Light IQ Interview the Curator of The Light Show
Rebecca Weir, Design Director of Light IQ Interviews the Curator, Dr Cliff Lauson of The Light Show At The Hayward Gallery
Where does the inspiration come from for the show and how did you select the 22 artists?
‘The idea for the show was to find something interesting to explore, in the history of art. I started with the concept of doing a light show; a development on from the mini history of light shows at The Hayward including James Turrell and Daniel Flavin. So we know light works within the building and responds to the architecture. We then spent a year and a half honing the concept which ultimately became 5 decades, 22 artists and 25 art works. Most importantly it is light used as a sculptural medium rather than the broad category of light things or things which include light. Visual Artists who use light as a visual or sculptural medium is the narrower concept that define the thesis of the show.’
In terms of the pieces chosen, what was the selection process?
‘Each artist is carefully chosen as well as the pieces by the artist. The pieces within the exhibition serve two functions, reflecting both the artist and the artist’s practice. This includes their contribution to the broader theme of artwork that uses light in a sculptural way to shape spaces, and to play with your perception to create object based sculptures. Although light is the unifying thematic the interest of the show is how diverse all the artworks are’.
Given the phenomenal response - which must have exceeded all expectations - does this set the benchmark for introducing more categorisations with light, bringing in more shows such as Crystal Palace and more interactive mediums which engage the audience. Is this a stepping stone?
‘This exhibition follows a trend at the Hayward in the sense that our programme, probably over the past decade, has definitely been contemporary and had a theme to it as experience based installation art. For example, the more recent exhibition ‘Move’, was art and dance since the 1960‘s; so you have, amongst other themes, art and architecture, art and choreography, and this show follows suit from those exhibitions. The phenomenal response has to do with the fact that Light transcends all those disciplinary boundaries so people come at it as a child, a scientist, they come with a date; it has all those different facets and aspects to it which is shown by its popularity’.
Are people studying audience responses to the installations and how people are interacting with the spaces?
‘Formally there is nothing official but there are a couple of MA students who are looking at light in public spaces, or light and how people react to that. However, as overall phenomena everyone within the space watches everyone else which is what happens with this kind of art’.
Do you have a favourite piece?
‘I have many favourite pieces, I can’t boil it down to one’.
Daniel Flavin’s two pieces are set very close together; did you choose the pieces and then choose the space?
‘No. I created the entire space in relation to the artworks, it is a jigsaw puzzle and it is all very chicken and egg and it happens very organically in the planning stages. All the walls are built specifically for the show with the sole purpose of showing the light works. So for example, Daniel Flavin’s work requires his own space. I wanted to have two pieces in the show as he was such a precursor, there were so many revelations in his work, and I needed to acknowledge a couple of the things which were remarkable in terms of what he did, so there is his first colour corner piece and his first piece which historically addresses architecture’.
Does Turrell set up his pieces?
‘No, he has a studio which recreates it so Turrell can focus on new work’.
Is there anyone else you would have liked to have featured?
‘There is not an individual but in terms of technology then perhaps the only thing which is missing is lasers but I did not feel the need to subtract an artist to get that technology in. I was very content with how the exhibition hangs together as a family. I am amazed and chuffed that the wish list which I started with has been largely realised’.
It is a very immersive exhibition; do you think it has brought in a broader audience?
‘Yes, because light crosses so may boundaries, not just artistic but it is multi-disciplinary technically speaking. As a show it is a young, cool show, you don’t have to be into visual art to want to come and see it, light is accessible in that way. I am happy as a curator and as an art historian that the layers are there, that if you want to know more and the rational and how it fits together and what statement it makes in terms of art history that is all there but you do not need to know it to enjoy it as an exhibition’.
My feelings are that looking at people’s instincts within Anthony McCall’s piece they are freer, however, in the more open spaces, particularly the spaces where colour is projected people seem more hesitant to play, more reserved, they become onlookers not participants. At what point do we start to over-think a space as opposed to enjoy it? I would love to see a study of how much time people spent in the different spaces?
‘What we do know is that people are spending a lot longer in this experiential show as opposed to object based shows. It is kind of obvious because it is experiential and you let your eyes do the work but people have as much fun in the coloured spaces as the black and white.
I think having chosen each artist it is not like I have particularly said this artist ticks this box and then put them all together. Each artist, through their artwork, does focus on a particular aspect of light. McCall’s voiding of colour allows the audience to focus on the emotion of light as a tangible, material experience. This is the great thing about visual art, where in a gallery space people are in the mode of contemplation, it can be fun, they are not exclusive but each artist asks you to slow down and look at an aspect of light rather than trying to completely dazzle you or just to look cool’.
The Light IQ Design team later joined Dr Lauson for a tour of the exhibition. Favourite pieces included Jenny Holzer, Leo Villareal and Olafur Eliason. We would like to thank Dr Lauson for the time and passion he devoted to the most important subject in the world. For without Light........