Fiat lux: An analysis of light art through objecthood and embodied simulation, reflecting on the conceptuality and corporeality of the artistic medium

University essay from Lunds universitet/Avdelningen för konsthistoria och visuella studier

Abstract: Though established as a movement and recognised as artistic form, light art remains elusive and somewhat enigmatic in its definitions and categorisations. This thesis aims to contribute to the current discourse on light art by exploring the application of objecthood and embodied simulation whilst acknowledging the contextual, three-dimensional, spectacular, and anti-art qualities of the art form. The thesis will attempt to answer the following research question: How can our understandings and perceptions of light art be enhanced from perspectives of objecthood and embodied simulation? The thesis will study empirical materials from the exhibitions Mehr Licht! exhibited at Casa Masaccio, Valdarno 2021-22, and Light & Space at Copenhagen Contemporary, Copenhagen 2021-22. The thesis will be supported by additional empirical materials external to the two exhibitions to explore multiple perspectives to enhance the discussion of light art. The applied theory is a combination of embodied simulation theory as developed by Vittorio Gallese and theories on space, illumination, and atmospheres as developed by Gernot Böhme, supported by theorisations by Michel Foucault. This thesis will initially conduct analyses through objecthood as developed by Michael Fried, prior to applying additional methodological perspectives of embodied simulation. The thesis will argue for the elevation of space and spatial impact in the interpretation of light art seeing how light (or deprivation of light) must always interfere with space and viewer. The thesis will discuss the benefits of applying a multi-layered approach when interacting with light art, regarding the art form’s complex qualities. The thesis will conclude with a discussion of how the methodological perspective of objecthood may allow for a further understanding of the material, ready-made, and conceptual qualities of light art and how the approach of embodied simulation may allow for an increased engagement and consideration of the spatial, corporeal, and immersive qualities of light art.

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