Thermally Speaking, light installation by LeuWebb Projects for CITYLights Toronto

LeuWebb Projects, Mulvey & Banani Lighting,

Doublespace Photography, Simon Tanenbaum,

Toronto, Canada,


Event, Landscaping,

A look at the last CITYLights Toronto installation in anticipation while waiting to find out who will be the light artist of 2020. The 2019 site-specific installation called Thermally Speaking was created in collaboration with the local LeuWebb Projects Canadian art group.

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Thermally Speaking, light installation by LeuWebb Projects for CITYLights Toronto The CITYLights Toronto initiative was launched in 2015 as an educational opportunity for Toronto-based students and young professionals in the fields of lighting design, architecture and interior design, creating a site-specific installation to illuminate specific points in the Canadian city, including landmark buildings and plazas. It is created for 3 October - Nuit Blanche, or “white night”, Toronto’s annual night-time arts festival. 
To reduce the spread of COVID-19, Toronto’s free all-night contemporary art event will move its 2020 event online with expanded digital content and special online events on the night of 3 October. Nuit Blanche 2020 will be reimagined and tailored to fit the moment. Under the two-year curatorial theme, The Space Between Us, Artistic Director Julie Nagam will focus on the connections across urban, polar and pacific landscapes revealing the space between us as a potential site for sharing knowledge.
The project of the last edition of CITYLights Toronto was designed by the multi-disciplinary public art collective LeuWebb Projects and produced in collaboration with award-winning lighting design consultancy, Mulvey & Banani Lighting, both based in Toronto, Canada. The site-specific installation was developed for the Fort York Visitor Centre, an award-winning building designed by Patkau Architects with Kearns Mancini Architects Inc. The Visitor Centre at Fort York National Historic Site pays homage to Toronto’s founding story and Canada’s military past. Situated beneath the Gardiner Expressway on a 17-hectare site in downtown Toronto, the centre serves as a museum and explores the relationship between natural landscapes and the built environment.
For the Thermally Speaking installation, the artists and lighting designers started from the premise that human bodies are vessels of energy, containers of both fire and water. They’re constantly undergoing renewal and death at a cellular level. Thermally Speaking translated the radiant energy of human bodies as they moved through Fort York. The project used thermography and infrared measuring instruments to uncover the fields of energy which we’re all a part of. Visitors were encouraged to ascend the rooftop ramp of the Fort York Visitors’ Centre towards an exceptional view over the Fort York site. The presence and energy of people were reflected throughout the surfaces of the building in colourful translations of their activity. Thermal imaging cameras relayed and translated the heat energy of visitors into a shifting curtain of light, animating the channel glass facades of the building. Audiences were invited to move through, over and around the ramp both as observers and subjects of observation, participants in dialogue with the phenomena around them.
The responsive installation transformed Toronto’s Fort York Visitor Centre for Nuit Blanche 2019, and at the same time provided a glimpse into a future of body temperature readings, something which has become part of our post-pandemic routine. By the same token, the installation also offered an opportunity for technical development for students in the field of lighting design and architecture.

Christiane Bürklein

Project: LeuWebb Projects with Mulvey & Banani Lighting
Location: Toronto
Year: 2019
Images: Doublespace Photography, Simon Tanenbaum


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