It has been an established tradition for some years now to usher in the new year with light festivals offering unusual new visions of city buildings and monuments. These events have become an important source of income for tourism and retail in the cities that host the festivals, but they also have deep roots in ancient traditions in a number of different cultures, due to the ability of light to attract and astound people of all ages and win over the darkness of long, cold winter nights. In our day and age, light installations represent a true testing ground for artistic experimentation with new and different techniques, materials and ways of interacting and communicating with the public. The easiest, most immediate example is the possibility of contributing to the collective story-telling around the event simply using official event hashtags. There are many such examples, including Italy’s Luci d'Artista, a light festival now in its thirteenth edition in the city of Salerno, where artists are invited to produce works of light art connected with the local area and its mythology. The title of the 2018-2019 edition, "Mare, mito e divina costiera" (“The Sea, Myth and the Divine Coast”), is expressed through four themes: myth, dreams, time, and Christmas.
The sea, the natural element with which the city is most closely connected, is featured in the myth of Poseidon, with a dramatic temple of light set up in Piazza Flavio Gioia, while the theme of the "dream" is expressed in a number of locations throughout the city through a voyage into the underwater world of the Mediterranean and its inhabitants.
The famous phrase coined by Canadian philosopher and sociologist Marshall McLuhan, “the medium is the message”, is the theme of the seventh Amsterdam Light Festival. The jury selected 29 works of light art by artists from 16 different countries all over the world to be set up in the centre of the city of Amsterdam for the festival; artworks created specifically for the event, in which the artists question the role of light as both medium and message. The organisers also asked art historian Koen Kleijn to identify 10 extraordinary stories about the city and tell them on the festival’s web site: stories in which the medium becomes the city of Amsterdam itself.
Art and science come together in some of the artists’ works, such as German artist Stefan Reiss’s O.T. 976, inspired by the theory that everything in the universe is linked together by little vibrating cords, or Hungarian studio Koros Design’s inflatable installation entitled A.N.N.N (Artificial Neural Network) recalling neural networks and demonstrating processes similar to those of human cerebral activity.
In the Quartier des Spectacles of the city of Montréal, in Canada, a true crucible of light and sound installations involving the public in interactive experiences which have been exported all over the world, Luminothérapie is now in course. Ingrid Ingrid’s Domino Effect won the ninth edition of this important design competition for temporary public art installations. 120 tesserae forming a giant domino, divided into sets by colour, each with its own sound, invite the public to play and interact with others to create ever-changing musical and light effects.
Salerno: Images courtesy of Comune di Salerno, photo by Massimo Pica
Amsterdam: Images courtesy of Amsterdam Light Festival, photo by Janus van den Eijnden
Luminothérapie, effet domino, par Ingrid Ingrid, une production du Partenariat du Quartier des spectacles. Photo : Nicolas Gouin - l’Hibou