Imagine Urban Light crossed with the early, dangerous Chris Burden. The result might be A Fist of Light, an unrealized 1986 project. Urban Light has been praised for using light (and green design) to create a welcoming social space. A Fist of Light went in a different direction. On Sep. 19, 1986, Burden wrote New Museum (New York) director Marcia Tucker to propose turning the institution into a power-grid-sucking incandescent hell-on-earth.
“My proposed project titled A FIST OF LIGHT, would consist of lighting the interior main space of The New Museum with the maximum amount of high power quartz halogen lights possible. The objective would be to maximize the amount of light in the museum space… The installation… would commence with the construction of a flat wall along the rear of the museum and then covering the four walls and the ceiling with a grid system 500 watt quartz halogen bulbs, spaced every 18 to 24 inches on center. The maximum amount of electricity available to the building would be used, and more could be brought in if necessary. With the necessity of protective eyewear a possibility for people entering the space, the goal would be to totally saturate the space with light, attempting to remove all color in a visual analog of fission.
“Like fission A FIST OF LIGHT… becomes simultaneously both horrendous, and tremendous.”
Burden addresses the heat problem by keeping the museum’s doors open and scheduling the installation for the dead of winter.
“The amount of light that can be produced is… a direct function of how much power Con Edison can deliver to the Houston/Broadway section of their power grid. Given enough funding and a cooperative, autocratic city administration, one could envision power being borrowed from the various close at hand subway lines…
“By using the maximum amount of electricity, the lights literally become a visual barometer of how much electrical energy A FIST OF LIGHT consumes. A visual analog of full power, total combustion, all consuming fission.”
In June 1987 Senior curator Lynn Gumpert wrote Burden to decline the proposal, given “a number of exciting projects and the inevitable funding problems.”