Edinburgh Art Festival: One Thousand Points of Light fluoresce at National Museum of Scotland

By Rhiannon Starr | 16 August 2012
A photo of a giant rock in a mountainous formation glowing in phosphorous blue and red
© National Museums Scotland
Exhibition: One Thousand Points of Light, National Museum of Scotland, Edinburgh until October 21 2012

A regiment of sculptural perfume bottles is curiously luminous in the darkness. Fossils of ancient fish fluoresce nearby: their skeletal remains suggest lives and deaths in the deepest ocean depths.

These disparate exhibits share a common phenomenon; they are all UV-reactive, transforming invisible radiation into visible colour.

An image of a luminous light blue scorpion against a black background
Dried Scorpion© National Museums Scotland
The unlikely selection was curated by Dutch artist Melvin Moti, who delved into the vast collections of National Museums Scotland in preparation for his first solo show in the UK.

Eigenlicht, meaning intrinsic light, is the new film Moti created in response to his discoveries, and is displayed alongside them at the National Museum of Scotland.

Characteristically, extraneous detail is stripped away to demand active participation by his audience: look, engage, hunt for understanding.

The fluorescence of UV-reactive minerals unearthed from the collections became the subject matter of Eigenlicht. Moti has talked of the rocks appearing to communicate with us and his film furthers this impression by imbuing each rock with distinct characteristics.

A flamboyantly glowing blue and pink rock whirls around for the camera, enabling it to register every minutia. Neon green and orange light emanates from a rock which reveals itself at a defiantly slow pace, moving in and out of focus before overwhelming the screen and enveloping the viewer.

A photo of a phosphorous jagged rock in glowing green, pink, dark blue and light blue
Invisible radiation is turned into visible colour© National Museums Scotland
The medium of 35mm film demands commitment and patience in itself, being far less convenient than digital to shoot and present. Moti never exhibits his work on loop, instead stipulating a schedule of screenings which requires his expectant audience to wait together in the darkness.

This tradition highlights the incongruent location of the installation. Many of the museum’s playful young visitors scamper in, greatly enthused by the glowing artefacts, but on the whole are less captivated by the languidly unfolding film.

With each mineral examined at such close quarters, scale is disoriented and the miniscule crevices and protrusions dissolve into imaginary landscapes of gaping chasms, caves dripping with stalactites, or galaxies in outer space.

Eigen translates as inherent; particular; of one’s own. It may be a collective viewing experience, but the absence of information liberates individual interpretation.

However, the lingering final shot of a luminescent blue mineral is universally beautiful: a glittering galactic swirl which transcends language.

More pictures:

An image of a luminous shot of an ancient rock illumination in yellow, grey and blues
© National Museums Scotland
An image of a luminous shot of an ancient rock illumination in white, blue, red and orange
© National Museums Scotland
An image of a luminous shot of an ancient rock illumination in dark red, blues and white
© National Museums Scotland
An image of a luminous shot of an ancient formation in luminous green against black
© National Museums Scotland
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