27 April 2013

Light Show at the Hayward Gallery

Light Show at the Hayward Gallery is another event that I got in to via personal recommendations, got in to late and only got to see because it was extended. It was also another show that exceeded expectations.

The extended run was still sold out so the best I could do was a timed ticket at 6pm on a Saturday, which actually worked well for me as I was able to see People at the NT next door in the afternoon.

Light show is a mix of pure art, if there is such a thing, and things designed to fool the eye.

There are several large installations spread across the oddly designed interior space of the gallery. The twinkling candelabra of programmed lights sits just inside the entrance. It sets the scene for what follows though it is quickly eclipsed by more interesting displays.

The first magic comes with a "solid light" installation by Anthony McCall. Thin beams of light cut solid shapes through the darkness like translucent sheets of paper. Moving through them is eerie as they look as though they should be solid. The effect improves as other people move through the light cutting black lines in to it. The final confusion comes as the white lines rotate slowly.

This is the display where the strict, and often repeated, no photography rule is broken the most.

This seven-sided star is a simpler effect but not as simple as it first looks. Looking at it straight on and it is just a star but moving to a side the shape soon disappears as the beams are not focused on the same point, they meet at different distances from the far wall.

Colour features in another of my highlights.

Three connected rooms are bather in blue, red and green light. This is too much for the brain to handle.

Entering the blue room first the brain quickly decides that the blue light is not real and adjusts accordingly. The blue room becomes white.

Moving to the vivid red room and the trick repeats and the red fades to little more than an off-white pink. Looking back at the blue room and it looks blue again. The green room completes the triad of tricks. Moving back and forth between the rooms is confusing but in a curious and safe way.

My favourite effect also confuses but this time it is a little scary too.

The idea is fairly simple. A white room, with a wire mesh box in the middle and within that a strong point of light that moves smoothly between two opposite corners. The effect is startling. As the light moves closer to and further away from each face of the cube the shadows on the wall move in and out alarmingly. It is impossible to believe that only the light is moving when it looks for all the world as if it is the walls and cube that are moving.

These are just a few of my personal highlights, and there were others. The overall impact is impressive and almost overpowering in its cunning and beauty.

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