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Light Research @ MMU

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

Tivoli Gardens, Copenhagen: fantastic lights lasers and fireworks

We are very fond of vernacular and festive lighting on this site. Bright and colourful fairground illumination has long been a source of delight and desire, contributing to the excitable atmosphere and the themes of popular culture that often feature in the designs of fairground art. The use of illumination at contemporary spaces of carnival and festivity becomes updated but also often follows well-worn popular themes and older forms of lighting design, for such spaces are also powerful sites of nostalgia for those who have been visiting them over the course of a lifetime. tivioli Nimh 5

The second oldest amusement park and pleasure gardens in the world, Copenhagen’s Tivoli Gardens, founded in 1843, continues to draw millions of visitors each year, tourists and locals alike. Situated right in the heart of the city, it includes a heady mix of the latest cutting edge thrill rides, top class and less exclusive restaurants, a five star hotel, gardens and lakes, themed architecture, fairground stalls, several stages and concert venues and many other attractions. tivoli pagoda

This complex and fascinating realm also draws on techniques of fantastic and festive lighting at night to produce an enchanting space. Each Saturday during the summer season, a beautiful firework display, superbly synchronized with music, issues forth from the roof of the concert hall as part of a tradition initiated in the park’s first season. In addition, the whole of the gardens is garbed in customized, colourful illumination, with over 120,000 bulbs arrayed across buildings, amusements, fountains, trees, avenues and lakes producing a rich nocturnal scene. Tivoli laser 1

In addition, a cutting edge laser show, deploying dry ice and cascading fountains, plays across the lake every night, following series of moods and intensities, and transforming the usually placid watery landscape.Tivoli laser 3

April 14th, 2015 - 10:44am

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

Night-time Factory Tourism in Japan

I wondered how long the tour would take that night. An hour, perhaps two I guessed. I was in Japan researching a phenomenon called Kojo Moe (factory love), a trend that had emerged after the publication in 2007 of a photo book, Kojo Moe-F Background Reference Book, on heavy industry. The book has a guide to viewing different types of factories, from chemical plants to steel works, cement works and gantry cranes. The tour that evening began, like others I had been on, at the city port. Night time factory viewing (Kojo Yakei) is usually done from the decks of a boat. Kojo Yakei forms a growing aspect of Japanese tourism, and private tour operators and city municipalities have developed a number of organised bus and boat tours to meet demand. Data compiled in 2014 by the Department of Civil Engineering at Kinki University in Osaka detailed 31 factory tours operating in 17 cities. The densest concentration of tours is, unsurprisingly, in the Kanto region that encompasses the heavily industrialized coastal zones of Yokohama and Kawasaki. The tours can sell out for months in advance. When I had enquired at JNTOs (Japan National Tourism Organizations) in Tokyo City about visiting industrial sites, I was given a list of museums of technology and industry. As a foreigner, I am not the target audience for these tours. Kojo Yakei is marketed at Japanese city-dwellers and participants are mainly groups of young Japanese women and then some older men.

KY_HO1

Kojo Yakei is promoted as a social experience, a night-out, and not as an educational or informational tour.  Some cruises provide buffet dinners, others cocktails. What they all offer is a spectacle. An alternate son et lumière to the neon and electric cityscape.  At night security lights, office lights, portacabin lights and perimeter lights illuminate industrial megastructures on a Blade Runner scale. Smoke rising from chimney stacks adds to the effect. On one boat tour in March it snowed but we still stood out on the deck trying to take as many photos as possible. Kojo Yakei offers what we in the West call the industrial sublime and on these nights I am factory struck (not love struck or star struck).

KY_HO2

The boats tend to slow down and stop opposite particularly well-lit structures (sometimes accompanied by clapping and cheering) before bypassing dark factories for another illuminated colossus. It is difficult to take good photographs from a rocking, moving boat in low light. I spent much time on the first few tours experimenting with different camera settings and these sets of photos are mostly light strobed images or blurry shots. Very few take serious camera kit on these tours, but the boats slow down to enable participants to take photos, as best they can, with their smart phones, or to capture a factory selfie. The photography is an important element of the social experience of the tour. I plan to take photographs from the shore of the Kojo Yakei boats going past, lit up by the cabin light and the flickers of light from smartphones.

KY_HO3

Most boat tours take an hour. However, a boat and bus tour around Himeji city was four hours long. The bus pulled up opposite a spectacular chemical plant and we spent around 20 minutes taking photographs through the wire fencing. The plant next door was in darkness and no one was paying it any attention. I strolled down the road the short distance to take a look at it. The bus driver must have noticed my interest for when I returned to the group he said to me ‘we have asked them to put their lights on for us.’ An examination of the relationship between the factories and the tour operators forms part of my future research plans.

KY_HO4

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hilary Orange, UCL Institute of Archaeology, h.orange@ucl.ac.uk

January 23rd, 2015 - 13:30pm

Urban Lighting, Light Pollution and Society

urban lighting, light pollution and societyA recently published book, Urban Lighting, Light Pollution and Society, has been edited by Josiane Meier, Ute Hasenöhrl, Katharina Krause and Merle Pottharst. All four were members of the interdisciplinary Loss of the Night research collaboration, and are based at the Department of Urban and Regional Planning at the Technical University of Berlin and at the Leibniz-Institute for Regional Development and Structural Planning in Erkner. This fabulous volume focuses upon urban lighting and light pollution from a social sciences and humanities perspective. It highlights current debates, among them ways in which light pollution might be defined and may be alleviated by emergent technologies and policies. Highly recommended.

January 16th, 2015 - 16:37pm

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