8 December – 24 February 2019 ARTIST’S TALK: Saturday 8 December
Over the last twenty years Michael Hulls has worked exclusively in dance, particularly with choreographer Russell Maliphant, and has established a reputation as a ‘choreographer of light’. His break out year in 2016 saw the first ever non-dance installation at Sadler’s Wells, a work later displayed at Messums Wiltshire. For his return he joins an elite group of artists including Judy Pfaff and David Spriggs who have been invited to make a solo response to the unique setting of our thirteenth-century tithe barn.
Hulls’ work is a tightly choreographed relationship of light as a living, pulsing material contained in halogen bulbs. Once the staple of the dance hall, these simple warm bulbs are being gradually erased from commercial activity. It is a decision that Hulls strongly disagrees with, pointing to the fallacy of judging one light form against another (LED is considerably lower in CO2 footprint than Halogen) but not taking into account the wider footprint of the lifecycle that in the case of LED sees considerable mining for trace metals and an as yet uncertain recycling path. His works are in some ways therefore in the paeons of all great art, a soliloquy on the act or process of dying. The words of Dylan Thomas seem to glow within his works, ‘Rage, rage against the dying of the light’.
Hulls’ Tungsten Requiem will be, centred aesthetically and conceptually around the filament’s heat and will resonant with the spiritual, mystical and ascetic properties of our thirteenth-century barn, creating the largest single light installation in the largest thatched building in the UK and a unique environment, especially at this dark time of year.
Tungsten Requiem is a reflection on the light’s fragile beauty and the mesmerising qualities of the the delicate glowing of the tungsten filament in much the same way as staring into the glowing embers of an open fire. The connection to his career as a lighting choreographer can be clearly sensed as these individual lights pulse and dance in concert or in solo through each of the 8 constellations of lights suspended in the space. The work includes a soundtrack by composers Andy Cowton and Mukul.
Michael Hulls trained in dance and theatre at Dartington College and in 1992 was awarded a bursary by the Arts Council to attend dance lighting workshops with Jennifer Tipton in New York.
Hulls’ collaborations with Russell Maliphant have won international critical acclaim and many awards: Sheer won a Time Out Award for Outstanding Collaboration, Choice won a South Bank Show Dance Award, PUSH, with Sylvie Guillem, won four major awards including the Olivier for Best New Dance Production and AfterLight won two Critics Circle awards. Hulls and Maliphant also collaborated on Broken Fall, commissioned by BalletBoyz, which also featured Sylvie Guillem and won the 2004 Olivier Award for Best New Dance Production. Fallen, their most recent work for BalletBoyz, won the 2014 Critics Circle Award for Best Modern Choreography. In 2007, Michael and Russell’s work was the subject of BalletBoyz’s Channel 4 documentary Light and Dance and The Daily Telegraph hailed their collaboration as “possibly the most important creative partnership in modern British dance”.
In 2009 Hulls became an Associate Artist of Sadler’s Wells and in 2010 his contribution to dance was recognised with his entry into the Oxford Dictionary of Dance. In 2014 Hulls received the Olivier Award for Outstanding Achievement in Dance.
In 2016 he created LightSpace an installation at Sadler’s Wells and the first ever presentation on the main stage there without any dancers or performers. He was also awarded a second Knight of Illumination Award for Dance for Conceal/Reveal, his and Maliphant’s 20th anniversary collaboration. Later that year he exhibited two of his Tungsten Requiem installation pieces at Messums Wiltshire.
The full 16 minute performance of Tungsten Requiem will take place on the hour and half hour.
Messum’s Wiltshire is a pioneering multi-purpose gallery and arts centre celebrating the creative endeavour.