diamond geezer

 Friday, March 01, 2013

Light Show
Hayward Gallery

(30 January - 28 April 2013)

The Hayward has a habit of curating exhibitions on atypical themes, and here's another. This time it's artworks based on light, so there are a lot of bulbs, a lot of tubes, and a fair bit of shimmering. Indeed it's the diversity of the works that makes the exhibition, and just when you think you've seen everything an artist could do with light another original idea pops up. A few of the 25 works are a bit meh - stuff you could easily have knocked up yourself if you'd had access to the appropriate electrics - but most are cleverer, tricksier and potentially more meaningful. A huge white cylinder drops waves of LED lights in an unrepeating pattern. Classical columns made from fluorescent tubes alight and delight. An arc light inside a metal cage throws geometric shadows around a cubic room. Seven red lamps appear to merge together to form a three dimensional rose. That sort of thing. Two of the exhibits require you don plastic overshoes before you enter because it's important that the floor remains white. One of these features three monochromatic rooms, where the shade of blue, red or green perceptibly changes as your eyes get used to the scene. Several visitors took this as a cue to take photos of their boy/girlfriend turned different colours, despite a strict "NO PHOTOGRAPHY" rule explained at the outset, while the attendants stood outside scrutinising footwear. Light needs space, so a lot of the exhibits took up the entirety of a room. When that's a video projector throwing geometric shapes through a mist you may smile - when that's a single "moonlight bulb" dangling from a cable you may not stay long. Even with a limited number of tickets on sale, queues still developed at a couple of the installations. I wasn't convinced the downstairs line was worth the wait, the red wedge of light did nothing for me. But the upstairs box with one-way glass and infinite floor was rather more fun, even if I couldn't see what faces the others in the queue were pulling at me. They saved the best until last, in my view at least. Olafur Eliasson, who you may remember from the Tate's Weather Project, has placed 27 water fountains in a darkened room and then lit them with strobe light. This freezes the droplets like dancing ice, creating the illusion of crystal droplets and frozen waterfalls, pulsating and tumbling to the ground. Close up, the action is mesmeric - from further away the view resembles a garden of vibrant icy cacti. If that sounds like your thing, Light Show shouldn't disappoint. But book early, because this show is regularly selling out.

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