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Light Research @ MMU

FROM LIGHT TO DARK: DAYLIGHT ILLUMINATION AND GLOOM

FINALLY…. My book has now been published by Minnesota Press!! The contents provide in-depth analysis of many of the themes discussed on this blog within three distinct sections: daylight, illumination and darkness. More specifically, here is the chapter outline:

Part I. Light
1. Seeing with Landscape, Seeing with Light
2. Under the Dynamic Sky: Living and Creating with Light
Part II. Illumination
3. Electric Desire: Lighting the Vernacular and Illuminating Nostalgia
4. Caught in the Light: Power, Inequality, and Illumination
5. Festivals of Illumination: Painting and Playing with Light
6. Staging Atmosphere: Public Extravaganzas and Homely Designs
Part III. Dark
7. Nocturnes: Changing Meanings of Darkness
8. The Re-enchantment of Darkness: The Pleasures of Noir
Conclusion: The Novelty of Light and the Value of Darkness

The book can be accessed at http://www.combinedacademic.co.uk/from-light-to-dark

It’s reasonably priced!!

March 27th, 2017 - 03:40am

ACTIVE PARTICIPATION IN WHITE NIGHT

Melbourne is brought to life during White Night as over half a million people surge into the city centre for an all-night display of light, music and carousing. These crowds are invited to enjoy an array of attractions, comprising various installations, projections and performances. However, some critics assume that large light festivals offer a spectacle that is passively consumed by bedazzled onlookers. This was emphatically not the case at White Night. First of all, certain installations solicit the participation of visitors, without whom they would not be invigorating. Carla O’Brien’s Angel Wings encourage people to position themselves between two large illuminated wings and assume a heavenly pose for the camera, while Pierre Ardouvin’s installation, Purple Rain, devised in homage to popular music icon Prince, entreats visitors to collect a transparent umbrella and walk through a fine purple rain, an experience accentuated by the venue of the event: the narrow Little Lonsdale Street, with its tall buildings and reflecting wet tarmac.

Secondly, numerous festival-goers dress up for the occasion, some wearing absurd wigs or glamorous clothes, others clutching light sabres or adorning themselves with illuminated headgear. These participants significantly contribute to the festive atmosphere of White Night; they are an integral part of its success.

Thirdly, putting themselves firmly in the picture were around 100 protestors who were campaigning against the city’s rather harsh rough sleeping laws. Assembled across the forecourt of the State Library of Victoria upon the façade of which a colourful projection played, they chanted and sang, held aloft banners, brandished an illuminated sign, ‘No Homeless Ban’ and occasionally projected the same slogan across the portico of the library. In hijacking the display, they thoroughly contributed to the sense of event while powerfully making their point.

February 20th, 2017 - 04:42am

Terror in the dark

This blog has celebrated the positive qualities offered by darkness, focusing on the enhanced conviviality, heightened non-visual sensations, interaction with the landscape and imagination that can be solicited by various encounters with gloom and complete blackness. However, chiming with prehistoric and medieval terrors of the crepuscular in eras of pervasive superstition and fear of malign forces, are the more modern attractions of the ghost train and the horror movie, in which such residual fears are transmuted into the carnivalesque delights of the fairground and the movie theatre. Here, darkness retains its capacity to invoke agreeable terror. A growing number of attractions, based on early modern dark rides and walks, utilize darkness to produce an intense, hilarious and pleasurably managed form of terror: walks through confined dark spaces in which actors and technicians join forces to taunt and terrify visitors with a medley of effects. An excellent example is The Fear Factory, situated on a busy street in the bustling tourist setting of Queenstown in New Zealand’s beautiful South Island.

Our party of three entered a red door and instantly pressed a button to dim the lights and install complete darkness, utter blackness except for the small red light – little more than an illuminated dot – that we were instructed to follow along a complicated sequence of twisting corridors. Advised to hold on to each other as we haltingly made our way through the labyrinthine path, tense hands gripped shoulders or midriffs. Right from the start, as we were plunged into darkness, very loud, sharp explosions frightened us into an attentive wariness. Very soon, complete darkness was interrupted by the hideous masked faces of clowns, horned devils and beasts that unexpectedly appeared inches away and which continued to intermittently materialize for the duration of the journey. So sudden were these apparitions that they were difficult to assimilate, as they loomed into view and immediately disappeared. In any case, there was no time for reflection, or to gather thoughts, for the body braced itself for the next shock: we could never be certain of when they would once more flash out of the darkness to jolt us. The attraction works through continual anticipation. The blackness also works to conceal the origin of grotesque appeals and lamentations from unseen presences, sometimes whispers that entered the ear from very close by, along with creaks, clanks and deeper dismal sounds. These wails and soft entreaties were supplemented by hands touching fingers, grasping at feet and brushing across hair and ears, and an enhanced tactile awareness is intensified by suddenly uneven and unstable flooring, strands of hanging material and mild electric shocks that further disorientated the body, which could never be prepared for what was coming next. The frenzy of shocks that continuously confronted passage through these pitch black channels fostered a giddy delirium, as infectious laughter and shrieks produced an intensely communal experience. We blundered through a door blinking into the light, back at the point of entry, suffused with relief that the shocks were at an end, utterly confounded about the length of time and distance, or number of people who had tormented us in the gloomy corridors. Apparently about one in 7 visitors never make it to the finish – they chicken out before the end.

Darkness is thus a condition that offers diverse possibilities for animators, architects, light designers and actors to offer experiences that imaginatively disorder the usual experiences of the visual world. These brief engagements take us back to older fears that are easily rekindled by a host of associations and familiar figures from popular culture that linger to ensure that darkness remains scary, in this sense, pleasurably so.

December 16th, 2016 - 16:21pm

Sunlight and the Landscape: Stanton Moor, Peak District

I am currently  writing a paper that focuses upon the manifold effects of the daylight and the ways in which this shapes the ways in whihc we perceive and understand landscape. This involved taking a walk across a raised area of moorland and woodland in England’s Peak District, Stanton Moor, taking photographs at each moment that the light seemed to transform the scene I beheld. In focusing upon this changing light and its interactions with the landscape – the ways in which light is reflected, absorbed and deflected – I aim to foreground the ways in which our eyes must constantly become attuned to these shifts, a topic that is rarely considered in our habitual engagement with the world. The walk around Stanton Moor produced an array of instances where the landscape and elements within suddenly became notable through the effects of the sunlight. There were areas of strong contrasts and prominent silhouettes, parts where green plants became vibrant in the sun’s rays, areas of shadow and gloom, lucid reflections in water, expansive and luminous skies, vividly illuminated cobwebs adorned with droplets, and dappled 5.Stanton bright leaves17.stanton.jewelswoods.

March 8th, 2016 - 14:57pm

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

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