Shining a light on international contemporary art

Contemporary art knows few “no-go” zones, ideas, materials, or subjects that artists simply do not, will not, or cannot use. But there are things that are so ubiquitous, so familiar, that they become invisible. Light is perhaps the best example of this phenomenon, though time is a close second. For most of us, light is something we usually think of in terms of its absence; we notice light most when it’s dark. In a remarkable international collaboration, Halifax hosts Responsive: Light and Art Projects, Halifax/Cologne, which promises to bring to the front of our minds this too often invisible prerequisite for visibility.
Responsive features multiple projects at galleries and other sites across the city from Oct. 18–21. The first in an ongoing international series (organizers say that the second edition will take place in Cologne, Germany, next year, and they hope to take the project to Tunisia the following year) and will bring 16 Canadian, American, European, and African artists together to display 12 light art projects in eight venues across the peninsula. The festival will also offer a project hub: NSCAD’s Art Bar and Projects on the Granville Mall, which will serve as a site for discussion and interaction with the artists in their nightly Responsive Lounge (6 pm until midnight each night of the festival) and will also be the launching point for free, nightly, guided tours of the project sites.
The brainchild of a curatorial collective based in Halifax and Germany, it began with a visit to Halifax by independent curator Bettina Pelz and gallerist Ralf Seippel from Cologne. Here they found willing partners in Melanie Colosimo, director of the Anna Leonowens Gallery at NSCAD, Peter Dykhuis, director/curator of the Dalhousie Art Gallery, and Sarah Fillmore, chief curator of the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia.
Viewers will discover many experiences as they navigate Responsive. Detroit-based artists Annica Cuppetelli and Cristobal Mendoza will present an installation in the Anna Leonowens Gallery as will Tunisian artists Houda Ghorbel and Wadi Mhiri, while visitors to the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia will see installations by the German duo Hartung + Trenz, and another installation by German artist Mischa Kuball.
The AGNS light-sculpture Tautology¸ by Sobey Art Award winner Duane Linklater, will be on view at the Anna Leonowens Gallery. City Hall will be the venue for an installation by German duo Joeressen + Kessner. At Dalhousie’s School of Architecture, the Ukrainian/German artist team of Molitor & Kuzman will be featured, while the Presbyterian Church of Saint David on Grafton will host two projects: work by German artist Judith Roeder and Canadian artist (and current NSCAD graduate student) Ursula Handleigh. Finally, NSCAD graduate and Toronto-based artist Kelly Mark will have a project on view in the Public Gardens, and German artist Kurt Laurenz Thienert will present his Visual Piano at the Dalhousie Arts Centre, with performances on the half hour beginning at 7:30 and continuing until 11:30 each evening of Responsive.
As the title of this project suggests, these artworks are often interactive, are always immersive, and create a multisensory experience that makes processes that we normally perceive passively active parts of our experience at a given time and place. What does it mean to make art with light, after all? We often hear that painting is an art of light, but these works do not use the effects of light—colour, tone, shade—but so much as they use light itself. Light, like time, is a constant in our lives, but is usually invisible. Time passes, and light reveals. But we don’t really think much about either of them. That state of affairs will not survive experiencing Responsive: Light and Art Projects, Halifax/Cologne.

This story was originally published in Halifax Magazine.

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