App Art: David Shrigley's "Light Switch" Takes a Swipe at Conceptual Art on the iPhone

App Art: David Shrigley's "Light Switch" Takes a Swipe at Conceptual Art on the iPhone
David Shrigley's "Light Switch" iPhone app
(Illustration by ARTINFO)

The latest hot promo for art shows everywhere? Bespoke smartphone apps. The latest example is British artist David Shrigley’s downloadable bit of whimsy for his exhibition “Brain Activity” at the London Southbank Centre’s Hayward gallery, which is so infuriatingly simple in its conception that it must be art: Players control an animated hand that pokes at a light switch. As the switch alternates, the player’s screen goes black, as if the lights had gone off on your phone. A counter in the top left marks the number of times the light gets flipped. ARTINFO has done so 220 times. We’re not sure why.

There is no visible incentive to hit the switch. Shrigley’s animation is cute, and the way the disembodied hand becomes impatient when a player stalls is eerily disturbing and fairly entertaining. But the real meat of the app is in its implied riff on his fellow artists, in this case Scottish artist Martin Creed’s 2001 Turner-Prize-winning piece “The Lights Going On and Off,” which was composed entirely of two light bulbs installed in a bare gallery intermittently turning on and off. Shrigley one-ups that conceptual joke by turning the player into Creed’s absurd light-switcher, revisiting that work for our mobile and mediated age. 

App Grade: B+, for conceptual heft but no fun 

Cost: Free

David Shrigley's "Light Switch" app is available in the app store 

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