Musson (1)Neil Musson talks about his recent installation using light, colour and pattern to question the notion of community 

As part of my my ongoing collaboration with Jono Retallick, [musson+retallick] recently exhibited an exterior lighting installation which questions social behaviour.  The illuminated forms are inspired by insect and plant life which cluster in colonies and were on display as part of the Luminale lighting event in Frankfurt earlier this year.

Our concept was to present two colonies at different developmental stages existing within sight of each other but without describing their relationship to each other.  The viewers were invited to move amongst the lit elements leading to discussions about the nature of the colonies.

We wanted to ask more questions than we answered; this installation consisted of two groups of different life forms confronting each other. It was not clear whether they are friendly or hostile.  We are interested in using light, colour and pattern as a way of creating art which provokes conversation by describing several possibilities.  This installation was seen by 25,000 people  in one week and there were some profound discussions taking place amongst the crowds.

‘Colonies’ consists of a group of cocoon like forms hanging in a tree, each containing a grub which ‘breathes’ with gently pulsing light.  Their counterparts are brightly lit forms which grow from the ground and radiate colour changing light.  They are printed onto translucent film with magnified detail from insect and plant life; patterns which appear to change shape as the illuminated colour changes.  The two groups communicate through a series of lighting sequences which build up to a frenzy of information exchange.

Many people have reflected that this is a very poignant piece of work at a time when groups of immigrants and refugees are making their way into Europe and communities are questioning how to respond to this mass relocation of culturally diverse people. What do you think?


  1. liz cashdan 18 August 2016 at 8:00 pm

    Fascinating concept. I’m passing through Frankfurt next week on my way back from Johannesburg but won’t have time to see the installation.
    I’m thinking of ways of doing something similar with words. The great thing about visual art is that the message has to rely on visual images. The danger with the written word is that we don’t leave the images alone and instead try and explain everything.

  2. juliakwalton 19 August 2016 at 8:33 am

    A very interesting art work: both beautiful to look at and listen to, as well as being a stimulus for debate and conjecture. I think it is a thoughtful and successful piece.

  3. alisonchurchill 20 August 2016 at 4:28 pm

    This is mesmerising, poetic and profound. Referring back to Liz’s comment above, it doesn’t try to explain or present a foregone conclusion. You can feel right into it — the subtle energy of each group, their desire to communicate but also their reticence and resistance. The daunting nature of “colonies” from the outside. This is a wonderful piece of art as it helps us to feel our way into these issues from inside.


Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.