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Saturday Review: The Hayward Gallery's Light Show

Friday 1 February 2013, 12:44

Tom Sutcliffe Tom Sutcliffe Presenter of Saturday Review

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Editor's Note: You can listen to this episode of Saturday Review from Saturday 2 February

Anthony McCall: "You and I", Horizontal (2005) Anthony McCall, ©the artist, courtesy of the artist and Spruth Magers Berlin London, Photo: Linda Nylind

Light is pretty much a sine qua non of any art exhibition - without it you're not going to have a lot to look at. But only in the most literal sense is light what you go to look at. That isn't the case with the Hayward Gallery's Light Show, another of its themed exhibitions of contemporary art. (Not so long ago we reviewed their show Invisible, which was all about art that, strictly speaking wasn't there).

Light Show consists of work explicitly made with light and about light - and in a grey January it's something of an oasis of dazzle. Not everything is bright  - Anthony McCall's You and I, Horizontal (see picture above and below) is a "solid light installation" in a darkened room, a projector cutting through a faint haze in the air to produce a surprisingly tangible cone in the space, in and out of which visitors can move. And other pieces only reveal what they're about after you've spent some time allowing your retina to become saturated with a particular kind of light.

Anthony McCall: "You and I", Horizontal (2005) Anthony McCall, ©the artist, courtesy of the artist and Spruth Magers Berlin London, Photo: Linda Nylind

When you move from one room to another of Carlos Cruz-Diez's Chromosaturation (also pictured below) you find yourself experiencing intense blasts of colour which slowly fade as your eyes adjust. I thought some parts of the show were enchanting but I wonder whether our guests this week might think it a little gimmicky as a form of curation.

Carlos Cruz-Diez, Chromosaturation (1965-2013) Carlos Cruz-Diez, Chromosaturation (1965-2013) ©the artist/DACS, Cruz-Diez Foundation, Photo: Linda Nylind

 

Carlos Cruz-Diez, Chromosaturation (1965-2013) Carlos Cruz-Diez, Chromosaturation (1965-2013) ©the artist/DACS, Cruz-Diez Foundation, Photo: Linda Nylind

 

We've got the writer Sarfraz Manzoor, the novelist Naomi Alderman and the actor Kerry Shale on the programme this week - which means, I guess, that Kerry won't be reading the extract from our novel - Lucy Ellmann's Mimi (a pity in a way, since its New Yorker narrator is right up his vocal street).

Also up for review this week is Stephen Poliakoff's Dancing on the Edge, a new drama about a black jazz band in pre-war London, Simon Stephens' play Port - featuring a tour de force performance from Kate O'Flynn as a young Stockport woman hoping not to replay the disappointments of her mother and father, and Flight - in which Denzel Washington plays an alcoholic pilot who saves a planeful of people, but doesn't walk away from the crash entirely unscathed himself.

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    Comment number 1.

    Listening to Saturday review this evening made me very interested in the Light show. It sounds like a fascinating journey. It would very interesting to hear the views, perceptions and experiences of visitors with common retinal diseases (i.e. diabetic retinopathy, age-related macular degeneration), whose retinal function, response to different lights and light/dark adaptation is likely to be altered.

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    Comment number 2.

    Just wondering why Saturday Review duplicates Late Review on BBC 2. This week Flight, The Light Show and Dancing on the Edge were reviewed on both shows. In fact Flight was reviewed across the board, also on Film 2013, Kermode etc. I mean how many BBC reviewers does it take to review Flight probably about 15 by my estimate. I know what you are going to say about audiences but surely people who listen to Saturday Review probably take in Late Review.

    Dancing on the Edge is so slow I am grateful for my 2x times button. They all talk like chipmunks but at least, it moves it on. It's all very glossy mag, and quite laughable. The X factor auditions, the crisp pressed clothes, the pedantic dialogue the buffed up modern looking actors. I suspect no one looked like that back in those days. 6 episodes. Heavens.

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    Comment number 3.

    ‘Dancing on the Edge’ tells the storey of a jazz band of black musicians from America arriving in London in 1933, and taking London society, including the then Prince of Wales, by a storm. Stephen Poliakoff is a very creative writer, and I found myself thinking ‘This drama is not very realistic’ and ‘I don’t believe that would ever happen’. But why not? It is fiction after all, and fun.
    A problem for me was that I found the music less than exciting. Perhaps, as an old jazz fan, I expect too much. I can see that a drama set against events in the history of classical music, for example, would be much easier. Just hire a modern symphony orchestra and dress them in period costume. Much more difficult to recreate, for the small screen, the excitement of, say, the famous Duke Ellington orchestra of the 1930’s.
    Black music from the USA came to dominate popular music around the world, and the drama shows this happening on this side of the Atlantic. I think I can even remember , as a school boy in the 1950’s, my own parents responding to jazz on the radio by dancing around the sitting room with uncharacteristic abandon and whoops of joy. You could say they were ‘Dancing on the Edge’.
    Steve Alwyn

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    Comment number 4.

    Fantastic show! And enjoyed the radio programme too. This is quite an interesting review as well of the show http://londonwallah.com/2013/02/08/light-invisible/

 
 

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