Hans Peter Kuhn

Hans Peter Kuhn, ?, 2006

Hans Peter Kuhn, ?, 2006

While Hans Peter Kuhn’s (b. 1952, Kiel, Germany) earliest artistic role was as a composer for the theatre and for dance, expanding into the creation of sound works for an art context and then into large-scale sound and light productions for public spaces, he continues to work in – and is justly celebrated for his contribution to – all of these areas.

His method tends to the incisive and minimal, elegant rather than elaborate. While the artist using sound can reach into the deepest regions of the psyche, the artist using light is best placed to reveal to us aspects of the real world of which we are unaware. Where sound makes us aware of change, light creates presence or reveals permanence. While the imagination may work best in the darkness, light is the metaphor for self-knowledge.

A city that is helped to see itself in the darkness can discover the rules of social order and the relationships of power that are inscribed in the built environment. Hans Peter Kuhn’s light installations are not only things of beauty, but offer us the gift of second sight, a view of reality so clear that we can already see what might be, the potential still locked in the present.

A city in the process of reinventing itself provides fertile ground for questions. For Internation 06, Kuhn imagined us looking out across the Mersey, wondering about the future of Liverpool – a city that was in the throes of regeneration but unsure of where it was heading. Kuhn’s question situated itself at the heart of the matter. Installed on the fagade of the former Cammell Laird Construction Hall, the vibrant neon question mark of light was unavoidable, visible from almost anywhere along the Liverpool waterfront. Nearly 20 metres high, the sheer scale of the work alone made us wonder, and its positioning at the water’s edge provided a focus for our reflections.

The Mersey remains a defining feature of Liverpool’s cityscape, a boundary – physical and emotional – which has shaped the life and history of the city for over 800 years. Kuhn’s intervention animated the river, accentuating the space as a stage on which to pose and act out questions. But the work prompted the city not simply to project outwards, but to look inwards. Liverpudlians are accustomed to seeing their city represented in views taken from across the water, the most iconic showing the Pier Head, whose Three Graces’ (Port of Liverpool, Cunard and Royal Liver Insurance buildings) embody what were once key drivers of the city’s economy.

Kuhn’s work held up a mirror to the city, a city in the midst of change, caught in a moment of self-reflection.

Hans Peter Kuhn at Liverpool Biennial 2006

?, 2006
Light installation 
Commissioned by Liverpool Biennial 
Exhibited at Cammell Laird Construction Hall

Supported by

Northwest Regional Development Agency
The National Lottery through Arts Council England
Mersey Waterfront
Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation
The Henry Moore Foundation
Esmee Fairbairn Foundation
Goethe-Institut, Manchester
Reddington Finance Ltd