Electric Light – The fairy of art

LED, traditional light bulbs, fluorescent tubes and neon… One of the first exhibitions at Artipelag was dedicated to electric light as an art form. ”Enlightened” included works by great names such as Joseph Beuys, Tracey Emin and Isamu Noguchi.

Enlightened was on display during the winter months 2012– 2013 – a sharp contrast to the Nordic winter darkness outside the Artipelag windows. ”Light has always played a central part in the history of art. As the traditional bulb is being replaced with more environmental friendly technologies, it felt adequate to pay attention to the artificial light”, says Frida Andersson, Assistant Curator at Artipelag who worked with the exhibition.

"Enlightened" comprised selected artwork featuring electric light by some of the world’s most influential artists: Christian Andersson, Christian Boltanski, Joseph Beuys, Monica Bonvicini, Angela Bulloch, Tracey Emin, Spencer Finch, Dan Flavin, Sylvie Fleury, Felix González-Torres, Mona Hatoum, Jeppe Hein, Jenny Holzer, Joseph Kosuth, Annika Liljedahl, Bertrand Lavier, Mario Merz, Isamu Noguchi, Jason Rhoades and Dan Wolgers. One of the forerunners in light art was the Zero-group, active in the 1960’s. Enlightened also displayed works from three of it’s members – Otto Piene, Gunther Uecker och Hans Haacke.

A visual voyage

It was a visual and intellectual voyage through the art of the 1960s to the present, and an impressive display of various lighting techniques. LED, fluorescent tubes, neon and traditional light bulbs in one wonderful light fair – one example is Corona Borealis by Otto Piene, consisting of 400 bulbs.

From a lighting design perspective; how do you hang an exhibition consisting of so many different light sources with different colours and intensity?

”We shut off the artificial light. But we decided to keep the flow of natural light from the windows. The result was an exhibition transforming with daylight. A dark autumn night or a clear, crispy winter’s day – the experience was totally different”, Frida Andersson explains.

Lemon and light

Lighting technology and artistic expressions have been under constant development since the 1960’s.

”Light as a medium is still highly interesting. The development within lighting technology is also reflected in arts as many artists embrace the LEDtechnology. One of them is Jenny Holzer, whose Lustmord, Erlauf, Arno, Blue from 1999 was included in the exhibition. It is a LED sign with scrolling text sequences. But it’s noteworthy that artists of today still choose bulbs and fluroescents, maybe for nostalgic reasons.” Frida’s own favourite is Joseph Beuys’ Capri Batterie.

”Talking actual size, this is the smallest work in the exhitibion: a yellow bulb on a socket, plugged into a lemon. Beuys created this during his recovery from pneumonia at Capri. It represents his ecological thinking and the utopian idea of an ecological society that’s able to take its energy directly from the sources of nature. It's a nice thought, and it is very up to date in times talking environmental responsibility and energy saving.”

”We shut off the artificial light. But we decided to keep the flow of natural light from the windows. The result was an exhibition transforming with daylight.”

- Frida Andersson, Assistant Curator at Artipelag