Durham Lumiere

Solar EquationAs per a previous post, over the weekend I went with some friends to the Lumiere Festival in Durham. It wasn’t one I’d heard about before, but was well worth the visit. Even in its third incaranation at Durham, there were a fair number of organisational bits that really could’ve been done better, but overall the entire thing was bloody good.

As it turned out, the grim weather preceding the weekend had meant that some things couldn’t be done/erected/finalised – including one I’d wanted to see, but didn’t get to for other reasons. I’d have been mightily pissed off if I’d slogged the extra mile-ish out of town to see it, only to find out it wasn’t working!

Anyway, organisational issues (and they were legion) aside, the actual festival itself was great, and I absolutely loved some of the exhibits. (Less so with others, but such is life and personal perception)  All were based around light and projection in various guises, and some with additional sound and spectacle.

In no particular order, my own favourites were…

  • ElephantasticElephantastic – a projection of a full-size elephant (with synchronised soundtrack of footsteps) on the archway over one of the bridges in Durham. From the city side, you got the see the elephant’s arse, and coming into the city, the face-on view. Because of the height, you actually walked under the elephant to get onto the bridge. It was a very simple idea/projection, but really effective – and lots of people appear to want to make it a permanent fixture (which would be weird, but excellent)
  • Consumerist Christmas TreeConsumerist Christmas Tree – a conical christmas tree made of illuminations within discarded carrier bags. As it turned out, it wasn’t just the tree, but the entire street had ‘chinese lanterns’ strung above it with the same illuminated bags. It somehow made a very effective comment about the disposability of christmas tat, as well as the consumerism etc., while also managing to be really pretty, making people look up and think.
  • Crown of LightCrown of Light – projected onto the outside of Durham Cathedral, the story of the cathedral and the Lindisfarne gospels. We ended up seeing this four times – from different ranges and viewpoints – and each time there was something different that we noticed, even though it was the same thing on repeat. I think that seeing it that many times without getting bored – indeed, still actually watching it – says a lot about how interesting the entire thing was. All told, probably my second favourite piece of the many we saw.
  • DressesDresses – set within the cloisters of Durham Cathedral, three mesh-work dresses made of (or lit by, I’m not sure) fibreoptics that changed colour through the process. They were really ghostly, quite magical, and you almost expected to see them moving across the lawns. The effect was only ruined by pissknuckle cretins trying to take photos of them with the flash still on (or not being able to turn the bloody thing off), not realising that the flash would just render the scene as a meshwork dress, and you wouldn’t see the colours, the setting etc. (Dickweed morons with phones, cameras and flashes were another annoyance throughout the evening)
  • Volume UnitVolume Unit – although we couldn’t hear the music being played in sync, we walked past this and it was really impressive, projected against (apparently) one of Durham’s least-loved buildings (very sixties/seventies concrete brutalist block).

Overall though, my absolute favourite – that I could’ve sat and watched for hours – was [M]ondes, which was truly magical.  There’s no way of adding an image for Mondes, it was so ephemeral (and again, with flash photography the secret was revealed, with none of the magic), with fleeting bits of illumination in any one shot. Earthshatteringly simple, and the mark of a warped genius – clouds of wire were suspended in the ceiling of the cathedral, with rays and circles of white light reflecting off the wire. But because the light-beam was so tight, and moving all the time (with different shapes and colours on the overall projection) the entire effect was the same as a crowd of fireflies, or dust motes flickering through a torch beam. It was absolutely enchanting, and so, so clever (yet simple). I’d love to see that type of effect done in other similar venues, it really is something special.

We did see others that I personally wasn’t as keen on, but the entire thing made for a really interesting use of Durham’s streets, buildings, spaces and architecture. I’m hoping there’ll be at least one more to go to!



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