the lights off

i went with some friends to see martin creed’s controversial unstallation at acca today, the lights off. controversial and unstallation because really all this turner prize-winning artist has done is turn the lights off.

the space consists of three rooms, each progressively further from the foyer and the street, and so each receiving less light from that source. when we arrived some camp fellow was holding court in the first room and talking clumsily about the artist, but this was mostly a distraction. (it was nice to see a group of people standing closely in a circle in a dim room discussing contemporary art, though.)

as an idea, it’s interesting. it takes to the extreme the minimalism fashionable in contemporary art, while commenting on its commodification. and for me it alludes to the history of religious expression and philosophy, how do we express an absence?

the space in which the idea is implemented made it much more than just the idea. i have visited the gallery before, but i had never seen it like this. i felt as if i were in a cave, a crypt or a church. that we are so used to public buildings being lit made me more conscious of the darkness, transforming it from an absence into a presence. it became a sensuous and emotional experience that reminded me of craft, like the loving way a violin is carved.

to have this combined with the clean lines of a modern gallery was a unique experience which i otherwise would not have had. providing an experience both primal and rich by doing something we all do every day, just switching the lights off, not only makes the lights off witty and whimsical, it makes it great art.

maybe you won’t like it, maybe you will, but i urge you to go and have a look before you make up your mind.

the lights off is at acca, 111 sturt st, southbank, until the 4th of december.

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