Light Show, Hayward Gallery: A Review

This is the slightly fuller version of a review I wrote for the culture geeks at To Do List. They’re into free, cheap and offbeat things to do in London and often promote events I might not otherwise hear about. Or they find deals or free tickets for some amazing and unusual events. The Hayward Gallery’s Light Show could have come under mainstream but cheap and yet offbeat categories. 

WOBBLING THE LIGHT FANTASTIC

Stirring Stuff - Picture Credit: www.todolist.org.uk

Stirring Stuff – Picture Credit: http://www.todolist.org.uk

What have you done with your eyes lately? Not that. Come on; they need exercising, delighting, mystifying and mesmerising, don’t they? The Hayward Gallery’s Light Show, with works by 22 artists including Olafur Eliasson, Jenny Holzer, Leo Villareal and Carlos Cruz-Diez, will take your eyes through an extraordinary workout.

From my initial sighting of Villareal’s dazzling Cylinder II until I emerged from Eliasson’s moving, mysterious and magical Model For A Timeless Garden, I was immersed in and captivated by curious and brilliant tricks of the light.

As I wandered through this trippy yet drug-free kaleidoscope of Art meeting Science – sometimes back-tracking as if to confirm what I thought I’d seen – a (more than usual) childlike curiosity was increasingly awakened with each immersing space or boggling installation.

Amazed at artificial light’s brilliance, my mind rattled off questions. How did they do that? Real or illusionary? Is that a ceiling or a light-beam? Why does David Batchelor’s Magic Hour look best when I’m halfway up the stairs? Are we swaying? Is that bottomless? Who spiked my coffee?

Sometimes it felt like one of those crazy houses at the fairground; the one with distorted mirrors, pitch black passages and wobbly floors. While the installations make our pupils and retinas expand, contract, marvel, peer and focus, they also affect our minds, bodies and balance.

By the time I’d been mesmerised and mystified – bathed in colour and light in all forms, wobbled in apparently rocking, rolling spaces, persuaded whole rooms were white when I was certain they’d been pink, or convinced I stood above and beneath infinity yet was invisible in the mirror before me  – my eyeballs were on stalks. Stretched, contorted, shrunken, flipped inside out, frazzled and test-trialled as though they’d been to an ocular gym.

As I blinked in natural light again, I thought of the couple who’d often been beside me as I experienced the exhibition. What the heck was their baby making of it all? He was certainly agog, incredibly quiet – and smiling. But then so were the rest of us.

What is particularly pleasing about an exhibition of artificial light is how, at the end of it, I had renewed respect and awe for the fantastic tricks of natural light – stars, rainbows, shadows, etc. – I can be guilty of taking for granted.

Have you been? I’d recommend it with a thousand glittering, bouncing, expanding and contracting stars. Enjoy your workout.

[Warning: not recommended for those affected by flashing (or other) lights. The jury’s still out on whether it affected my bipolar brain, or not. Only kidding. It could have worked wonders for all I know. I’ve been pretty cheerful since! Thanks to @ToDoListLive http://www.todolist.org.uk]

The Hayward Gallery, South Bank Centre, London SE1 – Until Sunday 28th April 2013.

Advance booking highly recommended. Weekends have been selling out. For same day bookings, call: 0844 847 9910

£11 ticket price – worth every penny – £1.75 booking fee – there are concessionary prices for Seniors, Students and Young People. Free for members.

Video: Lyman Knowles – YouTube

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About Tessa Tangent

I write and I often go off at tangents. Tessa Tangent's my nickname and, at home, I'm called Tessa more than I am my real name, Heather. In the 90s, I had short stories published in magazines like Ludus and For Women. I also won a cherished second prize in a BBC travel writing competition, was the writer of a newsletter for a dry ski slope and had a newspaper article about the slope published. At the same time, I wrote half a first draft of a novel then, for reasons I may reveal, I stopped writing. After a long fallow period, I am writing again - and not a moment too soon...
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