The exhibition explores the art of visual perception from the Renaissance to the present day. It centres on one of the most remarkable collections of pre-cinematic optical inventions and illusions in the world, that of the German experimental film-maker Werner Nekes, who co-curates Eyes, Lies and Illusions with the writer and cultural historian Marina Warner.
Eyes, Lies and Illusions explores the art of visual perception from the Renaissance to the present day, transforming the Hayward Gallery into a world of optical wonders from 7 October 2004 to 2 January 2005. From exquisite 19th century picture-puzzles and unexpected tricks of perspective, to major works by internationally-renowned contemporary artists, including Christian Boltanski, Tony Oursler and Markus Raetz, the exhibition includes more than a thousand instruments, images and devices of deception in a dynamic interactive display.
The exhibition centres on one of the most remarkable collections of pre-cinematic optical inventions and illusions in the world, that of the German experimental film-maker Werner Nekes, who co-curates Eyes, Lies and Illusions with the writer and cultural historian Marina Warner.
Eyes, Lies and Illusions is arranged around six main themes: Shadowplay, including the magic lantern, precursor of the cinema; Tricks of the Light, with distorting and multiplying 'witch' mirrors; Perspective, featuring an elaborate reconstruction of a walk-in Ames room, with its extraordinary shrinking and enlarging illusions created through trick perspective; Enhancing the Eye, a highlight of which is the giant lens from Britain's first public 'camera obscura'; Deceiving the Mind, including hidden images, visual puzzles and optical riddles in a huge variety of forms, and Moving in Time, exploring the ingenious means employed to capture motion in an image, hundreds of years before the invention of film.
The contemporary works show how optical phenomena continue to fascinate artists. Christian Boltanski's shadow-theatres of angels and devils eerily haunt the galleries, circling the walls or concealed in unexpected corners. Ann Veronica Janssens' hypnotic works experiment with cognition, reflexes and psychology to render the invisible visible; Anthony McCall's now-legendary Line Describing a Cone is a seemingly 'solid' beam of light created from a projected white spot that slowly grows into a complete circle filled with smoke. Markus Raetz creates three-dimensional optical illusions and games of deception, anamorphoses, mirror-images and 'impossible' double images. Alfons Schilling's viewing devices made from prisms and mirrors present an inside-out, back-to-front illusion - solids appear void, left switches to right and foreground becomes background.
In the image: Ann Veronica Janssens, Scrub Colour II, 2002, Light and Colour Projection.
Hayward Gallery, Belvedere Road, London SE1 8XX, UK
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