Sat 20th Jan update: A wander around different locations, more Light Art photos added at the bottom
Millions of magical ingredients make up a great London night but its not often a cloudless sky is one of them. Lumiere London is back for 4 nights and the opening night in Thursday was blessed with a crisp clear sky. If your wondering what that has to offer a lumination based festival the answer is far, far less of that pesky orange metropolitan glow bouncing back off the clouds and down onto the streets making for nicer long exposure photos. “ahhhhhhhhh” you all cry, “now we get it. Ban the clouds”.
Lumiere London – courtesy Lumiere London website
54 illuminated installations split into 6 kind of distinct areas are visible from 5.30pm until 10.30pm, you’ll never do it in one night. I certainly didn’t, so here is a snapshot, literally of the stuff around Mayfair and the West End that blew my photo neurons this evening.
Map – courtesy Lumiere London website
The established tradition now is that Grosvenor Square is a great Lumiere spot and the Northern Lights by Alexsandra Stratimirovic was stunning, though I must have missed the “interact with” element promised in the VisitLondon guide.
Building fun into art is a now well established way of making a piece of art popular so South Molton Street was our first stop, childhood regression is the name of the game as a series of seesaws invite you to create an illuminated butterfly motion effect. Read the seesaw instructions carefully and beware all the hazards, though there is one hazard so fearsome they have to hide it from us.
Static neon bicycles proved to be as popular as they are non functioning, I’d be way more impressed if you could ride one but photos of intensely illuminated groins seemed to be the main takeaway from Robyn Wright’s Neon Bikes in Brown Hart Gardens. Bottle Festoon is a collection of hanging lanterns made from used plastic bottles collected across several London boroughs and featuring in several Lumiere London locations. Sadly not as visually impressive as the plastic islands in the Trafalgar Square fountains last year.
Not truly a portal but Chris Plant’s Harmonic Portal was mesmerising, it drew you in like a decent portal should then your eyes do that thing where they slip out of focus, you start to fall in and the music…
Chris Plant: Harmonic Portal
Start with Dark Side Of The Moon then think light, prism, spectrum and put the whole lot together and you might come up with something close to what Katarzyna Malejka and Joachim Slugocki are channelling with Spectra in St. James Square.
A Nightingale sang In Berkeley Square the popular ditty tells us, and we’ll take Cédric Le Borgne’s word for it that his illuminated branch sitting sculpture is indeed a nightingale, a very poetic response to the location – perhaps even the title “Was That A Dream?” nods to the likelihood of a nightingale ever having sung in the heart of the West End.
Absolutely my favourite piece for its subtle lightness of touch and the ephemerality of dancing slivers of intense light was [M]ondes by Atsara (France). Geometric light shapes filter through the trees and illuminate the buildings surrounding Mount Street Gardens and in doing so catch on twigs or what appear to be loose coils of filament, the result is like watching the quicksilver flash of a shoal of spratt by a harbour wall or a dense pack (?) of moths divebombing through a searchlight. This had me so entranced I never thought to take a little video, which is a good thing if that omission motivates you to go and see it for yourself.
Award for best invented word goes to Michael Davis for “Ilumaphonium”, we could stop at that but Ilumaphonium is also a dazzling bit of neon light and clearly a lot of fun to interact with, the neighbours may be in for a sleepless night unless those drumsticks are hidden away. Those stained glass windows craftsmen knew what to do with a bit of light as well, didn’t they?
The most stunning arena witnessed on this limited perambulation this evening was undoubtedly the courtyard of the Royal Academy, stunningly lit and beautifully animated by Rhys Coren, whose flat solid animation Love Motion captures two lovers engaged in a passionate kiss which the segues into a grand finale that looks like a cell division process, cause and effect in effect.
As someone who photographs a lot of graffiti and street art I have endured more than my fair share of comedy masculine anatomical wall decorations, perhaps that overload means Simon Corder’s Bough 3 has just triggered the wrong visual references in my brain. Or is it someone flipping the bird in a very lurid manner?
Reflektor was worth tracking down if not for its nursery lantern like effect then just to see if it did capture the spirit of Arcade Fire’s “difficult 4th album.” There was no connection.
Bravest effort of the night was Camille Gross and Leslie Epsztein’s animated projection onto the façade of the Café Royale. It was complex, detailed, animated and looking stunning on regency splendour of the architecture but it had the impossible task of competing with Coke and Hitachi on the famous Picadilly Circus billboard right alongside.
Just off lower Regents Street is Stéphane Masson’s supercube, a roughly 2m cube with a matrix of specimen jars on each side. Projected into the glass jars from within the cube was a set of girls who may well have walked down from Carnaby St after a Mary Quant styling session dancing to a little ditty somewhere between a nursery rhyme and some music hall nostalgia but the lyrics referred darkly to the boys and girls going to school, getting jobs, wearing suits, all turning out the same then the girls disappeared to be replaced by the faces of members of the public who had stared into the camera. The joke was on us, in a nice twist we WERE the ones who were all the same, or at least all those who stuck their vizogs into the camera lens for the thrill of seeing themselves in the glass bottles were.
In St James’ Churchyard a family of 5 neon figures strides up towards Picadilly, not the most striking of the installations, if it wasn’t for the relatively minor interest of the light reflecting back from the railing spikes this one might not have bothered the camera.
Usually you wouldn’t want your lights buzzing but lack of buzz in this context is not a good thing. Tracy Emin’s neon “Be Faithful To Your Dream” was insipid in its message and lost in its distant location above a church door in a locked churchyard.
This was a start, looking at the guide – well worth investing £5 on the hardback guide as it makes navigating around far easier than using the VisitLondon App or the downloaded pdf map (minimum contribution £1) – there is something on at Kings Cross which may be investigated so long as it is relatively free of the famous human logjam that developed over previous lumiere weekends and also apparently there is something at major graffiti hall of fame Leake Street. Maybe there is light at the end of the tunnel!
Sat 20th Jan update: A wander around different locations, more Light Art photos added
After a wander around some of the highlights in Westminster, Southbank and Fitzrovia, here are some more photos: