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Light Research @ MMU

Two special issues: ‘Geographies of Darkness’ and ‘Sensing and Perceiving with Light and Dark’

Two special issues of academic journals have been published in the last few weeks, both edited by Tim Edensor at MMU.

Firstly, Cultural Geographies features a themed issue on ‘Geographies of Darkness’. http://cgj.sagepub.com/content/current

Pip Thornton elaborates on her work as a soldier on the Iraq battlefield and the her experience of the British Military deployment of lighting, night vision equipment and darkness. These strategies exemplify the lop-sided power relations between the two forces on the battlefield. Pip’s work is previously featured on this blog: http://www.lightresearch.mmu.ac.uk/light-discipline-bodies-and-power-on-the-battlefield. Robert Shaw discusses how darkness in the home may be experienced positively or negatively, may be a source of insecurity but also a condition that fosters intimacy, conviviality and an oppenness to the other. Also featured on this blog is Tim Edensor and Emily Falconer’s research at Dans Le Noir, the London restaurant that invites people to dine in the dark: http://www.lightresearch.mmu.ac.uk/dans-le-noir. Again, darkness is  ambivalent, enhancing the taste of food, soliciting social interaction and providing a sense of mystery and imagination for some; a site of confusion and peril for others. Oliver Dunnett focuses upon the moral geographies that have been mobilized in the establishment of dark sky parks in the UK, and foreground an ‘astronomical sublime’ and the desirability of the rural in opposition to the urban. Finally, Phillip Vannini and Jonathan Taggart look at how Canadian off-gridders  who move away from modern living to dwell in the wilderness , must generate their own source of illumination using modest technologies that only provide some light and necessitate a more habitual encounter with the gloom that has been banished from most cities.

Secondly, The Senses and Society features a special issue on ‘Sensing and Perceiving with Light and Dark’ which focuses upon various forms of Light Art. http://www.tandfonline.com/toc/rfss20/10/2

Tim Edensor looks at the work of James Turrell, Carlos Cruz Diez, Olafur Eliasson and Tino Seghal, all of whose work is discussed more briefly on this blog. Harriet Hawkins explores the sensuous light art of Pipilotti Rist through a feminist lens, and Shanti Sumartojo and Sarah Barns investigate the atmospheres produced at a projection event on the buildings at Australia’s National niversity in Canberra. Johanne Sloan explores the impact of three light works: Michel de Broin’s giant mirrorball suspended above the streets of Paris, Phillip Parreno’s nostalgic cinematic marquees, and the illuminated lanterns of Weppler and Mahovsky that masqueraded as commodities in the shop fronts of a Toronto street. Elena Papadaki focuses upon Rafael Lozano-Hemmer’s extraordinary’ Under Scan’, situated in Trafalgar Square, that used powerful lights to produce shadows of passers-by into which were projected the images of other people, as well as Gregory Markopoulos’ ‘Eniaios’, a film projected onto a vast screen situated in a dark Greek Valley. Finally, Joni Palmer elaborates upon the more vernacular creation of a Glass Garden in New Mexico that reflects the light of this luminous landscape, as featured in an earlier entry on this blog: http://www.lightresearch.mmu.ac.uk/ardell-scartaccini-new-mexico-glass-garden

 

 

 

October 19th, 2015 - 14:53pm

Skedanoz, Carnac, 2015

Carnac 3Wandering the streets of Carnac on the south coast of Brittany for two days to find out the time and exact place of the ‘Skedanoz’ demonstrated that this event had received limited local publicity. All we knew was that July 9th 2015 was the opening night of a month of illuminations at the Neolithic standing stones of Carnac. This was to be one of six scheduled events across France joining with the International Year of Light and Light-Based Technologies. It made sense to assume that it would begin around sunset – but where? Around 1,100 stones form the Ménec alignment which is just one of a number of mégalithic sites in this area totalling approximately 3,000 stones.

Carnac 1

Naturally there are a multitude of myths and a range of theories that contribute to explanations of why they are there and how they came to be. We returned at sundown to find a modest crowd of local Carnacois and a few other tourists gathered in the warm evening air at the top of the site alongside some of the tallest stones at Ménec (up to 4 metres in height). Now backlit by the setting sun, the lanterns were accompanied by a projection and speaker system obtrusively visible at the edge of the field where we spectators gathered to witness an orchestrated 20 minute show where a family-friendly narrative supplemented the movement of the lights as the ‘show’ began. A history of Carnac, interspersed with fact and myth about the mégalithic stones, was being dramatically retold through the voice of French comedian Patrick Joliot.

Carnac 2

Choreographed, computer generated animations danced and pulsed across the stones projecting multiple colours, criss-crossed lined patterns, and occasionally plunging the site into darkness bar one solitary-lit stone. The pace at which the lights changed was varied and the addition of the narration created a sense of mystery and anticipation. During the day we had seen the whole site from this point at the top of the hill but now, as the sun set and the sky changed colour from cerulean blue, to pink, orange, and to black, the colours projected onto selected stones created a completely new way of experiencing the alignment and entering the night-time.

