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Carnaby Street

LUMIERE London 2018

20 January 2018 Suzanne Frost

After a hugely popular first run in 2016, LUMIERE London returns this year to once again transform the city into a magical immersive landscape of lights. Commissioned by the Mayor of London and produced by Artichoke arts charity, LUMIERE is London’s biggest free arts event with more than 50 artworks by UK and international artists on display.

LUMIERE London is a festival that encourages artists to engage with light as a medium and the spectrum of art on display is huge, from large-scale installations and projections to moving puppets and interactive artwork. With so much to see and the temperatures in January being this cold, it is best to pick one area with lots of artworks within walking distance. Key areas this year are London’s West End with displays around Seven Dials, China Town, Leicester Square, Carnaby Street and Piccadilly. Head up to King’s Cross with 10 artworks on show or Mayfair where 9 installations are located around the Grosvenor Square area.
 
One particularly fun event this year is The Umbrella Project by Bristol-based Cirque Bijou. This is a roaming artwork of choreographed movement that will pop-up in Piccadilly, Fitzrovia and King’s Cross locations during the festival - so keep a lookout and you might be lucky enough to catch them.


The Umbrella Project (c) Artichoke

Animal lovers should head to Leicester Square where the central Leicester Square Garden has been taken over by Jo Pocock and the Lantern Company’s expressive wildlife lanterns of badgers, beavers, rabbits, squirrels, foxes and toads. The oversized animals look fantastically out of place and at the same time rather at home in their nocturnal wonderland against the urban surroundings. Nature and wildlife seem to be a running theme this year with flame coloured illuminated Flamingos operated by puppeteers (also by Lantern Company and Jo Pocock) flying serenely through China Town and interacting with the audience. The migrating birds play homage to humankind’s age-long migration routes across the world.


Nightlife (c) Matthew Andrews

The Aquarium by French artists Benoit Deseille and Benedetto Bufalino, in Seven Dials also plays with the contrast between nature and modern urban life: real exotic fish are swimming around inside an illuminated old fashioned red telephone box.  The artwork wants to remind us about nature above our obsession with communication and technology while simultaneously finding a new use for the out-dated telephone box in the age of mobile phones. (And don’t worry, the fish are regularly fed and taken out every night to rest in a quiet place.)


Aquarium, Seven Dials

Over at Piccadilly Circus, Voyage by French artists Camille Gross & Leslie Epzstein is a projection against the façade of the Hotel Café Royal, Regent Street. A journey through time and space takes the viewer from the Industrial Revolution, through the Belle Epoque to the modern day. Designed around a reoccurring image of a turning clock, spinning wheels and interlocking gears, we witness the Eiffel Tower being built, the Grand Palais appearing before our eyes, the first railway taking off, representing the immediate and frantic speed of travel through to the present day.


Voyage (c) Matthew Andrews

A multitude of smaller intimate installations is on show in and around St. James’s Church and Churchyard, among them a neon sign by celebrated contemporary artist Tracey Emin. Nearby is My Light is Your Light by Palestinian artist Alaa Minawi who has created minimalist stick figure silhouettes representing Syrian refugees and their experience of migration across the world. The smallest figure, around the height of a toddler, is particularly poignant. At the back of the church, Harmonic Portal by Chris Plant combines colour, light and sound with three illuminated circles slowly changing colour to soothing meditative music. Often, it is the music or soundscape as much as the lights that makes the LUMIERE artworks, as with Frictions, a geometric architectural projection by German duo Mader Wiermann with music by Dave Dinger.

One installation that works particularly well with no sound at all is Katarzyna Meljka and Joachim Slugocki’s work Spectral: Elastic cords spanned between the trees of St. James’s Square catch the projected coloured lights. In the eerie silence of the night, it is difficult to grasp if what the eyes see is actually really there or just a ghostly imagination of the mind.
 
As London urbanites we are used to being bombarded with city lights, illuminated shop windows and neon ads but we rarely stop to let our imagination go wild and marvel at our surroundings. LUMIERE Festival and its innovative artists let us experience our familiar city as a magical adventure park creating truly breathtaking images.  You can see London, in the truest sense of the word, in a new light.
 
LUMIERE London is running 18 – 21 January
 
 
 
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