A response to the past, present and future of the Gladstone Hotel in Toronto for Nuit Blanche 2014, Spiderlight a.k.a. Timelines traces the lines of past hanging exhibitions at the same time confronting the user with interacting with fluorescent tube lighting. Often synonymous with offices, the bleak future and harsh glaring light, the fluorescent tubes are instead completely under the control of the user. Pushing and pulling the sculpture gives the user direct agency on the project, taming the creature and letting us move into the future.
From outside, the undulating lights in the windows draw eyes up the tower. Walking through the building, eyes adjust to the dim interior. Entering Room 207, the glare makes you shade your eyes as the fluorescent tubes of the sculpture confront you.
These are the tubes that are usually confined to the waffle ceiling at the office or flickering at the hospital. Here, finally, you can have control over these bright lines of light. Instead of the simple gesture of flipping a light switch, you can wrestle with the lights, your pushing and pulling directly turning the lights on and off as the tubes undulate and shudder around you.
Nuit Blanche is a night of exploration and wonder. Mostly, it is a night of pilgrimage. Art pieces are spaced out to prevent crowd clumping, but this means that the travel between each piece includes lots of walking, losing friends, and highly anticipating art. And, of course, a few drinks along the way. People are looking for a spectacle and they’re looking to engage with art any way they can.
Spiderlight was intended to act as a beacon along Queen St, and an interactive, bright light piece for people to play with. Simple, direct and playful. All of its pieces were metal, using aircraft cable to hang each arm with two connections per arm to the ceiling. It had as few complications as possible and relied on simple pulleys for its motion.
It still underestimated the strength of Nuit Blanche.
About 3 hours into the night, a critical piece snapped. It was a metal ring that connected all of the arms of the piece to the handle pulling up and down. A man using the piece had misunderstood the limit of pulling and had put all his strength into pulling down and the piece simply snapped. It wasn’t his fault of course; the piece that broke should have been indestructible. It was already metal but it should have been twice as thick!
I quickly rewired the tubes, bypassing the gravity based tilt switches that caused the arms to go on and off, and wired it so that all the tubes shone all the time. For the next five hours I watched as people came to see the piece, knowing that it was only a shadow of its former self.
Don’t get me wrong though, even broken, the piece was still striking and engaging. The curvaceous lines drew people in and made them reconsider what a fluorescent tube is.
More importantly, Nuit Blanche continued in its most crucial role; people walked around and tried to understand what art means. Last year, 1800-IS-IT-ART gave people a direct phone line to understand that question. This year, even left adrift, people were still thinking about, talking about, and enjoying art.
Another great success for the city of Toronto and art lovers everywhere.
For more examples of Andrews great work please visit his website at: http://www.andrewchoptiany.com/