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. Emergency hotlines soon began receiving reports, from panicked residents who had evacuated their homes, of an eerie band of otherworldly light looming in the sky over blacked-out neighborhoods. The sinister alien glow, it turned out, was the Milky Way itself, long eclipsed by the incandescence of Los Angeles. In the century and change since civilization’s embrace of artificial illumination, the true night sky had so receded from collective awareness as if into the prehistoric past.
‘Untitled Lantern Pieces ’by the artist Johan Österholm is a series of sculptural works made using lumen printing — an old photographic technique where the light sensitive material isn’t exposed and developed as it normally would. Instead the material is subjected to prolonged exposure which burns an image into the sensitised material, an image that is then fixed. Originally Österholm used the same type of glass plates one might find in 19th century gas lanterns. This glas was coated with light sensitive emulsion, after which large negatives of bearing the night skies of centuries past were burnt into the emulsion by the harsh beams from street lights. In the end, night skies that have long been obscured by light pollution are made visible once more.
Johan Österholm (b. 1983) received his MFA from Malmö Art Academy in 2016. Recent and upcoming exhibitions include: Kosminen, Helsinki (2021), ‘Space Works’, Tampere Art Museum (2020), ‘Ethereal Dwellings’, Alta Art Space, Malmö (2020), ‘Moonlight’, Hasselblad Center, Gothenburg (2019), ‘Back to the Future’, Foam, Amsterdam, C/O Berlin & Mai Manó Ház, Budapest (2018—2019), ‘Screens and Mirrors’, Borås Museum of Modern Art (2016), and ‘La Camera: On the Materiality of Photography’, Palazzo De’ Toschi, Bologna (2016). He has been awarded several residencies, among them Iaspis, Stockholm (2020) and Künstlerhaus Bethanien, Berlin (2018). In 2021 he received the prestigious Edstrandska Scholarship.