Hard Light

June 27–September 27, 2004

P.S.1 Contemporary Art Center presents Hard Light, a group exhibition featuring works by internationally renowned artists Doug Aitken, Fischli/Weiss, Carsten Höller, Chris Marker, Bruce Nauman, Ugo Rondinone, Ed Ruscha, and Lawrence Weiner.

The co-curatorial effort of P.S.1 Chief Curator Klaus Biesenbach and artist Doug Aitken, Hard Light brings together works by nine artists who engage in a range of processes of narrative construction. Among other similarities, the works in this exhibition all explore particular qualities of light, or hard light (a film/photography term used to describe a lighting situation that casts a sharp, clearly defined shadow), that contribute to the development of fragmented, or broken, ambient narratives.

The exhibition will include Doug Aitken's recent monumental video installation Interiors (2002); large-scale photographs from Fischli/Weiss Airport series (1988-1998); Atomium Phi (2004), a light-based sculpture by Carsten Höller; preparatory materials (storyboards, photographs, notes and drawings) for Chris Marker's legendary 1962 film La Jetée; Bruce Nauman's celebrated Green Light Corridor (1970); a large photography and sound installation, Sleep (1999), by Ugo Rondinone; as well as preparatory materials for Ed Ruscha and Lawrence Weiner's 1978 book, Hard Light.

Doug Aitken's Interiors consists of eleven fabric screens that form an enclosed viewing space, three of which receive shifting video projections. The translucency of the remaining panels permits the audience to view alternating imagery from both inside and outside the enclosure. The installation focuses on four distinct characters/scenarios: a Tokyo auctioneer, a young man (Andre 3000 from the music group Outkast) navigating desolate urban streets, a helicopter factory worker who doubles as a tap dancer, and a young woman playing handball. Each individual scenario has a unique soundtrack. Aitken's fusion of sound and imagery successfully unifies these seemingly disparate story lines.

Large-scale Airport photographs (48 7/8 x 73 each) by longtime collaborators Peter Fischli (b. 1952, Zürich, Switzerland) and David Weiss (b. 1946, Zürich, Switzerland) address our notions of movement and stasis, cinematically representing what seems to be a single, contained environment, but what is, in fact, a number of different spaces, at different times, in vastly different locales.

Carsten Höller's (b. 1961, Brussels, Belgium) Atomium Phi (2004), a sculpture modified especially for P.S.1's exhibition, is based on a phenomenon discovered in 1912 by the Gestalt psychologist Max Wertheimer, in which the observer "sees" an imaginary ball jumping in between two dots projected next to each other in rapid sequence. Exploring ideas of reconstructed perception, Atomium Phi suggests that linear time is not as "real" as we believe it to be and that our senses, by their nature, create the rearranged time frame sequence we inhabit.

Green Light Corridor (1970), one of Bruce Nauman's (b. 1941, Fort Wayne, Indiana) legendary "light pieces" may be seen as a precursor to this line of thought. As a viewer moves through the narrow, open-ended corridor, illuminated by green fluorescent lights from above, the eyes become overwhelmed by its particular shade of green. A magenta after-image appears when one exits the corridor, thus communicating a narrative progression via shifts in light and color and physical positioning.

Chris Marker (b. 1921, Neuilly-sur-Seine, France), who has often been labeled a cinematic essayist and poet, produced the seminal avant-garde film La Jetée in 1962. On view at P.S.1 will be high-resolution digital reproductions of every page of the notebook in which Marker storyboarded and sketched the path his film would take. These pages serve as a window into the construction of one of the most famous and exploratory ambient narratives in cinema.

Sleep (1999), a large photography and sound installation by Ugo Rondinone (b. 1963, Brunnen, Switzerland), uses the technique of the storyboard and couples it with an audio component, creating a cinematic narrative without employing a moving image. Rondinone will personally install this piece at the museum, re-plotting the layout of the photographs so that they work specifically with the gallery space to tell a non-linear story extending in multiple directions.

Also on view will be photographs, a letter, a notebook and other ephemera related to the production of Ed Ruscha's (b. 1937, Omaha, Nebraska) and Lawrence Weiner's (b. 1942, Bronx, New York) 1978 collaboration Hard Light, a book of photographs and minimal text separated into chapters in the manner of a short novella. Hard Light depicts the daily lives of two young women in Los Angeles as they engage in activities at once banal and strangely incomprehensible. It is impossible to pull a single narrative thread from the imagery, and the reader is left to draw his or her own conclusions from hard-lit snapshots of various mysterious sequences of events.


  • Doug Aitken
    Interiors (2002)

  • Carsten Höller
    Atomium Phi (2004)
    Courtesy Schipper & Krome, Berlin and Casey Kaplan Gallery, New York

  • Bruce Nauman
    Green Light Corridor (1970)
    Wallboard, green fluorescent light fixtures
    Dimensions variable

 

This exhibition is co-curated by P.S.1 Chief Curator Klaus Biesenbach and Doug Aitken. This exhibition is made possible by James Family Foundation, Donald B. Marron, and Galerie Eva Presenhuber, Zürich.

Doug Aitken's Interiors was commissioned and organized by the Fabric Workshop and Museum, Philadelphia. The project was supported by a grant from the Philadelphia Exhibitions Initiative, a program funded by The Pew Charitable Trusts, and administered by The University of the Arts, Philadelphia. Major support was also provided by The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts. The National Endowment for the Arts provided additional funding for Aitken's residency at The Fabric Workshop and Museum.