In 1946, the Hungarian expatriate Laszlo Moholy-Nagy records his astonishment. Why have those working in the new light-related technologies not been rewarded with an institute through which they might focus their unique energies? We can be just as astonished today. In our own time, artists working with light are forced to obtain their board separately in more established houses, such as the departments of painting, sculpture, and photography. The modern category of light promises to bring these fields together -- here is a way to meet the challenge of a society where technologies of information and transport are decreasing opportunities for isolation and parochialism.
For us today, the institute of light is an intriguing `what if'. What if the post-object age had its own Bauhaus? Experimental cinema, performance art, kinetic art, installation art, computer imaging -- rather than operating in a fragmented and anomic atmosphere, these forms could have an institute appropriate to their common medium, light.
Not everyone is likely to regret the absence of this institute. For some, the twentieth century is littered with organisations whose dogmas adhere rigidly to the dreams of their patriarch -- think of Freud and the International Psycho-Analytic Association. Yet while the initial premises of such movements are bound to the charisma of their founding father, the journey of ideas and desires which attend its historical unravelling provide a point of reference for each of us working in the field. We might have used this reference. Yet rather than mourn this miscarriage, we can exploit its non-eventuality through speculation and thereby create a device to gather together issues that pertain to light relevant to our time.
This is the spirit in which the history that follows has been fabricated. A word of caution before we begin. As a constructed history, it entails a peculiar responsibility to the facts. Without truth as its guide, a historical construction aims to fabricate a narrative whose plausibility is based on point of view rather than documentation. Think of it as no more than an `armchair' history which spins out a possibility.