Lighthouse is a light event using art to focus on what is hidden. Landskrona Foto invited the artist Jonas Liveröd to write a text about darkness as a precondition for light.

‘And God said: Let there be light.’

Just as sudden as the birth of light in the Bible, equally abrupt  was the illumination of the German electrician August Natterers conciousness, when he on the first of April 1907 without warning was overwhelmed by an intense vision. Afterwards, Natterer struggled to describe what he had experienced. His words were confused and incoherent, yet intensely vivid.

”I saw a white spot in the clouds absolutely close — all the clouds paused — then the white spot departed and stood all the time like a board in the sky. On the same board or the screen or stage now images as quick as a flash followed each other, about 10,000 in half an hour… God himself occurred, the witch, who created the world — in between worldly visions: images of war, continents, memorials, castles, beautiful castles, just the glory of the world — but all of this to see in supernal images. They were at least twenty meters big, clear to observe, almost without color like photographs… The images were epiphanies of the Last Judgment. Christ couldn’t fulfill the salvation because he was crucified early… God revealed them to me to accomplish the salvation.”

Nothing ever returned to normal for Natterer after this great event. He spent the remainder of his days in a mental asylum in Heidelberg. He made a drawing of the experience that depicts the merciless light washing over him — his eyes are portrayed wide open, unable to turn away from the illumination.

For us humans light can be both painful and invigorating, it can create a sense of comfort or destruction, depending on place and context.

Vision is the only one of our senses that cannot function without light. Touch, hearing, smell and taste — all these function in the darkest of rooms. But sight needs light.

In my family we carry an eye disease, so uncommon that for all past generations it has simply been called The Bad Eye. In my childhood, back in the 1980s, an eye specialist defined that it was Cogans dystrophia we passed on, like a family curse. The illness made me completely blind for periods of time, which naturally was a scary experience. But, just as pitchdark as the total darkness was, just as magic the first moment of the healed eye tenderly opening and letting the first blurry sliver of light again.

When driving at night, we sometimes catch an animal in the headlights. The animal looks up, at us, eyes ablaze. The reason for this effect is that the retinas of many nocturnal animals contain a back-up, reflecting layer called ‘tapetum lucidum’ — a weave of light. As early as in ancient Greece, naturalists had noticed this ”fire ” burning in the eyes of the animals of night. The natural conclusion, then, was that the eyes held or emitted some sort of light. According to Plato, the philosopher, the mystical substance emitted by the eye a mild, visual fire, flowing out of the pupil to touch and enfold objects outside.

Isaac Newton, renowed British 18th century scientist, also strived to understand the eye, its lens, the ligt and colours. Putting his theories to the test, he plunged a rough needle into and behind his own eyebulb, digging around there to find how this affected sight. Fortunately, Newton’s sight was not permanently damaged and he went on to write the first modern treatise on the subject;  ‘Opticks - A Treatise of the Reflexions, Refractions, Inflexions and Colours of Light’, published in 1704.

But despite its apparent complexity, the human eye is relatively simple, compared to some of our distant relatives in the animal kingdom. In our case, the human brain does the heavy lifting, modifying the somewhat narrow spectre of signals into the complex world we percieve. In human perception, light is modified by the three colour receptors, shaping our grasp of colour. But — the more colour receptors, the more vast the spectrum.

The Mantis Shrimp, a tiny crustacean, has 16 colour receptors. How this little creature takes in its world is almost impossibly hard for us humans to  understand. Their spectrum of sightpercieves also what is known as invisible light, something we humans would be hard pressed to even imagine.

For us, sight demands light. But darkness too, is necessary for our eyes. In Swedish peasant society, we semi-hibernated for the duration of the dark half of the year. The time between day and evening, “tussmörker”, was the time when darkness swallowed light, a time where noone should venture outside. This was the twilight hour, when other creatures were afoot, all cats were grey and no shape definite. This was the time for superstitions, preternaturals and the unknowable. Light, darkness — two sides of sight, of existence.

Parallell to August Natterer’s brutish, metaphysical encounter with The Big Light, I’d like to close out this introduction with an almost as existential meeting with darkness. When austronaut Gus Grissom reentered our atmosphere in his space capsule, he observed, to his listeners down on Earth: “The sun is coming in, but really all I can see is just darkness.”

Exhibitions

The following exhibitions ended on January 8. A documentary about Landskrona Lighthouse can be found here. A number of book circles and author talks on the same theme, darkness as a precondition for light will continue in 2022. For the current program, see under program.

Huurre

Joonas Tikkanen, Otso Vartiainen, Tuomas Norvio and Petra Kytölä

“Huurre” (Finnish for hoar-frost) is in a strong interaction with the Konsthall’s architecture, site-specific lighting conditions and with the soundscape of the sculpture park. The building has an all-year lasting interaction with the lighting conditions surrounding it…

Untitled Lantern Pieces

Johan Österholm

In the early hours of January 17, 1994, some 116 years after the invention of the first light bulb, the powerful Northridge earthquake struck the Los Angeles area, knocking out power across a broad swath of Southern California and plunging millions into unaccustomed darkness…

Lights Left On

Rosie Barnes

In her childhood it was always impressed upon Rosie Barnes and her siblings to never leave a light on in a room that wasn’t occupied. The reasons were simple and clear — it was a waste of money and resources. She still sticks to this childhood rule and it remains problematic…

Program

21/10/30, 7—9 pm

Opening

Experience the art gallery and the surrounding sculpture park in completely new light. During the evening, you get a chance to meet artists and partners behind the project and hear the thoughts on the concept. The art gallery displays the light and sound installation ‘Huurre’ (Finnish for hoar-frost) by Joonas Tikkanen (FI), Otso Vartiainen (FI), Tuomas Norvio (FI) and Petra Kytölä (FI). The work interacts strongly with the Landskrona Konsthall’s architecture, the site-specific lighting conditions and the sculpture park’s soundscape. The building interacts with the light and sound of the surroundings, day and night — like a living organism that breathes in the middle of the sculpture park. In Konsthallsparken, ‘Untitled Lantern Pieces’ by Johan Österholm (SE) and on Järnvägsgatan ‘Lights Left On’ by Rosie Barnes (GB) are shown. At Landskrona museum/Kasernplan, a light installation is shown.