Illuminating Audiences

Illuminating Audiences

Lips are the one of the most sensitive parts of the body, thanks to more than a million nerve endings. Objects of desire, they evoke lust and sensuality but also serve as the delivery vehicles for words and innermost emotions. Taiwanese collective UxU studio plays with these different associations in Desire (2017-2018), made from 1,500 LED lights. This imaginative piece is amongst more than 25 other large-scale installations populating London’s annual Winter Lights festival.

For its sixth edition, the Canary Wharf festival presents light works by practitioners from around the world, set against the background of the business district’s bright towers. Some are marking their debut in the UK alongside commissioned works and popular pieces from previous years. In an early preview, designed to attract the broader public of all ages and backgrounds, a glowing neon sculpture spelling out Mi-e dor de tine (“I miss you” in Romanian) was installed in November.

Technology plays a key role in most of the works, such as Julius Popp’s (b. 1973) Bit.Fall. It comprises a waterfall of cascading words obtained from live online newsfeeds. It translates the never-ending flow of information in the digital age into a visual tapestry. A single word appears at a time on the work’s large digital curtain before rapidly dissolving to make way for another. The words are generated by a computer programme that filters relevant terms using a statistical algorithm. A control unit then releases hundreds of drops of water at specific intervals to form the word, reflecting the transient, easily manipulated nature of online information. Each drop of water becomes a liquid pixel of sorts, or a representative of a bit – the smallest unit of measurement of data.

Transforming an outdoor seating experience, LBO Lichtbankobjekte’s Lightbenches encourages pedestrians to sit and converse with strangers. Illuminated by hundreds of LEDs, the benches are composed of translucent opal white acrylic glass light beams, each measuring six millimetres. These weather-resistant strips change colour every 2.5 minutes. Many audiences first check whether the seat or backrest is hot before sitting on light, though they do not release any heat at all. It is an interesting remark upon human behaviour. “The emotional interaction of light and colours should take the park bench out of its conventional context and open up new perceptions,” explains designer Bernd Spiecker.

Another effort to challenge an increasing sense of disconnect is Gali Lucas’s Absorbed by Light. The sculpture, a collaboration with Karoline Hinz, shows three people sitting on a bench ignoring each other whilst completely immersed in their mobile phones, which shine a dim glow on their faces. The harsh, white light from the devices gives an eerie atmosphere to the swiping, typing trio. In this way, the event is selfconscious, reflective, immediate. It brings audiences together to sit, dance, play and absorb the colourful illuminations.

16-25 January. Find out more here.

Olivia Hampton

Lead image: Squidsoup, Aeolian Light, 2014-2015. 10m x 10m x 5m.