Archives for posts with tag: science

Anthony McCall’s light sculptures make me want to play. Digitally projected lines in a dark, smoke-filled room make intangible walls of smoky white light. Once my eyes were used to the darkness I spent some time walking through these misty barriers and playing with shadows against a soundscape of trickling water and muted traffic sounds. The water sound feels close, and the traffic far away. I pictured the water like a little brook nearby. It was very relaxing. In one room a man was standing quietly, looking at the light work. I wanted to play around in it but felt like I would be disturbing him. I felt like he was missing out by not walking through the work. The Hepworth’s website talks about the viewers becoming ‘active participants’ which I usually read as art-world speak for ‘go and get stuck in’.

Two video works are also on display. Landscape for Fire, 1972, has a ritualistic, mystical air to it. Three or four people dressed in white walk around a grassy field, setting alight little circular tins set up in a grid. The orange of the flames stand out against the dark grass, the grey sky, and the white clothes made blue by the dawn light. The wind whistles and the matches flare. It was planned but not rehearsed, which is perhaps why it feels organic and very real. Crossing the Elbe, 2015, is different. It’s set in an industrial landscape, all shipyards and high rise buildings. McCall installed three 5-mile searchlights on top of buildings in Hamburg to point in different directions across the city. The video is short shots of the lights bisecting the sky in different parts of the city, with the noise of the city in the background. I was expecting this to feel more hurried, like how a city feels more stressful than a field, but it was as relaxing as Landscape for Fire. Maybe even more so – Landscape for Fire has a sense of urgency to it, like something is compelling those people to light those fires, like they have to do it before daybreak. There is less action, more stillness in Crossing the Elbe. Combined, these two works refuse the dichotomy of urban/busy and natural/peaceful.

McCall’s technical preparatory drawings show the calm logic underpinning the light sculptures. I appreciate artists who can translate cold, hard science into something tangible and emotional. It’s a delight to insert yourself physically into McCall’s light sculptures that look like three dimensional graphs. McCall’s use of light as a medium left me uplifted and lighthearted.

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Monochrome after Van Gogh Sunflowers: 1-12

Sherrie Levine’s show is about art and appropriation. There are bronze casts of works by unknown artists (or at least artists unnamed in this exhibition). There are photographs of reproductions of photographs by Russell Lee. Who made these works? Who do they belong to? Are these authentic artworks?

Complex questions, and Levine’s response leaves me cold. I’m not convinced that reproducing the work of others and saying ‘look, this is appropriation, see how I appropriate’ is enough to make the appropriation ok or worthwhile, and I don’t see what it adds to the debate about appropriation, especially when appropriating stuff that is so often appropriated anyway. Punch up, not down.

Gamelan Figures

Also, I found it boring. I love me some conceptual art, all that shit that makes some people despise contemporary art. But Levine’s Monochromes after Van Gogh Sunflowers: 1-12 is, to me, an oversized Dulux colour chart of Van Gogh’s drabbest colours.

Detail from After Russell Lee: 1-60

Her photo series After Russell Lee: 1-60 interests me a little more. Russell Lee’s photographs of rural American life – generally beaut – are seen by some as exploitative, so maybe there’s a suggestion of ‘how bad is it to reproduce these images when the original artist isn’t exactly clean as a whistle’. It is also conceptually interesting and politically charged for a female artist to work with appropriation of works by famous male artists. But realistically, they’re the same potentially exploitative images. It made me think about rural life in America. It didn’t really make me think about art. Somehow this show didn’t do it for me. If you don’t get to see it today before it closes you’ll survive.

I first saw this exhibition drunk and I loved it and had to go back. I imagine I’ll be going again.

Kwade’s installation is like an eery sci-fi museum. The room is dark, and the pillars in the space create shadows, turned into places to hide behind.

Around the space are placed three bronze sculptures on plinths. They’re somewhere between figurative and abstract – they could be objects from space, they could be melted bones. One looks like a figure in a shroud. They are still and they seem to be watching you. 

The exhibition backdrop is a screen showing an asymmetrical mass floating and turning on a background of TV static. I thought it was a comet, and it reminded me that analog TV static is an echo of the Big Bang (this is legit: https://www.nasa.gov/vision/universe/starsgalaxies/cobe_background.html). The whole room was very other-worldly.

The central installation is a mobile of mobile phones (I absolutely lapped this up). A motorised hanging installation of GPS tracked smartphones show images of the Milky Way. As they spin and rotate, the images change to show the part of the galaxy which the phone is currently facing. All the while a mechanised female voice reads excerpts from the book of Genesis. From where I stand, this is genius. 

The Copernicus-esque image used on the media for this exhibition doesn’t actually feature within the space, but it fits very well. The exhibition text asserts the importance of mapping and location within the universe. It’s also an interpretation of humankind’s constant endeavour to understand their metaphorical place in the universe. Kwade uses advanced modern technology to display highly scientific images all with a biblical soundscape. There are both religious and scientific ways to understand our place as humans, and Kwade’s work suggests that the two are not incompatible.