Anthropology of light: art, skill and practices
Cathy Greenhalgh
Eni Bankole-Race (Royal College of Art)
Lucietta Williams (University of the West of England)
Eni Bankole-Race
Cathy Greenhalgh
Examination Schools Room 9
Start time:
21 September, 2018 at 9:00 (UTC+0)
Session slots:

Short abstract:

This panel welcomes papers from practitioners and interdisciplinary researchers of light and investigates approaches to light requiring forms of artful and 'skilled vision' (Grasseni, 2009) and a "creative eye".

Long abstract:

This panel investigates approaches to light requiring forms of artful and 'skilled vision' (Grasseni, 2009). Papers may address natural and artificial light in architecture, garden design; painting, photography, film; new media, VR, games; jewellery, fibreoptic smart clothing and textiles, or digital lumino-kinetics of stadium shows, light festivals, light art, installations and projection, where arts meet science and engineering. Papers could include the creative role of light in health, ritual or spirituality. In recent years light has emerged as a subject for research in anthropology (Bille and Sørensen 2007; Pandian 2015), in media (Cubitt, 2014) and cultural geography, Edensor (2017). We aim to develop an interdisciplinary conversation on light, bringing rich and diverse reports of anthropological approaches to this topic.

Light highlights material differences, textures and surfaces; it facilitates play with temporalities and spatial perception. Light may give agency, embellish and be a force of attraction and wonder, or provide an 'aesthetic coating' (Sheller and Urry, 2004:8) to the body and environment. As the ever-increasing use of electrical light by humans depletes ecological resources (use of electricity, water and chemicals, and light pollution), working with light may require expertise in addressing sustainability, consumption and labour in an "over-illuminated" world, where powers of distinction between light and dark blur. This is skill and creative engagement with chromatic range, tone and contrast, shininess and dullness, opacity and transparency, light capture and emanation. Skilled or artful vision in this context requires keen observation of light qualia subtleties and intensities, combined with a purposeful and communicative aesthetics of light and darkness.