Thanks to Louise Kenyon

September 15th, 2015 - 15:45pm

Community Light Installations Brighten Up the Season of Darkness in Finland

In their Light Castle Project, artists Anne Salmela and Anna Turunen create light installations in cooperation with the residents of different housing communities. The aim of the project is to bring art into the public realm, and into our everyday life, closer to the members of the community while also creating art pieces that can be enjoyed by every passer-by in the midst of the darkest season of the year. The light installations executed in shared city space turn familiar neighbourhoods into new environments. These art works transform familiar places into colourful and magical environments as lights, colours and pictures chosen by occupants of the participating houses are shared with the local community through their windows. The installations produce new encouLight Castle of Heikinlinnanters and experiences, as well as an opportunity for the public to catch a glimpse of the private world of the participating community.
In ‘Light Castle’, the participants choose a theme or a colour that pleases them, working together with the artists and in consultation with their family. Often, simply the choice of a colour proves to be surprisingly important. The actual construction is preceded by a long process of conceiving and planning the design with the occupants. In addition to coloured lights, installations includes moving images, such as the occupants’ videos about their hobbies, sporting enthusiasms or musical passions, or aspects of nature and photographs from their own albums. Light Castle of SampolaThe windows also features drawings by the occupants and messages that spill out onto staircases, as well as experimental features such as installations created by neighbours that were in dialogue with each other. The first Light Castle was made by Salmela and Turunen in Pori, Finland 2012. Since that, they have continued with their project in other cities. Blog: http://valolinna.net/
Posted by Anne Salmela and Anna TurunenLight Castle participants

March 23rd, 2015 - 18:53pm

The ChromaVan

This piece extends an invitation to small groups of people to enjoy an intimate light and colour experience in the comfort of a re-modelled caravan. Using powerful LED lighting technology hidden behind a large, curved diffusion screen, the experience revolves around a unique exploration of colour perception. Hosted by a couple of artist-guides, groups of five or so participants are assembled, inducted and then enter the neutral-coloured, curvilinear interior for a 12 minute colour and light experience.chromevan 1

In this darkened interior we get to experience all the wavelengths of light up close and personal. The ChromaVan experience uses over a thousand high-powered LED’s that fade through the complete colour spectrum, and are accompanied by music and an audio guide. It concludes with every participant receiving a personalised colour reading – which is akin to a horoscope but works through colour choices. It is based on the work of Swiss psychologist Dr Luscher’s famous Colour Test, and gives you a personalised reading with some practical and spiritual guidance on your journey through life.

First developed as an engagement tool for a hard to reach and troubled housing estate, the ChromaVan proved such a success that it has been used in scores of different contexts: both creative, civic and community. It has proven to be accessible and rewarding to a very wide range of people, having been road tested in some very demanding situations ranging from severely disadvantaged housing estates and late night city centres to market town shoppers to swanky European festivals. The creative experience works on several layers – as an unusual optical effect, as an intellectual stimulus, as a spiritual meditation and as a psychological revelation.chromevan2

It’s quite hard to describe the full ChromaVan experience, but after presenting it there, the Director of Hastings Coastal Currents Festival said, ‘Hardened cynics, hard to please teenagers, hard at work production crews and children of all ages; every single one of them came out of the ChromaVan glowing and smiling. We could have done with a dozen ChromaVans to fill the need as word spread. Not only a joy to the soul but scarily accurate in its portrait of nearly everyone who entered its white womb like interior. Loved it!’

Written by Chris Squire, Impossible Arts:  http://www.impossible.org.uk/

 

 

March 2nd, 2015 - 15:35pm

Atmospheric installation in industrial Melbourne

Over three summer nights (22-24 January), a team of three artists and one geographer (Fiona Hillary, Jordan Lacey, Eliot Palmer and Shanti Sumartojo) set out to explore atmosphere through a three-day ‘site-responsive’ artwork in Melbourne, part of artist Dagmara Gieysztor’s 3 month residency courtesy of Maribyrnong council, contain yourself.

Melbourne - view of bunbury street bridge - smallThe installation took place in two shipping containers located adjacent to a heavy freight rail bridge, which crossed the Maribryong River to reach a giant container yard. Our response to the site used light, sound and vibration. Jordan Lacey has blogged about the sound here ( https://soundandmind.wordpress.com/2015/02/11/live-industrial-soundscape-the-maribyrnong/), but light also played a crucial part.
Melbourne - view of two containers in daylight - smallThere were two illuminated elements to the work. The neon aspect consisted of different lengths and colours that were hung in a bright sketch that recalled the lines of the site. The effect in the daytime was of distinct rods of colour, gentle but vivid. As the twilight turned to evening, however, the neon appeared to grow in strength and luminosity, and the colours became more immersive. The neon blended and mixed, sometimes pulsating gently in response to the vibrations. Glowing colour
Melbourne - view of neon with bike - small The second use of light came with projections of photographs. These captured the subtle textures and patterns of the site that can easily slip out of conscious noticing. Images of paving, cobblestones, weeds, the patina of the rusted steel bridge, tree bark and rippled river water quietly glowed in a low corner. Like the neon, the images only became clearly visible as the light changed, hinting at the quotidian transformation of day to night that shape our experience and perception of space.Melbourne - view of projectionVisitors stepped in and out of the open container, sometimes looking at the neon, sometimes looking out at the view across the river, which had its own lightscape to enjoy. The installation thus drew on its sensory surroundings for inspiration, blending with and into its spatial context.

 

Melbourne - view of container yard - small

February 12th, 2015 - 10:23am

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