skip to main content

NEW – The Light Postgraduate Reading Group

Published date
13 Oct 2017
Postgraduate Community


The Light PG Reading Group proposes a discussion on the interdisciplinary role of light in contemporary practices.

Postgraduate students from diverse disciplines, including arts, media, design, special practices and theory, are invited to join the dialogue with the aim of discussing how both materiality and technologies of light, advance innovative forms of expression and of experience. The Light PG Reading Group welcomes contributions across disciplines, with interest in discussing the artistic, historical, scientific and technological aspects of light in society. The Light PG Reading Group intends to raise awareness of light-based practices in preparation for the International Day of Light, 16th May 2018.

The Light PG Reading Group aims to generate a discussion on the interdisciplinary role of light in contemporary practices. By focusing on the that so called ‘light-based practices’, the Light PG Reading Group intends to reflect on a genealogy of the light’s material in contemporary arts, with interest in discussing the artistic, historical, theoretical, scientific and technological aspects of light in society.

The Light PG Reading Group welcome participants and contributors, interested in the interdisciplinary aspects of light in arts, media, design, special practices and theory. The sessions are thought to discuss among other topics, the materiality of light, historical and contemporary contexts, practices and technologies, perception, experience, representation, language and ethics of light. The sessions will run twice per term during the 2017/2018 academic year.

Moreover, the Light PG Reading Group aims to create a network among postgraduate students (both taught and research) interested in this topic, with the purpose of organising a symposium for the first edition of the International Day of Light, May 2018, an UNESCO-led initiative, whose statement is:

     “Light is a beautiful cultural metaphor for openness, inclusion and enlightenment, all qualities that the world today needs more than ever”.

–  John Dudley, International Day of Light Committee Chair

Programme Dates

Session 1

Date: Thur. 9th November at 4 pm

Venue: Pod A – Learning Zone, Library, Central Saint Martins

The emergence of light-based practices

Piene, N., 1967, Light-Art, In Art in America

The session will focus on the critical text by Nan Piene, published in Art in America, 1967, which documents the emergence of contemporary light-based practices in the European and American contexts. While examining the historical background and the interdisciplinary approach of light-arts, the text is chosen with the purpose of generating a discussion on the terminology employed by the author, for the understanding of pivotal light- practices, emerged in between painting, sculpture, performance and environment.

Key-terms are: matter, energy, motion, medium, message, light display machine, projection, image-object. The session intends to propose an investigation on the materiality and the language of light by comparing pivotal practices with contemporary light-arts.

Download Reading: Nan Piene, Light Art (Scanned PDF)

Further reading:

Weibel, P., Jansen, G., 2006. Light art from artificial light: light as a medium in 20th and 21st century art = Lichtkunst aus Kunstlicht : Licht als Medium der Kunst im 20. und 21. Jahrhundert. Ostfildern, Deutschland, Hatje Cantz.

Sara Buoso is a PhD researcher in Art & Design – Theory and History at CSM. Her research proposes a critical enquiry on the materiality of light in contemporary art-practices, with a focus on the interplay between matter, practices and experience.

Session 2

Date: Thur. 30th November at 4 pm

Venue: Pod A – Learning Zone, Library, Central Saint Martins

Techniques of the Observer – Jonathan Crary

Melanie King will lead a reading group, using “Techniques of the Observer” by Jonathan Crary as a starting point, exploring first of all how Goethe made a personal distinction between objective truth and subjective perception after seeing strange colours and forms inside a camera obscura.

Throughout the reading group session there will be a chance to discuss: the camera and objectivity in art and science, the retinal after image, optics and objectivity, perception of colour, the camera obscura, illusions – kalleidoscopes, dioramas, stereoscopes, phantasmagoria.

