O U T S I D E L E F T   stay i n d e p e n d e n t

300 Words From London: Dan Flavin - All Light Now

Shedding some light on Dan Flavin at the Hayward Gallery

get the weekly Outsideleft newsletter
by Lake, Editor, London for outsideleft.com
originally published: January, 2006
It is what it is. And it ain't nothing else
by Lake, Editor, London for outsideleft.com
originally published: January, 2006
It is what it is. And it ain't nothing else

When I was renovating my last house I tore down most of the kitchen and stripped all the wiring out of the ceiling. For a long time the only light we had in there was a fluorescent strip light that I had plugged in and leaning against the wall.

It gave off a harsh headache enducing white light. It was good that the only cooking facilities were via microwave. You wouldn't want to be in that kitchen too long.

But I used to refer to that light as my Dan Flavin. (I also used to refer to the pile of bricks I had stacked outside the back door, ready for that never-to-be-finished garden wall as my Carl Andre but that's another story).

At the Hayward Gallery there's a Flavin retrospective. It's hard to explain how good it is. Flavin's idea to use commercial fittings as a light environment was simple enough and if you see the works on paper or crammed into the corner of a mixed room at a major gallery space it's easy to dismiss them as mere minimalist pretence. But in situ, properly spaced and carefully curated Flavin's precise arrangements of standard strip lights turn the works into a funhouse of shadows, shapes and subtly vibrating colour.

Flavin was famously dismissive of attempts to define his art. "It is what it is. And it ain't nothing else". But he was protective of his ideas, creating complicated systems of certification and restoration contracts ensuring that the seemingly simplistic and easily constructed works that he sold were not duplicated without his consent.

Indeed much of the work on show here has been created specifically for this show based on Flavin's documentation. Most of it will be dismantled and disposed of rather than being shipped to the next venue. What you are physically looking at could well be worth less than the fittings in the foyer coffee shop, but what you experience is where Flavin's greatness rests.

see more stories from outsideleft's Culture archive »»

Lake
Editor, London

the first journalism Lake ever had published was a history of Johnny Thunders for Record Collector magazine, since then he has written for publications including the Guardian, Dazed and Confused, the Idler and more recently, outsideleft.com as you have just seen.

more stories you really could read...


thumb through the ancient archives:

search for something you might like...


sign up for the outsideleft weekly. a selection of new and archived stories every week. Or less.

View previous campaigns.

Freddie Mercury's Dominion
Dead singer spotted in the heart of London's West End
Cum on Feel PJ Harvey's Noize
Jason Lewis sees PJ Harvey tear up Wolverhampton's Starwork's Warehouse with one of the shows of the year.
HME Creations Fashion Show
HME Creations presents a fashion fashion show in support of ACORNS children and family charity
Owen Pallett: Sweet Nothings
The artist formerly known at Final Fantasy strips away more than a pseudonym to get at the sweet nothingness in us all.
IRA COHEN - Media Shaman
Anti-hero? Counterculture Legend? Ira Cohen is presenting his 1969 film, 'Paradise Now: The Living Theatre in Amerika' - Live from The Living Room in New York
Highway 69 Reissued: Led Zeppelin - Mothership 2CD compilation plus DVD
J.Charreaux listens to (and watches...) the Led Zeppelin reissues so you won't have to
Some of our favorite things...