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Visitor favourites: A light-filled installation on Floor 5

March 24th, 2016

A closer look at one of the gallery’s visitor favourites, an immersive light-filled installation on Floor 5 by Paul Chan.

By Jon Davies, Assistant Curator, Contemporary Art

In 2007, American artist and activist Paul Chan premiered his ambitious series of floor projections entitled The 7 Lights at the Serpentine Gallery in London. While Chan works fluidly between many different forms and platforms, this series’ title refers to its distinctive medium: video projections of coloured light and black silhouettes, or, as the artist puts it, “light and light that has been struck out.”

The series consists of haunting shadow-plays that draw their power from a sight that marked many people during the September 11, 2011 attacks on the World Trade Center: people falling from buildings. Evoking a state of seemingly perpetual crisis, bodies here fall but also float upwards, levitating alongside consumer products and junk. With its pared down visuals and powerful use of silence, The 7 Lights series vividly imagines a Rapture that is firmly rooted in everyday life, rather than something transcendent.

2nd Light (seen above) is grounded by a tree, which endures a day’s unfolding from sunrise to sunset before looping and starting over again. We are delighted to have recently acquired this key work from Chan’s series, which is installed here for the first time with other recent contemporary acquisitions in Many things brought from one climate to another, currently on display on level 5.