Wednesday August 10, 2016 | by Ana Donefer-Hickie

EXHIBITION: At a Belgian museum devoted to light, Anna Carlgren employs glass in site-specific works

FILED UNDER: Exhibition

Solo exhibitions are often designed to illustrate the artist's particular style, concepts, goals, or development. So-called "in situ" exhibitions, in which work is produced in relation to the particular geographic or architectural site where it will be installed, are the result of a more-intense relationship between the institution and the artist. Through September 4th, 2016, the Belgian Muze'um L, Light and Landscape is featuring an exhibition by Swedish artist Anna Carlgren that was designed specifically for the Muze'um L. The untitled site-specific show explores themes central to the work of both the museum and the artist: namely light, the environment, and our perception of both.

Opened in 2014, the Muze'um L has since become just one part of a larger cultural project that spans several European countries. On June 21st, 2016, Flemish Minister of Culture Sven Gatz officially proclaimed the longitude at 3º7'45" east of the Greenwich Meridian, on which the the museum lies, the "Light Meridian Line." As the Light Meridian Line website explains, this "imaginary north-south line arrives in Europe in Blankenberge Belgium and leaves the continent in Palamos Spain." Eliciting the cooperation of Belgian, French, and Spanish cultural and political institutions, the Light Meridian Line project dedicates their efforts to visualizing the 3º7'45" meridian in physical space. 

At one moment every day (called the "apogee" or "solar noon"), the sun shines directly perpendicular to the meridian line all along its length. All locations along the light meridian line are united by a shared longitude and time of solar noon. The 3º7'45" meridian links several extant cultural sites, such as the Muze'um, the Blankenberge Casino light tower, and the Palamos el faro lighthouse, and The Light Meridian Line project seeks to add to these landmarks by commissioning a series of in situ exhibitions and nomadic museums at different sites on the line that explore the themes of light, line, landscape, and time. 

As in the "Light Meridian Line" project, Carlgren has long been interested in the way art can reveal the relationship between light and space. Inspired by the way that the optical qualities of glass can alter our perception of the world around us, Carlgren produces "constellations of forms that are very carefully calculated, [and] reveal completely new aspects of the refractive capabilities of glass." As she told GLASS Quarterly Hot Sheet in an email exchange, "I make use of optical glass, which I cut into pieces, grind and polish. It is important to me that none of that laborious work is seen in the finished pieces, I want the sculptures to be livened by the light." Carlgren's sculptures are designed to capture and direct light in order to manipulate the viewer's perception of the physical environment. 

Similar to Carlgren's sculptures, the Muze'um L building, designed by architect Marc Van Schuylenbergh, is itself a monumental in situ sculpture that captures and directs sunlight to visualize aspects of the imaginary line, manifesting the theoretical, imaginary line in physical space for the viewer. As the Muze'um's website explains, "the contemporary architecture operates as a great light generator, where the sun transforms the local longitude into a light meridian." One feature of the building is a circular skylight through which the sun shines, creating a large circle of light that moves along the floor and walls of the room inside as the sun moves across the sky. The skylight creates a visual representation of the time of day inside the museum. At solar noon, the circle of light is on the floor in the center of the room, which straddles the light meridian.

Calgren's in situ exhibition interacts with this feature of the building, manipulating the light captured by Van Schuylenbergh's design in order to explore themes of light, line, and time in a different way. When the Hot Sheet asked Carlgren for her thoughts on the relationship between light and line she replied, "Light is linear, we all learn that at school, but what does it mean? To me it means that light can purposely be directed and redirected." The exhibition consists of 11 faceted glass sculptures. While one sculpture is placed outside to be "constantly flooded with light," the other ten are arranged in a circle under the skylight inside the museum.

The skylight directs light onto the sculptures so that each one is fully illuminated as the sun moves every hour, while the rest are left in darkness. Carlgren's sculptures in turn capture the sun directed into the building by the skylight, re-directing it outwards to create scattered rainbows and reflections on the walls of the room. These points of light capture minute variations in the movement of the sun, a topic that Carlgren finds fascinating. She explained that "the light enters my pieces at a different angle every time, thus changing the viewers perception." The sculptures, and the light they capture and direct, will never be seen the same way twice. By interrupting the path of light that Van Schuylenbergh's building so painstakingly corralled into the interior, Carlgren's sculptures represent the light meridian line as a sparkling light-filled space. The linearity that Carlgren's installation explores is not that of the stable, constant, meridian that exists in the human imagination, but that of the infinite variety of ways that the same light used to represent that line can be manipulated as it passes through the glass.

Carlgren's work shares several conceptual preoccupations with the Light Meridian Line, and the experience of working with them has inspired her to seek more opportunities for in situ exhibitions. As she continues to explore the ways that "light diverts as it passes through glass, reflected or refracted," she hopes "that the presentation in Muze'um L will take me onto new paths with more site-specific installations."

The Light Meridian Line is currently having an international open call for participation.


Anna Carlgren
Through September 4th, 2016
East 03°07’45” / North 50°55’12”  //  decimals: 3,1292 / 50,9201
Bergstraat 23, Zilverberg-Roeselare

GLASS: The UrbanGlass Quarterly, a glossy art magazine published four times a year by UrbanGlass has provided a critical context to the most important artwork being done in the medium of glass for 35 years.