Light and Shadow: The creation of meaning through the use of artificial light sources in gallery-based contemporary installation practice.

This practice-based PhD examines the presentation of absent information, of things that are not shown, of things that are missing. By giving space to the invisible there is in reverse a considerable importance given to the information which is provided, as this information can be used to convey incompleteness. A lack of information can be shown through a created incompleteness in the content of a picture as well as through very practical givens, in particular through light and darkness in the gallery context. This research deals with the factor of light in form and content.

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I am particularly interested in submitting and placing information through the use of light that is found in our everyday life. The research of this PhD is based on artworks that show everyday lighting situations to inform an atmosphere. Traffic lights, construction site lighting, shop window lighting: our cultural context sets up a tremendous flood of information, which is conveyed with the help of light or light signals. One could say that there is not much information that is perceptible without light in general, but few would negate the fact that through the last decades the amount of semantic codes in our environment that work through light have increased exponentially. Using such signals by extracting them out of their familiar context shifts the kind of attention in which they are normally perceived. But this procedure does not only affect the extracted subject. In claiming this subject is a negative mould another considerable importance corresponds to it. A negative mould always conveys incompleteness by calling attention to the original positive mould that is not shown, by calling attention to the things that are missing. Do these missing things inform a meaning because they tell a story from which the viewer cannot escape, as our brain always tries to complete incomplete pictures with the missing information? And what happens to elements in an artwork that replace the original context of the extracted subject?

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Within the aforementioned contexts, this PhD will deal with the factor of light in form and content in gallery-based contemporary installation practice. This will lead on the one hand to providing information through light and light signals, known from our everyday life. On the other hand, it will mean concentrating on the atmosphere that is created through the absent information in an artwork.

This results in the following research questions: How is it possible to create meaning through darkness and absent information? How do the presence and absence of what is being shown relate to each other? Is there a way to give information more intensely by not showing its content? To what extent does the genesis of the material enhance the incompleteness of the narrative and vice-versa? And what is the role of the perspective used to destabilise the observer’s perspective?

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Methodology:

The research will involve the combination of lighting signals in the form of light and video installation and various constructed gallery-spaces. The artistic methodology is fundamentally based on the comparison of created atmospheres in gallery-based contemporary installation practice. These atmospheres always contain poetic and narrative elements. They emanate serenity through their composition and at the same time they provide information by transmitting familiar signals. These signals are light sources which are extracted out of their quotidian context. Modifications of those lights may be required in order to present them within the gallery context. The 50 to 100cm high lights of a shoreline at night will for example be replaced with self-soldered 4mm-long LED lights. This is necessary in order to be able to show a several kilometre long shoreline in a five meter wide gallery space.

Further, if only light frequency and colour are important to imitate a certain light source, the light source in the gallery space will be one that imitates only these elements. This will be done in order to point out the associations which are triggered not by the functions of the light sources, but by the created atmospheres. A TV light for example will be replaced with another device that only imitates the frequency and colour of an original TV.

Whereas the increasing artificiality in our everyday life causes a certain kind of distraction, I want, in the first instance, to extract those artificial scenarios and present them within the gallery context to offer a space of concentration. This perceived abundance of signs in our environment should at this juncture be taken as just one of the changes in the present renewal of the language of signs, as a stylistic term, even though it might be the most concise stylistic term in our current language of signs.

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