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Light Research @ MMU

Matlock Bath Illuminations 2015

Matlock Bath Illuminations run each weekend throughout early September to late October. Attracting around 100,000 visitors annually to this small Victorian holiday resort in England’s Peak District, the central attraction of the event is a parade of locally designed illuminated and decorated boats. Throngs of spectators crowd each bank of the wooded valley of the River Derwent. On the side that lies adjacent to the town, a fairground and food stalls cater to the thousands of visitors, while the other side is arboreal and darker. At an assigned time, the ten or eleven boats, all made by members of the Matlock Bath Venetian Boat Builders’ Association, move into position and one by one turn on their lights as their designers row down the river.Matlock Dr Who

The event was first held to commemorate Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee in 1897 and to honour these earlier displays, a candle-lit boat continues to make its way down the Derwent at the start of the parade. The illuminations on the boats are primarily created via simple bulbs and LEDs, some animated, are powered by lorry batteries, and are co-ordinated to evoke designs drawn from popular culture. They utterly transform what is by day a romantic riverside walk, their bright lights reflecting in the dark waters, seeming to glide past independently.The designs are judged and the winning boat is awarded the Arkwright Cup.Matlock Eiffel Tower

For 2015, the victor was Mickey’s Steam Boat, a design featuring Mickey Mouse and his paddle steamer. Other designs included the Eiffel Tower, a space ship battle, Postman Pat, the Batmobile, and a Tardis and Dalek from Dr Who. This vernacular festival highlights the innovations and creative energies of those who use lighting to create vernacular, festive designs, creations about which this blog is particularly enthusiastic  Matlock Thunderbird

October 25th, 2015 - 19:04pm

Two special issues: ‘Geographies of Darkness’ and ‘Sensing and Perceiving with Light and Dark’

Two special issues of academic journals have been published in the last few weeks, both edited by Tim Edensor at MMU.

Firstly, Cultural Geographies features a themed issue on ‘Geographies of Darkness’. http://cgj.sagepub.com/content/current

Pip Thornton elaborates on her work as a soldier on the Iraq battlefield and the her experience of the British Military deployment of lighting, night vision equipment and darkness. These strategies exemplify the lop-sided power relations between the two forces on the battlefield. Pip’s work is previously featured on this blog: http://www.lightresearch.mmu.ac.uk/light-discipline-bodies-and-power-on-the-battlefield. Robert Shaw discusses how darkness in the home may be experienced positively or negatively, may be a source of insecurity but also a condition that fosters intimacy, conviviality and an oppenness to the other. Also featured on this blog is Tim Edensor and Emily Falconer’s research at Dans Le Noir, the London restaurant that invites people to dine in the dark: http://www.lightresearch.mmu.ac.uk/dans-le-noir. Again, darkness is  ambivalent, enhancing the taste of food, soliciting social interaction and providing a sense of mystery and imagination for some; a site of confusion and peril for others. Oliver Dunnett focuses upon the moral geographies that have been mobilized in the establishment of dark sky parks in the UK, and foreground an ‘astronomical sublime’ and the desirability of the rural in opposition to the urban. Finally, Phillip Vannini and Jonathan Taggart look at how Canadian off-gridders  who move away from modern living to dwell in the wilderness , must generate their own source of illumination using modest technologies that only provide some light and necessitate a more habitual encounter with the gloom that has been banished from most cities.

Secondly, The Senses and Society features a special issue on ‘Sensing and Perceiving with Light and Dark’ which focuses upon various forms of Light Art. http://www.tandfonline.com/toc/rfss20/10/2

Tim Edensor looks at the work of James Turrell, Carlos Cruz Diez, Olafur Eliasson and Tino Seghal, all of whose work is discussed more briefly on this blog. Harriet Hawkins explores the sensuous light art of Pipilotti Rist through a feminist lens, and Shanti Sumartojo and Sarah Barns investigate the atmospheres produced at a projection event on the buildings at Australia’s National niversity in Canberra. Johanne Sloan explores the impact of three light works: Michel de Broin’s giant mirrorball suspended above the streets of Paris, Phillip Parreno’s nostalgic cinematic marquees, and the illuminated lanterns of Weppler and Mahovsky that masqueraded as commodities in the shop fronts of a Toronto street. Elena Papadaki focuses upon Rafael Lozano-Hemmer’s extraordinary’ Under Scan’, situated in Trafalgar Square, that used powerful lights to produce shadows of passers-by into which were projected the images of other people, as well as Gregory Markopoulos’ ‘Eniaios’, a film projected onto a vast screen situated in a dark Greek Valley. Finally, Joni Palmer elaborates upon the more vernacular creation of a Glass Garden in New Mexico that reflects the light of this luminous landscape, as featured in an earlier entry on this blog: http://www.lightresearch.mmu.ac.uk/ardell-scartaccini-new-mexico-glass-garden

 

 

 

October 19th, 2015 - 14:53pm

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

Burning away the Winter Blues in Yukon

burningweb1

 

On 22nd of March this year, in a part of the world where winter throws darkness across space for a prolonged period of time, the Whitehorse community in Yukon, staged a festival devised by the Yukon Educational Theatre to celebrate the impending end of winter and the advent of Spring,  the 17th Burning Away the Winter Blues. burningweb3

As the seasons turn, people are invited to join a torch-lit procession along the Yukon River, with drumming, singing and effigies created by individuals and local artists. The marchers subsequently congregate around a bonfire upon which the effigies are thrown along with the winter blues of the participants, written on pieces of paper and collected in blue paper bags, and follow this with dancing and celebrations. http://yukoneducationaltheatre.com/#burning-away-the-winter-blues (Thanks to Paul Davis)burningweb12

 

April 7th, 2015 - 14:26pm

Community Light Installations Brighten Up the Season of Darkness in Finland

In their Light Castle Project, artists Anne Salmela and Anna Turunen create light installations in cooperation with the residents of different housing communities. The aim of the project is to bring art into the public realm, and into our everyday life, closer to the members of the community while also creating art pieces that can be enjoyed by every passer-by in the midst of the darkest season of the year. The light installations executed in shared city space turn familiar neighbourhoods into new environments. These art works transform familiar places into colourful and magical environments as lights, colours and pictures chosen by occupants of the participating houses are shared with the local community through their windows. The installations produce new encouLight Castle of Heikinlinnanters and experiences, as well as an opportunity for the public to catch a glimpse of the private world of the participating community.
In ‘Light Castle’, the participants choose a theme or a colour that pleases them, working together with the artists and in consultation with their family. Often, simply the choice of a colour proves to be surprisingly important. The actual construction is preceded by a long process of conceiving and planning the design with the occupants. In addition to coloured lights, installations includes moving images, such as the occupants’ videos about their hobbies, sporting enthusiasms or musical passions, or aspects of nature and photographs from their own albums. Light Castle of SampolaThe windows also features drawings by the occupants and messages that spill out onto staircases, as well as experimental features such as installations created by neighbours that were in dialogue with each other. The first Light Castle was made by Salmela and Turunen in Pori, Finland 2012. Since that, they have continued with their project in other cities. Blog: http://valolinna.net/
Posted by Anne Salmela and Anna TurunenLight Castle participants

March 23rd, 2015 - 18:53pm

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