WE EXAMINE LIGHTS DECORATIONS PRESENCE ACROSS CONTEMPORARY ART, FASHION AND CULTURE.
We’ve considered references from the last thirty years in which lights have become separated from their purpose as a means of Christmas decoration, and placed instead into a conceptual and creative context.
Lisa Milroy’s work speaks in the language of the everyday, with her oil on canvas paintings featuring commonplace objects such as shoes, vases or stamps arranged into grids or scattered into patterns. Milroy’s depiction of Light Bulbs in her piece from 1988 muses on the clinical nature of mass production, removing the bulbs from their original function and depicting them as lifeless relics from a society obsessed with stuff.
Felix Gonzalez-Torres was an artist and activist whose work often centred upon contemplative installation as a comment on the AIDS crisis. The use of electrical light sources in his work represents the finite life span of a human being, and in the Untitled (North) installation (1993) frosted light bulbs are suspended in a linear formation, the cords cascading onto the floor, intertwining like lovers in a final embrace.
There are few designers who stretch the boundaries of fashion, product design and conceptual art further than Hussein Chalayan, who hold a particular fascination with wearable technology. The A/W07 show, titled Airborne, opened and closed with two dresses crafted from 15,000 LED lights embedded behind a gauze of fabric, resembling a pixelated screen displaying the changes of the seasons.
Since 1963, Yayoi Kusama has created mirror-lined chambers as an expression of her interest in never-ending vision and the immeasurable realms of imagination, as with her Infinity Mirrored Room – The Souls of Millions of Light Years Away (2013) installation consisting of limitless constellations of tiny speckles of light. As the artist explained, her life is a dot, one of a million particles. A white net of nothingness composed of an astronomical aggregation of connected dots will obliterate me and others, and the whole of the universe.
The image of Winona Ryder talking with Christmas lights has become the symbol of the Netflix’ series Stranger Things, which reached the “pop-culture phenomenon status” over last summer. Ryder plays single mother Joyce Byers, whose son Will has been abducted by a mysterious entity to a parallel universe, The Upside-Down. Believing that Will can communicate via the power of electricity, she purchases reams of Christmas decorations, paints Ouija board letters on her living room wall and speaks to the lights in a desperate attempt to reach her missing son.