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Light Research @ MMU

Natural Forms in the City: Shells, Reefs, Trees and Dandelions at Leeds Light Night

On the 6th and 7th of October, with over 60 events across the city over two nights, the crowded streets revealed how much Leeds Light Night’s audiences enjoy the range of installations, projections and happenings on show. With  something for everyone, whether the lantern parade tradition or grand digital spectacle, this year’s programme was packed full of family-friendly, outdoor fun.

Setting an event against the night-sky might aim to fill it with light. I found the opposite attractive:  I was taken in by small scale and natural form more than the larger pieces.

spark

On a dry, clear night.The Handmade Lantern parade launched the festival with a water-inspired theme. Hundreds of people had lovingly made and wielded their own aquatic lanterns, complemented by large showpiece designs; conch shells-on-stilts, an animated tortoise and surreal fish riding bicycles. Lantern bearers were joined by thousands of onlookers who jostled for views or ran alongside the parade. The playfulness of the crowd melded with the striking drum patterns provided by World Beaters and their Spark! Show which led the parade through the bustling city centre, attracting more people as it moved along.

indestructible-reef

The Indestructible Reef, by Alison M Smith exuded much charm if you relaxed for a few minutes in its glowing company.  The work is made from re-cycled plastic and solicited consideration of all that subterranean wonders currently so appallingly threatened across our oceans. The lush and loving detail in this piece were juxtaposed with warnings of global reef collapse.

giant-dandelions

The Giant Dandelions at Merrion Gardens took a bit longer to woo me. At 7.30pm they were a pretty playground for young families, and happy as I was to  enjoy the atmosphere they inspired, I was after a more intense experience. When I walked through three hours later, I was rewarded for my patience; they had seemingly grown in size in glowing against the darker sky of the later hour. The illuminated St. Johns Church had also loomed into the night sky to provide a theatrical back-drop, and a late-night audience now contemplated life within a forest of lustrous orbs.

apparatus-florius

Having earlier chatted briefly to Tom Dykevere, I was intrigued at how his enthusiastic energy and worldly openness might personify his installation, Apparatus Florius. Designed for Park Square, it created a geometric structure which intersected the natural form of trees by connecting them with high-viz ropes illuminated with spotlights. An abstract soundscape, syncopated with choreographed lighting, created a mystical conversation within an intimate arboreal canopy.

Torn by the opposing need to to rush around to see as much as possible and the desire to relax into the experience, I was glad to find serenity in the pieces I saw.

By Gail Skelly

October 10th, 2016 - 21:39pm

Matlock Bath Illuminations 2015

Matlock Bath Illuminations run each weekend throughout early September to late October. Attracting around 100,000 visitors annually to this small Victorian holiday resort in England’s Peak District, the central attraction of the event is a parade of locally designed illuminated and decorated boats. Throngs of spectators crowd each bank of the wooded valley of the River Derwent. On the side that lies adjacent to the town, a fairground and food stalls cater to the thousands of visitors, while the other side is arboreal and darker. At an assigned time, the ten or eleven boats, all made by members of the Matlock Bath Venetian Boat Builders’ Association, move into position and one by one turn on their lights as their designers row down the river.Matlock Dr Who

The event was first held to commemorate Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee in 1897 and to honour these earlier displays, a candle-lit boat continues to make its way down the Derwent at the start of the parade. The illuminations on the boats are primarily created via simple bulbs and LEDs, some animated, are powered by lorry batteries, and are co-ordinated to evoke designs drawn from popular culture. They utterly transform what is by day a romantic riverside walk, their bright lights reflecting in the dark waters, seeming to glide past independently.The designs are judged and the winning boat is awarded the Arkwright Cup.Matlock Eiffel Tower

For 2015, the victor was Mickey’s Steam Boat, a design featuring Mickey Mouse and his paddle steamer. Other designs included the Eiffel Tower, a space ship battle, Postman Pat, the Batmobile, and a Tardis and Dalek from Dr Who. This vernacular festival highlights the innovations and creative energies of those who use lighting to create vernacular, festive designs, creations about which this blog is particularly enthusiastic  Matlock Thunderbird

October 25th, 2015 - 19:04pm

Burning away the Winter Blues in Yukon

burningweb1

 

On 22nd of March this year, in a part of the world where winter throws darkness across space for a prolonged period of time, the Whitehorse community in Yukon, staged a festival devised by the Yukon Educational Theatre to celebrate the impending end of winter and the advent of Spring,  the 17th Burning Away the Winter Blues. burningweb3

As the seasons turn, people are invited to join a torch-lit procession along the Yukon River, with drumming, singing and effigies created by individuals and local artists. The marchers subsequently congregate around a bonfire upon which the effigies are thrown along with the winter blues of the participants, written on pieces of paper and collected in blue paper bags, and follow this with dancing and celebrations. http://yukoneducationaltheatre.com/#burning-away-the-winter-blues (Thanks to Paul Davis)burningweb12

 

April 7th, 2015 - 14:26pm

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

Moonraking 2015

Moonraking crane and moonLast Saturday (21st February)  marked the 30th anniversary of Slaithwaite’s Moonraking Festival, a charming event written about on this blog two years ago. The Moon was, as usual, hauled out of the canal on crane to take its position at the head of the procession around the village. This year, there seemed more lanterns than ever before, created to evoke the annual theme of landmarks. The parade produced the most surreal sight of a bobbing sea of famous destinations, including the Statue of Liberty,Taj Mahal, Angel of the North  and Sydney Opera House. Moonraking Angel

The fabulous lanterns were augmented by a beautiful winter house and an array of lanterns that formed a likeness of version of Stonehenge, called Moonhenge. Once more, the festival involved large sections of the community and transformed the nocturnal environment.

     Photos by Kim Kotharimoonraking houseMoonhenge

February 24th, 2015 - 17:31pm

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