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Light Research @ MMU

Social Light Movement forces Copenhagen into TRANSITION

The neighbourhood of Sundholm, in South-eastern Copenhagen, is often depicted in popular media and planning documents as being socially deprived, economically challenged and physically run down. In 2011 the local neighbourhood-development office attempted to address and challenge this image. They invited the Social Light Movement to initiate a string of site-specific lighting projects in public space, a project labelled TRANSITION. But more than simply addressing the negative depiction of Sundholm, the project aimed to contest the stigmatised image by inviting local residents in co-creation of lighting designs that would help facilitate change. One of the projects, Home Sweet Sundholm, shows traditional street lamps, transformed into cosy coloured standard lamps. The social reality of the space is contested, allowing residents to imagine a journey away from what is present in space: Instead of feeling unsafe or depressed, the spectacle of illumination can make us think of something else.

SLM Copenhagen 2







A second project is Satellight, where satellite dishes on a building façade in Telemarksgade are bathed in different colours. Satellite dishes are singled out in Danish public media and policy as signifiers of segregated areas, or ‘ghettoes’. By illuminating the  dishes, these negative connotations are questioned and instead they are staged as glowing light art pieces aestheticising the street.

SLM Copenhagen







Both cases demonstrate how the popular order of urban space can be turned around with negative connotations of neighbourhoods being replaced by a spectacular senseations. Though such imaginative approaches can provide an aesthetic veneer that anaesthetises the public, these lighting (re)designs potentially destabilise fixed ideas, and challenge normalised conceptions of space. They not only beautify the neighbourhoods in Sundholm but also inspire a critical approach towards the  stereotypicalpopular discourses about parts of cities that stigmatise inhabitants. The projects in TRANSITION reveal how experimental forms of urban illumination might develop more critical approaches to how lighting design can enhancethe meaning and experience of cities.

Blog posted by Casper Laing Ebbensgaard

November 18th, 2013 - 12:44pm

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