Download Reading: Jonathan Crary, Techniques of the Observer (Scanned PDF)

Further Reading:

– Downcast Eyes: The Denigration of Vision in Twentieth Century French Thought – Martin Jay

– Goethe Theory of Colours

Special Event

Fri. 19th January at 5 – 6.30 pm, CSM

Join UAL’s Postgraduate Community for a walk-around UK’s largest light festival, LUMIERE led by PG Community Ambassador Zinta Jauntis, followed by an exclusive conversation with award winning light artist, Satyajit Das.

The best way to chase away the January blues is to let the light in! Lumiere is the UK’s largest light festival, inviting artists to create work that light buildings and public spaces, changing the way we think and feel.

More than 40 artists will reimagine London’s iconic architecture, transforming the city into a dazzling nocturnal art exhibition. Including 3D light installation Aether, by artist Satyajit Das, Director and co-founder of Architecture Social ClubAether is a collaboration with musician Max Cooper. It plays on the beauty of natural forms – waves, surfaces, symmetries and surreal landscapes, as the building blocks and underlying structure of the world around us.

For more information and to book a place:

Session 3

Thur. 8th February at 4 pm – Pod A – Learning Zone, CSM

Reading Material:

Tom Gunning ‘Loïe Fuller and the Art of Motion. Body, Light, Electricity and the Origins of Cinema.’

From Camera Obscura, Camera Lucida. Essays in Honor of Annette Michelson (Amsterdam, Amsterdam University Press, 2003)

This session will focus on Tom Gunning’s essay ‘Loïe Fuller and the Art of Motion’. I will discuss how at the turn of the twentieth century, Löie Fuller pioneeringly used light in her dance performances, and how her work and its implications relate to my film practice. Fuller’s performance explored a new kind of movement and representation of the female body that was seen through light. The body is seen as a series of transformations in which the stage lights and projections (as well as the fabric of her dress) illuminate and create that transformation.

Tamara Tyrer is a practicing artist specialising in film and performance.  Her artistic practice has included directed shows at the V&A, ICA, Blackpool Tower Ballroom and The Porchester Baths, juxtaposing live art and dance with vaudeville and burlesque traditions. Her video and film installations have been exhibited at the Rochelle School, the Courtauld and the National Gallery. She is currently studying a practice -based research PHD at Central St Martins, London, entitled Of Space and Time. Film and the Female Performer, exploring the notion of a female dance, space, time and subjectivity by creating a form of haptic cinema.

To view her latest research film, please go to:

Further reading:

Garelick, R. K.  Electric Salome, Loie Fuller’s Performance of Modernism, (Oxfordshire: Princeton University Press, 2007)

Session 4

Thur. 22 February at 4 pm – Pod A – Learning Zone, CSM

Gabriel Orozco: thinking in circles by Briony Fer pages 46 – 58. Chapter title ‘instrument: device’ (published by the Fruitmarket Gallery, Edinburgh, 2013)

In her book titled Gabriel Orozco: thinking in circles which accompanied an exhibition that Briony Fer curated at the Fruitmarket Gallery, Edinburgh (1 August – 18 October2013), the art historian draws attention to a relation between the constellations of circles in Orozco’s art practice and ‘movements of the cosmos’ measured by an Observatory.  This session will consider how Fer wrote about Orozco’s meditative approach to art-making and its relation to cosmology alongside a study of his work’s materiality.  Orozco uses a wide array of materials, including found items, on which to inscribe or incorporate circular motifs, with no hierarchy of materials.  Schematic paintings of spheres sit alongside his many other different flat or three-dimensional surfaces.  His intention is that the works are an ‘exercise’ for the mind while thinking about how to make other types of work.

Download Session 4 Reading PDF

Sharon Phelps completed a practice-led PhD at Chelsea College of Arts in 2017, titled ‘Agnes Martin: painting as making and its relation to contemporary practice’ (DoS Jeff Dennis, Co-Supervisor Dr Paul Ryan). Her research examines the limits of painting now and investigates how painting can extend into sculptural objects.  The written thesis investigated some contemporary practices that, like Agnes Martin, adopt a meditative approach, including that of Gabriel Orozco.

