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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

Light Touches: an innovative history of 19th century illumination

Alice Barnaby’s recently published book, Light Touches: Cultural Practices of Illumination, (https://www.routledge.com/Light-Touches-Cultural-Practices-of-Illumination-1800-1900/Barnaby/p/book/9780415663373) offers a fascinating, theoretically sophisticated and critical exploration of the development of 19th century light. By drawing on a remarkable range of examples, Alice demonstrates how the everyday world was dramatically transformed by the use of illumination and daylight, with the emergence of new materials, innovative designs and novel aesthetics. Yet rather than considering this as a top down process through which capitalists, scientists and bureaucrats dispensed illumination, people themselves were intimately involved in the evolution of new ways of presenting public space, their homes and their own bodies. In middle class homes, ladies of leisure experimented with new forms of painting that relied on light to produce transparent images. They also investigated the properties with muslin as a material with which to drape across windows, furniture and their own bodies, playing with its diaphanous qualities. Gin palaces and sites of amusement lured in visitors to enjoy the multiple reflections produced by new technologies that deployed mirrors, creating spaces of fascination, sociability and display, with their refracting shimmers and multiple reflections. People participated in illuminated patriotic, royalist and military celebrations, yet such occasions could be unruly, offering opportunities for violence and political protest before their later evolution into more peaceful events. And in developing a range of contesting aesthetics, artists and gallery owners initiated the use of daylighting to enchant the works they displayed. In drawing on a diverse array of theories and examples, Light Touches reveals that the radical transformation in sensory experience heralded by new techniques of illumination was not merely part of governmental systems of control and rationalisation nor generated by passively consumed spectacles. Instead, in working with the possibilities offered by these developments in illumination, ordinary people fully participated in the dramatic changes in how the world was perceived, produced and judged through experimentation, imaginative play and adaptation.

January 23rd, 2017 - 00:53am

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

Natural Forms in the City: Shells, Reefs, Trees and Dandelions at Leeds Light Night

On the 6th and 7th of October, with over 60 events across the city over two nights, the crowded streets revealed how much Leeds Light Night’s audiences enjoy the range of installations, projections and happenings on show. With  something for everyone, whether the lantern parade tradition or grand digital spectacle, this year’s programme was packed full of family-friendly, outdoor fun.

Setting an event against the night-sky might aim to fill it with light. I found the opposite attractive:  I was taken in by small scale and natural form more than the larger pieces.

spark

On a dry, clear night.The Handmade Lantern parade launched the festival with a water-inspired theme. Hundreds of people had lovingly made and wielded their own aquatic lanterns, complemented by large showpiece designs; conch shells-on-stilts, an animated tortoise and surreal fish riding bicycles. Lantern bearers were joined by thousands of onlookers who jostled for views or ran alongside the parade. The playfulness of the crowd melded with the striking drum patterns provided by World Beaters and their Spark! Show which led the parade through the bustling city centre, attracting more people as it moved along.

indestructible-reef

The Indestructible Reef, by Alison M Smith exuded much charm if you relaxed for a few minutes in its glowing company.  The work is made from re-cycled plastic and solicited consideration of all that subterranean wonders currently so appallingly threatened across our oceans. The lush and loving detail in this piece were juxtaposed with warnings of global reef collapse.

giant-dandelions

The Giant Dandelions at Merrion Gardens took a bit longer to woo me. At 7.30pm they were a pretty playground for young families, and happy as I was to  enjoy the atmosphere they inspired, I was after a more intense experience. When I walked through three hours later, I was rewarded for my patience; they had seemingly grown in size in glowing against the darker sky of the later hour. The illuminated St. Johns Church had also loomed into the night sky to provide a theatrical back-drop, and a late-night audience now contemplated life within a forest of lustrous orbs.

apparatus-florius

Having earlier chatted briefly to Tom Dykevere, I was intrigued at how his enthusiastic energy and worldly openness might personify his installation, Apparatus Florius. Designed for Park Square, it created a geometric structure which intersected the natural form of trees by connecting them with high-viz ropes illuminated with spotlights. An abstract soundscape, syncopated with choreographed lighting, created a mystical conversation within an intimate arboreal canopy.

Torn by the opposing need to to rush around to see as much as possible and the desire to relax into the experience, I was glad to find serenity in the pieces I saw.

By Gail Skelly

October 10th, 2016 - 21:39pm

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