The medieval charm of Durham’s winding streets provided the perfect backdrop for the annual Lumiere Festival last weekend.
Not dissimilar to the Parisian festival of light, Nuit Blanch, Lumiere consists of a series of dazzling light installations and artworks woven between the cobbles and the castles of the historic northern city.
The showcased works are by a selection of local and international artists, lighting designers and community groups. Artists from the North East are chosen through an organization called BRILLIANT, which offers opportunities for creative locals who work with the medium of light.
This year’s festival took familiar elements of Durham and gave them a surrealist twist, forcing people to see the city from a different perspective and opening their minds to unconventional uses for everyday objects. From a life-sized projection of a 3D elephant storming Elvet Bridge, to a disused red phone box filled with live fish, a frosty stroll through the city in the dark was akin to falling down Lewis Carroll’s rabbit hole.
Our favourite installations were:
Keyframes by Groupe LAPS – Thomas Veyssiere, France
Hordes of LED stick figures scaled the walls of the old Durham Miners’ Hall, to a big band rendition of Lee Dorsey’s ‘Working in the Coalmine’. Today the building is home to a nightclub, and the installation tells a playful narrative of the miners realising what their politically charged building has become.
Solar Equation by Rafael Lozano, Mexico & Quebec
This project consisted of a realistic replica of the sun hanging in the sky. Although the recreation was 100 million times smaller than the original, solar animation generated by live mathematical equations simulated the real flares and sunspots on the sun’s surface was projected into the balloon, giving a true impression of the blazing star that hangs in our universe.
Aquarium by Benedetto Bufalino & Benoit Deseille, France
A disused traditional red telephone box in the Market Place was lit from the inside and filled with colourful live fish. The juxtaposition of the familiar symbol of British history and the unnatural quality of the fish within the city environment ignited the imagination of the spectator, and caused one to daydream about faraway places whilst gazing at the tank amidst the concrete setting of urban life.
Dresses by Taegon Kim, Korea & France
The most hauntingly beautiful exhibit within the festival took the ethereal form of Kim’s illuminated dresses. Located in the cloisters of the 11th Century cathedral building, fibre optic constructs in the shape of period dresses changed gently from colour to color, creating the illusion that spectral beauties were hovering in the grass. With the Norman arches of the building softly illuminated in the background and the hushed silence of awed onlookers, a real otherworldly sensation was created.
[Mondes] by Atsara, France
Within the walls of the cathedral, this display conjured firefly-esque lights from the ceiling, with loops of sound that accompanied the enchanting walk up the aisle, culminating in silver orbs seemingly spinning in midair above the altar.
Crown of Light by Ross Ashton, robert Ziegler and John Del’Nero, UK
n many ways the spectacular finale of the festival, this artwork projected images from the deeply Christian history of the North East onto the outside of the cathedral to a powerful soundtrack, lighting up the night sky.
A reminder from Nathan Coley cast a fitting glow across the streets as crowds drunk on light hurried to warm up cold toes in one of the city’s many cosy drinking establishments.
If you missed this year’s Lumiere festival, a variation with a number of different light installations takes place this weekend in Londonderry, Ireland from 28th Nov – 1st Dec 2013.
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