Session 5

Thur. 22nd  March at 4 pm – Pod A – Learning Zone, CSM

Impossibility to see the sky – reading group

”And God said, Let there be light: and there was light” Genesis 1:3

Flammarion Engraving, 1888

Deep Space Station 63, source:

Through an acute observing, we all can notice the sky is not clear to the sight, neverthless mankind still work on capturing portions of visible in order to represent and map the universe. Although science has been progressing and observations are more detailed to the rational eye, the magical poiesis is sacrified in this process. Looking back at the history, there notable that imagination, by creating a collective symbolic code, had a key-role within the study of the astronomy: since the very beginning, humans started to observe the sky by developing images and myths of narrative which could explain constellations and physical phenomena. The role of imagination also has been at the basis of philosophical investigations by Giordano Bruno and hermeticism. In particular, Bruno sets the imagination as a mental faculty able to create knowledge, in perfect accordance to what previously stated by Aristotle in his “De anima”: to wit, imagination as “phantasia” which in its etymo literally indicates to reveal something present to sight through light (greek radix phanos = light). In other words, for centuries, imagination as tool, has been posing the elements for an universal code of reading able to produce cosmological narrations more or less realistic but anyway efficient if compared to what discovered by scientists few centuries later. In modern time, the central role of the imagination left the place to calculation: we can exactly have information about solar system and galaxies which are positionated far away, light has been revealed as a wavelength, Neptune does not scare anymore inhabitans of the sea and so on. The “big narration” of our universe is crumbling under a telescope. In these terms, the photographic experience we have of the sky, expecially if it wants to take into account art purposes, might be read an outcome of a techno-poietic process. By considering the circumstances of the era we live in, the session aims to open up a discussion and confrontation regarding the position and definition of technology, especially in relation to those photographic practices which relate to the observation of the sky, whether the techno-poiesis is an act which generates lacks for humanity (ie. Posthumanism) or empowerment (ie. Transhumanism).

Bibliography and authors of reference:

Lyotard, Jean – Francois, 1984, The Postmodern Condition, Minnesota University Press Blumenberg, Hans

Heidegger, Martin, The question concerning technology and other essays, New York: Garland

Aristotle & Hamlyn, D. W., 1968, Aristotle De anima, Oxford: Clarendon press

Yates, F., 2015, Giordano bruno and the hermetic tradition, Routledge

Colebrook, C., 2014. Death of the PostHuman: Essays on Extinction, Volume One

Maria Luigia Gioffrè

Maria Luigia Gioffrè (b. 1990) graduated in MA Contemporary Photography: Philosophies and Practices at Central Saint Martins, UAL. Previously graduated at ISFCI Istituto Superiore della Fotografia in Rome and in BA Communication and Political Sciences at Luiss Guido Carli in Rome with a dissertation on semiotics processes of images and communication. She is the co-founder of “Talìa”, association supported by Terre di Scolacium for education on contemporary art in southern Italy. She is a multidisciplinary artist in the field of visual and performance art and her artistic research focuses

narration as semiotic instrument able to give access to new or forgotten knowledge of imagination. She is the first prize winner of Celeste Prize 2017. Her works have been selected for Tate Exchange, Zurich meets London Festival, Venice International Performance Art Week. Her photographic work “Impossibility too see the sky”

has been developed during Lumen Residency 2016 and then partially exhibited during Art Night & Whitechapel Gallery Associate Program Lumen Studios, London 2017. She has been speaker for “Progetto Gutemberg” 2015 at Marca Museo delle Arti del XXI, Italy.

For more information, please contact:

Sara Buoso, PhD student CSM :

Melanie King,

Postgraduate Reading Groups

A growing number of cross-disciplinary postgraduate reading groups are active across the university and are open to all UAL postgraduate students (MA, PGDip, PhD and MPhil) to attend.