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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.

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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.

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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

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.








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.



November 12th, 2014 - 13:06pm

Illuminating York 2014: three art works

The annual Illuminating York light festival took place from 29th October to 1st November 2014. As well as featuring a couple of projections on some of the many magnificent, historic buildings in the city, a number of light artworks were installed across its medieval centre, transforming the ways in which this heavily visited, iconic tourist city was experienced at night. Ritchard Allaway and Luc Jones created a light sculpture that evocatively displayed the textures of concrete, situated in a green, meditative setting adjacent to the magnificent cathedral.

york 1Close by, Joanne Geldard installed an illuminated greenhouse etched with scenes from the unheralded edgelands and waste sites that surround the contemporary city, the greenhouse itself representing a fixture that signifies a blurring of the rural-urban divide.

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And in King’s Square, Twist Design situated The Wheels of Industry, a car fitted with stained glass windows that could be illuminated by pedalling on an adjacent stationary bicycle. Though heralding the potential for more sustainable forms of power generation, the work simultaneously honoured the disappearing heavy industries and industrial cultures that pervaded the northern cities of England.

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November 4th, 2014 - 12:46pm

Ryoji Ikeda’s Spectra in London, August 2014

From the 4th to the 11th of August residents of London and visitors could witness an ambitious  light installation that commemorated the start of hostilities in World War One. Sited in Victoria Tower Gardens next to the Palace of Westminster, Spectra, designed by Ryoji Ikeda, was formed by a twenty-metre grid containing forty-nine searchlights that blazed each night from at dusk to dawn. The work could be seen from far away, well beyond the city, and from a distance seemed to constitute a single column of vivid white light, ascending some 15 miles into the night sky. Variations of Ikeda’s installation have appeared in several other cities and yet in each location, new associations and relationships are forged. Most obviously, the symbolic commemoration of war conjured up the searchlights that criss-crossed London in earlier conflicts, and many reviews referred to the famous remark of Sir Edward Grey, the foreign secretary of that era: ‘The lights are going out all over Europe. We shall not see them lit again in our life-time’.spectra1

And yet the powerful beam also suggested other resemblances: to lighthouses, the double beams installed in New York to commemorate the loss of the World Trade Centre’s Twin Towers, or the searchlights that revolve around cloudy skies to attract those seeking theatrical or musical entertainment. As the source of the beam was neared, it interacted with, and made strange, the gothic towers of the Houses of Parliament, and the surrounding trees.

Yet when the park was entered and all searchlights were separately visible, the work took on an entirely different aspect. Each separate beam reaching vertically upward in the night sky, created a horizontal sequence that framed the Palace, the trees and the moon, and you could walk into the midst of a giant enclosing cube of shafts of light. spectra5

Remarkably, the work attracted hundreds of people, and at the site of the origin of the beams, the sober qualities of commemorating war were replaced by a carnivalesque, excitable frenzy of movement and chatter. People moved amongst the luminaires, waving their arms or craning necks so that radiant faces leered above the searchlights, taking photographs of themselves and each other. Others adopted a less playful, more meditative disposition, lying on the grass, some drinking wine, staring upwards into the disappearing points of light, as they converged in a single beam miles above. The unreal atmosphere was augmented by the electronic pulses of the minimal music composed by Ikeda that drifted across the park. The scene changed according to the movement of clouds, and must have dramatically transformed when the rain came the day after our visit.spectra4spectra2

And not only people were attracted by the light. For each beam was saturated with millions of insects and moths, which with the infinite, swirling dusk particles, revealed that the capital’s air was not some transparent substance but replete with matter and life.spectra3

August 15th, 2014 - 14:29pm

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