The Unbearable Brightness of Beams: Light, Darkness and Not Seeing Clearly

11:30, Sunday 9 May 2021 (30 minutes)

Yaron Shyldkrot, University of Sheffield, UK

This proposed paper seeks to examine lighting design by means of visual obfuscation. Building on the growing study of lighting practices, I explore the transformative role of light by looking at installations and performances which utilize light to confound or obstruct vision and generate experiences of not seeing clearly. The presumed definitiveness of sight lends itself to a deceptive impression of clarity and ocular biases that tie vision to fixity and certainty. Arguing against “an increasingly prevalent tradition of visual clarity” (Donger 2012: 14), I will trouble the notion that things are as they are because of how they are habitually seen and typically understood. To do so, I turn to both ends of the intensity scale, and reflect on the “manipulation of light that is blinding either in its brightness or in its absence” (Öztürk 2010: 306), analyzing my own practice as a maker of performance in the dark and examples from NONE collective and Ann Veronica Janssens. However, rather than suggesting that dazzling light and lack thereof simply eradicate sight, I will argue that these light works can produce altered forms of perception and sensory experiences. Challenging clear identification or recognition, they reveal concurrent multivalent interpretations of what is seen (or could be seen), holding the potential to bring different and new understandings to light.

University of Sheffield