Blinded by the Light

Cinematic encounters with white light


Blinded by the Light is a multi-form exhibition that comprises glow-in-the-dark paintings, lighting and sound. It chronicles cinematic encounters with light, recreating scenes from various films in which the characters are confronted by a bright white light in situations such as near-death experiences, hallucinogenic experiments, and alien or ghostly encounters.

The project encompasses the meeting of light and time in film using theatre lights to charge the photoluminescent pigment in the paintings, which then slowly emerge from the darkness as the lights fade out every four minutes.

Photos by Lily Hibberd.

Blinded by the Light features twelve paintings that recreate scenes from classic fantasy and science fiction movies, including Close Encounters, Fearless, Ghost and Poltergeist, to investigate how cinema represents existential experiences. Restaging key scenes that pivot on encounters with white light, the paintings present familiar codes of cinematic language to narrate the mysteries of life and death. With the screen itself as the boundary, cinema often alludes to what is on the "other side” and the transcendence of the light based medium of film itself.

The project was created for Lily Hibberd's 2003 solo exhibition at the Perth Institute of Contemporary Arts in Western Australia, and later presented in Melbourne at BUS Gallery in 2003 and at Karen Woodbury Gallery in 2004. Two of the series also featured in the major curated exhibition Art+Film at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne, in 2003.

Off Your Face

Extracts from the Blinded by the Light exhibition essay by Edward Colless

Alien visitations, out-of-body experiences, hauntings, near-death experiences: these are not incarnations of providential divinity, a singular, absolutist and sublime presence; instead, we consider these supernatural phenomena to be either caused by – or, perhaps, accessed by – derangement.

These are the sorts of scenes that Lily Hibberd paints for Blinded by the Light: figures approached by, embraced by and succumbing to the incomprehensible passions of their fantastically luminous, otherworldly encounters and visitors. The blinding light in Hibberd’s paintings is light that is a special effect. In a word, a light that is “cinematic”. The spectral events that she paints are all derived from scenes in science fiction and fantasy cinema: Close Encounters, Altered States, Fearless, Cocoon, Fifth Element, Ghost and Poltergeist.

Cinema is the phantasm that is summoned in these paintings: but it is a supercinema – the white light of the projector flaring through the screen action, just as a ghost manifests itself in a living room ... the longer you look, the closer to that event horizon you get. Gradually, every five to ten minutes, the exhibition lights automatically fade out, leaving you in the dark with nothing but the after-glow of the phosphorescent pigment used by Hibberd to paint her blinding light.

This after-image of the exhibition is a phantom, a special effect, visible only by losing sight of the image, while also being a false double of that image. The image that we take to be the real subject of the exhibition is a counterfeit human skin taken off by an alien body in the dark. And in this darkness, like the darkness of a cinema, we see the lucid substance of our own desire to be taken in.

The complete essay by Edward Colless is included in the guide for Blinded by the Light, which is available here to download.

Cinema Projects