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Light Research @ MMU

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

FIRE AND FASCINATION IN CARLTON GARDENS

For me, the Carlton Gardens offered the most exciting experiences of Melbourne’s White Night. The south-facing façade of the venerable Royal Exhibition Building provided a superb screen for the captivating projection Rhythms of the Night by Sydney based Artists in Motion. The Southern edge of the park hosted the enticing Sonic Light Bubble by Iness and Tim Newman’s ever-changing Pixel Tree. But I was particularly lured to the Melbourne Museum Plaza. Situated here was the wonderful Nebulous, a pulsing, kinetic sculpture designed by Alex Sanson, a.k.a. Metaform, a strange cyborgian entity that seems to be both organic and mechanical. The intricate frame of the spherical creature, formed from delicate steel spokes and large, shiny sequins, slowly expanded and contracted, offering a quiet, mesmerising counterpoint to the wild Pyrophone Juggernaut some 300 metres away.

The Pyrophone Juggernaut, a futuristic ship assembled from junkyard metal and plastic lay enigmatically quiescent as coloured light played across its strange form. Suddenly though, a giant flame shot skywards from the mast and six riotous crew members clambered aboard to bring it to life, producing an unearthly, cacophonous music and a whirl of movement. The large freight liner alloy wheels and gongs were percussively thrashed as the three steel pipe organs that formed the ship’s sails emitted deep, resonant moans. These primeval sounds were generated by fire, that most elemental of light sources, projected from propane torches and shooting out of the top of the tubes. Swathed in ever-shifting colours of projected light, swirling dry ice and surging flames, the juggernaut is an awesome, compelling spectacle that conjures up both a post-apocalyptic future and an ancient, tribal pre-history.

 

February 20th, 2017 - 04:38am

Melbourne’s giant bauble

Besides the vernacular endeavours featured in the entry below, Melbourne has also commemorated the festive season by installing a giant illuminated bauble in the city centre’s Federation Square. Like the huge Christmas lights in New York featured on this blog two years ago (http://www.lightresearch.mmu.ac.uk/the-seasonal-lights-of-manhattan/), the bauble reimagines and honours an ordinary domestic decoration, a familiar adornment on the Christmas tree in millions of homes, but defamiliarizes it by enlarging it to gigantic scale.

From a distance, it looks magical, especially with the façade of St Paul’s Cathedral in the background. This six meter high white bauble, however, has an entrance on two sides and invites visitors to enter into it, so they may be surrounded above and laterally by thousands of tiny, glittering lights, so that they may also engage with the installation at close quarters. This is a design devised for the selfie generation, and indeed, throughout the evening, numerous photographs are taken of groups and individuals both outside and inside the bauble, producing a sociable, interactive hubbub on the square.

 

December 29th, 2016 - 10:00am

Lighting up Melbourne’s suburbs at Christmas

Melbourne’s Christmas lights shine brightly across its suburbs, installed by householders to bring a seasonal splash of colour, animation and illumination. Unlike the Christmas lights that adorn the exteriors of British houses that we studied back in 2009 (see Edensor, T. and Millington, S. (2009a) ‘Illuminations, class identities and the contested landscapes of Christmas’, Sociology 43(1): 103–121), most of these houses are owned by middle class residents and do not seem to suffer the abuse meted out by others, who deride them and their inhabitants as tacky, irresponsible, showy, wasteful and worse. Instead, the displays are widely popular, and while in the UK they seem to be dwindling in number, in Melbourne they are expanding as a key element of the Yuletide experience. Newspapers and websites detail where the most extravagant displays can be found, and car loads of festive celebrants visit them, chatting to their creators and taking photographs and videos. They clearly demand a great deal of time and energy to arrange and establish, as well as technical expertise. These ordinary suburban houses and gardens and the streets to which they belong are transformed into sites of sociable fun and spectacle. At one upmarket street, The Boulevard, in Ivanhoe, thousands of visitors arrive each night, with many small children hoisted up to see the illuminations that garb the houses and gardens of dozens of adjacent properties, carrying on a tradition initiated by these residents of this area in the 1950s. We feature these examples to highlight the diverse forms of lighting that are employed, from the choreographed shows set to music, and others, equally animated, that rely on lighting alone.

December 27th, 2016 - 09:16am

Fabulous Melbourne Lightworks

An array of diverse and stimulating works that use light are scattered across central Melbourne. First of all, I revisited the wonderful work of Yandell Walton, who has reconfigured hedancer-2r melancholic work featured on this site two years ago at the city’s  Abbotsford Convent. At a site called Testing Grounds, a space at which artists of all kinds can experiment and display prototypes, Yandell’s work was situated in a container. The skeletal iron structure of the ceiling of the convent’s laundry is redeployed to serve as the backdrop of two different projections: on one wall, a dancer is projected against a surface of white bricks found at the site; on another wall of transparent fibreglass, external lights and the vague outlines of  people from outside meld with the projected shadows of figures moving across the surface.shadows1

At the city’s famous National Gallery of Victoria, a different kind of work makes use of the light from outside. Leonard French’s 40 year old stained glass ceiling, one of the largest in the world, is a vibrant kaleidoscope of intense colour. Visitors are solicited to lie on one of the soft bean bags to gaze upwards at the glowing, multicoloured array above them. Extending the art first initiated by the craftsmen working in medieval cathedrals, French’s masterpiece underlines the extraordinary potency of sunlight reflected through coloured glass. stained-glass-roof

Finally, two very different neon works offer very different effects. Situated in another room of the NGV, Tracey Emin’s ‘The Passion of your Smile’ is a synthesis of the answers provided in a questionnaire that the artist sent to Hollywood actor, George Clooney Rendered so as to mimic Emin’s own handwriting, the neon text vibrantly captures a variety of impressions: glamour, romance, urgency.passion

Danae Velenza’s work is sited in a very different location: a side street just off Melbourne’s busy Bourke Street. Like Lost Children we Live our Unfinished Adventures is literally rendered on a wall by eight neon sculptures in shorthand. The neglected but ubiquitous form of writing deployed to rapidly pin down meaning is honoured by being situated here in the CBD, echoing the endeavours of the city’s admin workers over decades.shorthand

 

 

 

 

 

November 29th, 2016 - 05:00am

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