Lighting up London

I wrote in my previous blog about a day out in London: one of the reasons my boyfriend and I had decided to have a London day was to visit the Lumiere Festival. Scattered across several locations were temporary light installations, which transformed the city into an illuminated art showcase.

Camille Gross and Leslie Epsztein: Voyage - Piccadilly Circus

Some of the work I was astonished by, such as 'Voyage' in Piccadilly Circus, as moving lights told stories across a building facade (although it would have benefited from having the billboards next-door turned off!). The music that accompanied the display drifted through the air, and the fact that the busy streets were closed to traffic gave a wonderful sense of carnival and communality, as people wandered across usually restricted pathways, and watched this dazzling display.

Katarzyna Malejka and Joachim Slugocki: Spectra - St. James' Park

The festival is conceived as an encountered exhibition; the idea being that you can just wander around the city and run-into art. The reality, unfortunately, is that you end up encountering the crowds and surmising that that there is 'an art' nearby. People with cameras (yes, hypocritical, since I was also holding one) push in front to get the best angles, and then spend an age getting their shots, to the detriment of those who just want to have a look. 

Alaa Minawi: My Light is Your Light **  Benedetto Bufalino and Benoit Deseille: Aquarium

The large-scale work, such as 'Voyage', and 'Child Hood', or moving pieces, like 'Flamingo Flyaway', work better in that respect, as there is room for people to wander and watch. I especially enjoyed the flamingos (although I do love a flamingo anyway), as they were manoeuvred through the winding Soho streets, interacting with passers-by. 'Aquarium', 'My Light Is Your Light', and the other smaller, more intimate pieces, suffer from their compactness, as crowds swamp the impact.

Lantern Company with Jo Pocock: Flamingo Flyaway - Soho

The only way to counter this would be to have crowd-control barriers, and wardens enforcing a time limit. However this is contradictory to the aim of a chance encounter with art. Another way could be for the organisers not to advertise the exact locations of works - again, though, this wouldn't be manageable: not least because social media would soon reveal the secret to all and sundry.


Vertigo: The Wave - Southbank

Despite the problems, and the rain, some of the installations were truly beautiful - personally I preferred the larger ones, like 'Child Hood' in Trafalgar Square: through mixing media and form, some pieces worked to really create a space out of time and place through disrupting the quotidian of site and using the familiar to immerse spectators in the unfamiliar. It was magical to watch the balloon lights in the Square pulse along with the music, reflecting off the fountains, and look at the faces of the other spectators, all witnessing an ephemeral event. Although these performances were repeated through the night, the blowing wind, the changing colours of the fountains, and the movement of bodies around the space means that no two showings can be exactly the same, which lent a beautiful melancholy to the work. 

Camille Gross and Leslie Epsztein: Voyage - Piccadilly Circus

Collectif Coin: Child Hood - Trafalgar Square

I wish we could have seen more of the pieces across the festival, but we didn't have the time, and the weather was making me a bit grumpy by the end of a very long, but otherwise very lovely day!

Lumiere, as a company, has been running large-scale light installations across the country since 2009. Lumiere London is over now and their next event is yet to be announced - I'll definitely be keeping an eye on their website and social media channels to find the next one!

Did you visit any of the Lumiere installations? Which ones were your favourites?


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