary representation of natural light to the real application of artificial light. Art has evolved from depicting the prismatic rainbow colors of natural light wave phenomena on a canvas to broadcasting electrons and photons of artificial light. Artists create autonomous, luminous objects and rooms or even illuminate entire landscapes.
The electrification of the world inspired artists of different genres such as Futurism, Constructivism, Kinetic Color Music and the Bauhaus. Through art directions such as material painting, film, Kinetics, and Op Art, immaterial artificial light created an independent medium: light art. Light art pioneers such as László Moholy-Nagy, Thomas Wilfred, and Zdenek Pesánek illustrate the great elementary attraction this medium has for artists. This is also apparent in the 1920’s avant-garde films by Hans Richter, Walter Ruttmann, Viking Eggeling and Oskar Fischinger.

… Outstanding work groups such as ZERO (Germany), GRAV (Franceh), Gruppo T and Gruppo N (Italy) document the beginnings of immersiveand interactive, even virtual environments. Many artists went beyond the use of static light and tied light into kinetic elements. Fascinating work in this context can be seen by Nicolas Schöffer, Jean Tinguely and Gerhard von Graevenitz.

… Earlier examples by important artists such as Dan Flavin, Bruce Nauman, Keith Sonnier, James Turrell, Mario Merz, François Morellet, Ferdinand Kriwet and Maurizio Nannucci elucidate the significant use of artificial light in Concept Art, Op Art, and Arte Povera, among others.

Current productions are vibrant examples of the diverse utilization of artificial light. Works by Heimo Zobernig, Sylvie Fleury, Jenny Holzer oder Cerith Wyn Evans, along with Jorge Pardo, Tobias Rehberger, Steven Pippin and Olafur Eliasson give insight into aesthetic, conceptual, design and material approaches to questions of the immateriality and perception of light. Whether beautiful, provocative, playful or minimalistic, personal or public: Tracey Emin, Martin Boyce, Hermann Pitz, Mischa Kuball, Tatsuo Miyajima and Mike Kelley – show the complex, voluptuous and colorful ways that a fascination with light has influenced avant-garde and pop culture. The most recent contributions and newest technologies – the post modern play with form and content – are represented here by Berta Fischer, Benita Liebel, Anselm Reyle, Simon Dybbroe Møller, Björn Dahlem as well as Jason Rhoades and Zaha Hadid. Meditations on spheres of light, ironic references, and delicate plays of light…
Curators: Peter Weibel, Gregor Jansen

Curatorial Assistants: Andreas F. Beitin, Yvonne Ziegler (more…)

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