TALK: with Light Artist Michael Hulls

Saturday 8 December 2018

A single golden star winking in the middle of the barn accompanied by quiet tolling of bells launched Michael Hulls‘ Tungsten Requiem last Friday at Messums Wiltshire – an elegy to the humble light bulb now being tossed into the dustbin of history to make way for LEDs.
The single light was soon joined by clusters of others, illuminating the rafters of the barn like nests of fireflies.
Some people lay down on the warm floor of the barn, to fully appreciate the gentle glow of pulsing filaments burning, hissing and crackling within the bulbs.
In a discussion following the performance, Michael Hulls, an associate artist with Sadlers Wells Theatre said the piece reflected his ‘rage against the dying of the light.’
‘We are looking at a species on the point of extinction – tiny pinpricks of light that will soon be no longer’ he said.


Tungsten Requiem

Hulls spent thousands of pounds buying up boxes of the discontinued light bulbs – largely from Germany.
‘I love seeing that burning filament and got my credit card out and started hoovering up all the lights I can find,’ he said.
The bulbs have a life expectancy of 2000 hours, based on burning non stop at 100%. In my pieces we are upto a maximum of 20% and even then only intermittently, so that is into years and years.
Each of the 9 hanging constellations of Tungsten bulbs are named after different stars – Castor Pollux, Polaris and Antares – in a variety of sizes containing between nine and 52 bulbs each.
As well as the beautiful golden light they emit are the shadows and shapes that form on the floor under each light fitting, reminiscent of the crystalline shapes of snowflakes. Contrasting with the warm, solar light of the Tungsten bulbs is the cold blue lunar coloured LED lights at the top of each light Tungsten constellation.

Michael said he ‘wanted the lights to have a relationship with each other at some times but not at others.’
He added, ‘Different points in the soundtrack triggers different sequence of lights. An aspect of a Tungsten bulb is that as they become bright you feel their warmth like our own precious star. The LED lights are cold whereas the burning Tungsten filament makes energy visible, like an open fire that works on all of us at a fundamental level.’
Summing up Johnny Messum described the art work as a ‘dance in light;’ summarising both how elements of Michael Hulls’ light pieces relate to each other and also life itself.

Read more about ‘Tungsten Requiem’ as part of our Material Light exhibition at

Read more about Michael Hulls at:


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