Sunday, 17 June 2007

neon, etc.

Aldus Manutius, Rio Terrà Secondo, San Polo 2311, Venezia.
The letter Z has a high frequency in the Venetian dialect. So, you catch a vaporetto no. 20 from the eastern-most of the stops at San Zaccaria, and chug across the Lagoon to the tiny walled monastery island of San Lazzaro to the south-east, and as the boat approaches you notice a yellow fuzz along the whole length of the sea wall, and over the sides of two visible square buildings, and perhaps in a narrow band too on the bell tower, and this is a beautiful neon installation by Joseph Kosuth, one of many events is association with this year's art Biennale. The texts are in Armenian (it is an Armenian monastery), Italian and English (the latter in an italic style), and seem to consist of, or be based on, dictionary definitions relating to water, and then stages of association away from them. Ideally, you would have your own boat, or hire one, and be able to sail slowly along the sea wall, the only way you could read it all. But the texts on the buildings are legible from the island itself. There is an image and some information here A catalogue will be published later in the year. Here is a not-very-good closer-up picture

Tracey Emin is in the British pavilion of the Biennale proper this year, as everyone knows. (It's on till November.) She has some neons too, including a nice wordy one in pink. The associations of the medium with tawdry adverts, emergency directions, cheap cafe shopfronts glow around the fixation of these cris de coeur in her inconsistent handwriting and spelling. The one I thought strongest is 'I KNOW I KNOW [erased], I KNOW', with the erasure in blue. Here's a picture of it, thanks to one Beat_Nik.
A couple of months ago there was an exhibition of neons by Ian Hamilton Finlay, at Victoria Miro's gallery in London. They were attractive, in different colours and scripts. The calligrapher who executed the designs from Finlay's ideas, Julie Farthing, said that she adapted her hand intuitively by meditating on the texts. Sometimes Finlay indicated a preference. Many are versions of works done also in other media, and might be considered glamourisations; however the very glossy catalogue has an essay by Stephen Bann, arguing the centrality of the neons in Finlay'e oeuvre. A few specifically allude to aspects of light: the twinkly orange 'Diamond-studded fish-nets', and the more obscure white 'parheliacal marble', the subject of a fine interpretative essay by Harry Gilonis, in Angelaki magazine, vol. 5, April 2000 (which seems to be available online to institutions with a subscription). Some text and images are here. Many of them were displayed in a dark room, which seemed too obvious: neon in daylight is a / great pleasure, at the hub of a city, or across green water on a hot June afternoon.

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