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Light Research @ MMU

A temporary and permeable border of light: Berlin’s Lichtgrenze

Posted by Josiane Meier

From November 7-9 2014, Berlin celebrated the 25th anniversary of the Fall of the Wall with a light installation that first retraced and then re-erased the structure that separated the two parts of the city from 1961 to 1989. The “Lichtgrenze” – literally the „border of light“ – created by Christopher and Marc Bauder, a media artist and a film director, was composed of some 8.000 white balloons made of natural rubber that were tethered to the ends of slender carbon poles. LEDs mounted at the top of the poles gave the large balloons the appearance of being illuminated from within. Placed in an accurate line following some 15 km of the path of the Wall (not as straight as one might expect), they resembled a string of big pearls hanging in the night air.

Lichtgrenze-Norweger-StrThe Lichtgrenze provided an occasion for thousands of Berliners and visitors to engage in a sort of massive night hike along the former border. Through this, what might be considered quite a static installation was transformed into an interactive monument: people weaved between the lights, occasionally stopping to take pictures, give one of the poles a push to make it sway, to chat or puzzle over whether they were now standing in what was once the East or the West. At intervals along the way, people gathered to watch historic film footage projected on screens and paused to read stories that brought to life the Wall’s gravely threatening qualities.

 

Lichtgrenze-Brücke-v-untenEvery so often, the Lichtgrenze was complemented by informal lighting interventions, such as a group of memorial candles placed at the head of Schwedter Steg (a narrow bridge), and incidental illuminations, such as the sodium-vapour streetlight that illuminated the translucent portraits of the Wall’s victims at the memorial site at Bernauer Straße. These small – and generally not very bright – spots of light that accompanied the formal installation may or may not have been part of the plan; they certainly greatly deepened my experience by embedding the perfect-looking border of light in its imperfect context.

Lichtgrenze - Schwedter-Steg-sm

Having noticed the lights’ cool bluish hue, I was somewhat surprised to read later on that the balloons were not only intended to remind people of the dimensions of the wall, but also to symbolise the candles carried by many during the peaceful revolution in the autumn of 1989. While the cool light didn’t exactly create a candle-light atmosphere, it was likely a good choice in this case as it allowed for the luminous border to set itself apart from the significantly warmer-toned street lights. The installation was even clearly discernible from high in the air.

Lichtgrenze-RegViertel_2014

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

http://userpage.fu-berlin.de/geoiss/de/home.html

After being in place for two nights and two days, the installation culminated in its own dissolution: each helium-filled balloon was released into the night by its very own “Ballonpate” or “balloon patrons” following an orchestrated sequence. The balloons carried with them cards containing messages from their patrons. Unfortunately, it was quite difficult to keep track of the balloons as they went up: no longer lit from within, they immediately all but disappeared against the overcast sky, which had a glow all of its own from the city’s lights. I wonder how it would have been if the architectural illuminations and bright billboards (I hardly dare say the street lighting…) had been switched off for the half hour during which the balloons were released. Against a somewhat darker sky, they might have stood a better chance.

Lichtgrenze-Charite-Ballonflug

 

November 12th, 2014 - 13:06pm

Experimenting with light in Copenhagen – and the dangers of responsive lighting

Here’s a link to a fascinating piece on experimentation with smart lighting technologies in Copenhagen. Tellingly, the author also comments on the potential for such technologies to be deployed to intensifty surveillance and impose strict regimes of  law and order. This is a salient reminder that the rolling out of smart lighting promises much in improving the quality of the aesthetics and sustainability of urban illumination but the dangers need to be acknowledged as well!  http://bldgblog.blogspot.de/2014/08/right-to-light.html

October 31st, 2014 - 10:26am

Gertrude Street Festival part 2: Objects, Materials and Associations

Several of the projections at the GSPF use objects or unexpected surfaces, exploring materiality and its transformation through projected images and patterns. Olaf Meyer’s The People’s Car, parked a few metres down a sidestreet, is a 1968 white Volkswagen Beetle with digitally mapped projected designs that flicker, undulate and turn. Swirly stripes alternate with dynamic go-faster patterns and blocked colours that emphasise the shape, movement and psychedelic associations of the iconic car.Gertrude 5

On a smaller scale, broken brickwork is piled up in a shopfront to extend the illusion of masonry being shattered with a hammer. Keith Deverell’s Foundation speaks to gentrification (an aspect of recent developments in the Gertrude Street neighborhood) and processes of demolition. A still image from the projection shows a moment of impact, with bits of actual brick arranged to appear to cascade down from the flickering light of the installation. These works move beyond treating the surfaces of buildings as screens for projection art. Instead, they extend and deepen the artworks by blurring the material and immaterial and working narrative into the pieces, telling stories of and through the objects they employ. Mounted at street level, visitors can get up close to these works, and although the mechanics of the projectors are evident, the effect is still intriguing (posted by Shanti Sumartojo).Gertrude 6

 

July 29th, 2014 - 13:20pm

Gertrude Street Projection Festival, Melbourne

The Gertrude Street Projection Festival, on the edge of Melbourne’s city centre, runs from 18- 28 July. Works are projected at 30 sites and the GSPF enjoys a mix of contributions from major and emerging projection artists, community engagement partners and art students. This variety gives Gertrude Street a unique excitement, as visitors move from site to site, not knowing what content, scale or materiality to expect from each installation. While some of the major works are spectacular and impressive, such as Nick Azidis’ Lighthouse, a massive projection onto the façade of a housing tower, others are invite close scrutiny and engagement.gertrude 3gertrude 2Gertrude 1

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Particularly bewitching and intimate is Arika Waulu’s Young Blood, projections into large glass jars hung around eye level in a shop window. The faces in the jars had been filmed underwater, and the vitrine surface of the glass enhanced the impression of submerged movement. Eerie and beautiful, one visitor described it as ‘pickled heads’. The macabre effect was enhanced by a large taxidermy zebra head behind it in the shop. Posted by Shanti Sumartojo

Gertrude 4

July 23rd, 2014 - 10:30am

Mary’s Lamp: lighting the way for women and sexually diverse individuals

Lamp for Mary Source Mikala Dwyer

Lamp for Mary is a pink street light installed in 2010 to illuminate an inner city laneway, Mary’s Place, in Sydney. The light stands at a site ia which a woman named Mary was attacked and raped by two men in 1996 as a consequence of her sexuality.  One year after the brutal attack, the laneway, previously Flood Lane, was renamed Mary’s Place and a community artwork was installed. The original artwork, however, was removed during building works. In response to a community-driven campaign, City of Sydney commissioned artist Mikala Dwyer, who worked with GLBTQI community groups to reinstate a structure that protects, heals, warns and celebrates the power of survival. Acting as metaphor, the light keeps vigil for those using this place after dark, and enables this previously historically notorious, shadowy laneway to be reclaimed by women and sexually diverse individuals. While pragmatic, Mary’s Lamp also acts as a symbolic public tribute and testimony to the resilience of assault victims. The unusual large size, bright pink colour and ringed body of the structure serve to disrupt the conventional sequence of lighting along the urban laneway, motivating recognition and reflection for those using and moving through Mary’s Place. Moreover, the lamp emits a warm inviting light, with its pink shade designed to spread the emitted light across the width of the laneway. This contrasts with other streetlights in the area chosen for energy efficiency and cost, that providing a cooler, whiter hue with lower luminosity. Posted by Anna de Jong (aldj998@uowmail.edu.au)

 

June 4th, 2014 - 01:35am

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