Dim Bulbs

I'd ignored Artforum's recap of the recent Süddeutsche Zeitung report that the EU's looming ban might pose a problem for museums and artists whose work incorporates. incandescent lightbulbs. I mean, it seems like such a piddly little question, right?

Sure, artists from Moholy-Nagy to Dan Flavin to Robert Rauschenberg to Felix Gonzalez-Torres used light bulbs, I thought [and don't try and factcheck me on Flavin; I'm talking about his early wall-mounted constructs.] But the hefty fines are only for selling light bulbs. Just buy the things out of the EU, or have someone give them to you, problem solved, right?

Wrong. According to the followup story, the light bulb ban includes importation, too. So depending on the wattage, conservators and collectors have a narrowing window in which to stockpile a crapload of light bulbs, the way they do Beuysian chocolate, fat, and felt. [For Felix's light strings, most of which use 25w bulbs, the ban doesn't kick in until 2012. You could fill a warehouse with light bulbs by then, no sweat.] What'll be interesting to see is whether loaning or selling a light-bulb equipped work constitutes importation, and is thus banned.

Actually, what's interesting to see is the complete and utter histrionic ignorance of the EU Energy Commission spokesman Ferran Tarradellas [Espuny] when asked about the issue:

Tarradellas questioned the argument that lightbulbs are as common to the artist's materials as canvas, paint, and marble. "A visit to any museum for contemporary art demonstrates the contrary," said Tarradellas.


"It's utterly ludicrous to ask the commission for the sake of art to leave a product on the market that could be dangerous for the environment, health, and the consumer," said Tarradellas. "Otherwise exceptions could be asked for when an artist wants to use antiperson landmines, enriched plutonium, or CFC."

Ah, well since you put it that way...

The original article, which Artforum never bothers to link to: Glühbirnen in Museen | Dealer gesucht [sueddeutsche.de]
The followup does not appear to be online [yet?]

Since 2001 here at greg.org, I've been blogging about the creative process—my own and those of people who interest me. That mostly involves filmmaking, art, writing, research, and the making thereof.

Many thanks to the Creative Capital | Warhol Foundation Arts Writers Program for supporting greg.org that time.

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first published: August 8, 2009.

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