Photo:© Victor Hunt Gallery

Photo:© Victor Hunt Gallery


A million Times, Collection of Light and Light Culture
Text by Celia Bailey, writer and former Publisher of ArtReview and Apollo


Their best known works, A million Times, Collection of Light and Light Culture establish a playful relationship with the viewer; their interaction with the work the vanishing point which activates the narrative of time, space and place inherent within each piece. This is not to underplay the shear and immediate visual delight of their work however, or the humour and mystery which animate works such as A million Times into the realms of the unforgettable, whilst instantly engaging our curiosity.

"Humans are driven by questions and curiosity….the allure of the secret manifest across cultures and history. In our modern world, gradually shorn of its mysteries by science and seemingly made transparent by the insatiable engine of instant communication, secrets become even more fascinating."  –  Humans since 1982

For Humans since 1982, the ‘secret’ is that window within the work which hints at meaning, whilst creating a space for the imagination to supply our own interpretation. In A million Times, it is perhaps the dance created by the endless moving hands of the analogue clocks – revealing the hidden design of time. Equally, it is that instance of recognition as those formerly abstract shapes align to reveal the ‘real’ time, creating the concrete from what had previously seemed random.

The switch between these 2 states creates a dissonance in which to question our constructed relationship with time worthy of the Red Queen’s race in Through the Looking Glass, where Alice must run to remain in the same spot. We think of time as linear, and our position within it objective and factual. We endow time with value and prescribe a modern-day morality to its use; time must not be wasted and to be useful and productive, we must always be busy – or to quote the Red Queen,

"Now, here, you see, it takes all the running you can do, to keep in the same place. If you want to get somewhere else, you must run at least twice as fast as that!"

Light and time are not related, but in the hands of Humans Since 1982 a relationship begins to emerge, ’Light and time are elusive and are perfect for evoking curiosity’ (H.S. 1982). Just as time is ‘collected’ and presented as an object in A million Times, in Collection of Light we are presented with groups of LED’s arranged in carefully labelled cases, like fireflies by a Victorian naturalist. What has originally been conceived of as purely functional and industrial is revealed in all its beauty and simplicity of form but this is not the whole story; this is also literally a collection of light, each LED emitting light of varying hues and intensities which together form an illuminated whole.

Light Culture also explores the aura of groups with LEDs arranged in glass cases to help enable us to observe and study their particular properties – there is something curiously organic about the colours and subtle light of the LED  which calls to mind the eerie luminescence found in nature, whilst the grouping of the bulbs echo the forms and structures of bacteria growing in a petri dish. We are naturally drawn towards the light, just as we are held spell-bound by the dancing arms of the analogue clocks in A Million Times, these sculptures work on an elemental level with the viewer, creating spontaneous reflexes which set in motion a multiplicity of individual thoughts and memories.

The sculptures and installations made by Humans Since 1982 reveal the mysterious dynamism hidden within these often utilitarian and industrial objects, and create a kind of fairy tale for the millennial age to awaken our curiosity and sense of wonder for the rapidly changing world we find around us.

Just as with ancient folk tales, the original ‘teller’ is obscured, perhaps the better to free our own ability to interact with each work and make it our own. It is in this way that Humans Since 1982 have created their visual identity, rarely providing publicly a personal voice about their work and removing the expected individualistic artistic stamp from their practice.

Whilst the method of delivery, the clean lines of metal, glass and stone – animated by carefully engineered design, appear very far removed from the childhood stories with which our collective consciousness is constructed, the alchemy of effect for these sculptures and installations bear the same elementary ‘power of mystery’.