The first time we visited the International Light Art Center in Unna, cameras were not allowed. We found out later that there are two exceptions to that rule, on every first and third sunday of the month.
On those days there are no guided tours and one can freely roam the cellars of the former brewery, although part of the collection is closed off.
The first installation after the entrance immediately frustrates when trying to capture it. And it is not by accident.
In his light art installation “The Signature of the Word”, the American conceptual artist Joseph Kosuth summons the power of the thought – and at the same time breaks it down. An aphorism of the romantic poet Heinrich Heine (1797-1856) formed by neon tubes glows upward from the bottom of a 10-meter deep room, and yet it is not easily readable.
Exiting the zig zag walkway one steps into a dark universe with typographic stars in fast forward orbit.
Mischa Kuball’s installations question the characteristics of a room in a visual and kinetic way. They move their boundaries and open them in another dimension, far from whatever time and spatial structure. Space and place are comprehended anew; Kuball is interested in the nature of the human surroundings, and in the perception and experience of the human being in that space.
Jan van Munster
Traversing the passage to the next brewery cellar, blue blinking lights in the ceiling catch the attention. Looking up, a multilingual maze in first person lights up a shaft to the surface.
In 2005 van Munster created his light installation “ICH (In dialogue)”, which is constructed in a former shaft of the Linden brewery. The installation creates a visual link between the entrance of the Center for International Light Art and the museum’s underground vaults.
Jan van Munster’s creations combine a quiet, uncompromising simplicity and poetry. Everything that van Munster realizes is located between extreme opposites, between plus and minus, rough and specular, male and female, light and dark.
Hello, Welcome, Goodbye by Stefan Reusse hides in a nook in one of the hallways.
Eliasson’s room, like much of his work, uses light to interfere with visual perception. By eliminating motion, a stroboscope transforms two waterfals into curtains of still hovering blinking drops of water. A variation on his wonderful Water Pendulum installation from 2010.
Waterfalls, rainbows, fog or light are the motifs with which Olafur Eliasson refers to nature in his works of art. What appears as nature or what reminds one of nature is only pretense. In the context of art and in its bare staging, it becomes something estranged: unnatural and artificial.
In the unrestored cellars of the former brewery many fixtures remain in place. Morellet’s work seems to blend into the language of the rooms, working with it rather than just being there.
As early as 1950, Morellet described himself as an “abstract painter” and was a pioneer in using neon tubes as the core material during the 1960s. In his honour, a retrospective – in close collaboration with the artist himself – was curated. Early works from the 1960s as well as current installations from 2006 to 2015 will be shown.
With his installation “Totentanz” (Dance of Death) from the series “Théâtre d’Ombres” Christian Boltanski follows up on both his intention of securing evidence, as well as on the old tradition of shadow play: numerous copper figures are hanging on four small stands. Illuminated and moved by fans they are casting big, scary-looking shadow figures on the walls of the old brewery cellar. These are “archetypes, triggering unconscious memories, images that are often associated with images from our earliest childhood: archetypes that allow everyone to tell his own story” says Boltanski.
To me, Boltanski’s work never seems to live up to the big words attached to them. Either because the motivations are too universal to match a specific presentation, or because its visual language reminds me too much of home decoration trinkets. Or maybe because I just fail to understand.
Much more attractive are the contrasting saturated red and blue rooms of Keith Sonnier.
Keith Sonnier’s permanent installation at the Center for International Light Art “Tunnel of Tears” takes reference to the architectural features of the historic room chosen by Sonnier in a special way. Beneath two barrel vaults colorful various-shaped neon tubes float through the room, decorated in color rhythms from red to violet and blue. This way he links the two parts of the room and thus creates an elongated unit, in which color intensity and color temperature function as aesthetic regulatory factors.
An object that needs to be filmed rather than photographed – yes I know, I should have thought of that earlier – is Li Hui’s cold blue glass encapsulation around what looks like an antropomorphic skeleton.
There are two installations by Turrell in the Lichtkunstzentrum. One of them from the depth perception series, the other one, a large camera obscura room, reminiscent of his magnum opus, the Roden Crater. The latter is strictly part of the guided tour and is not accessible on free roaming sundays.
James Turrell’s “Floater 99” deals with the perception of the three-dimensional space, light, and its irritation. It belongs to the series of works called “Shallow-Space Construction Series”.
Kubisch turned the four deep fermentation tanks into sound fields. On the black painted floor she installed white pigmented speakers of different sizes in a strictly arranged geometry. Being illuminated with ultraviolet light the highly reflective objects seem to float. And just like the fluorescent light radiates upwards, fine-tuned varying tones sound from the depth, which allow different associations with the theme of nature.
The room by Kubisch is somewhat of an anomaly in the light art museum, in the sense that it is just as much – or even more – an audio installation.
Mit SWITCH zeigt das Zentrum für internationale Lichtkunst erstmals eine Ausstellung, di danach fragt, welche Rolle die künstlerische Auseinandersetzung mit Licht als Material oder Medium für die Generation der Künstler_innen spielt, die gegenwärtig noch studiert. Zu sehen sind Arbeiten von Prof. Daniel Hausig sowie Arbeiten der Studierenden Marion Cziba, Raika Dittmann, Martin Fell, Nicole Fleisch, Karen Fritz, Ida Kammerloch, Octavian Mariutiu, Maria Elena Schmidt, Michael Voigt, Ingo Wendt.
Ida Kammerloch | Ingo Wendt | Octavian Mariutiu
With so many big names, so much space and such a nice athmosphere, the Internationale Lichtkunstzentrum feels too big for the otherwise insignificant town it is in. Although somewhat off the radar this museum is definitely worth a visit.
what | Internationale Lichtkunstzentrum
where | Unna
who | Christian Boltanski | Christina Kubisch | Olafur Eliasson | Francois Morellet | James Turrell | Jan van Munster | Joseph Kosuth | Mischa Kuball | Nicole Fleisch | Stefan Reusse | Daniel Hausig