London has joined the growing list of cities around the world to host their very own festival of lights. Dubbed Lumiere London, the festival saw 30 artist-created light installations placed around the city for spectators to enjoy. Despite the chilly night air and it being London’s first foray into the world of Lumiere festivals, thousands turned out to point and marvel at the elaborate illuminations.
Lumiere London – See the city in a new light
Jade and I couldn’t resist joining the light-loving crowds ourselves. We started our walk on Piccadilly to watch some huge illuminated fish (Luminéoles by Porté par le vent) dance and swoop above our heads to atmospheric music. They were originally created for Fete des Lumières Lyon in France, the most famous of all the world’s Lumiere festivals.
Occasionally, the music would be interrupted by the sound of an angry elephant. The sound belonged to a huge projection of an elephant (Eléphantastic! by Topla-design Catherine Garret) over a nearby alleyway. From one end you could see the elephant from the front, while at the other end of the alleyway, another projection showed the elephant from the rear.
Stick men made from florescent tubes seemingly bounced about, chased one another and danced to music and comedic sound effects.
We walked down an adjacent alleyway to see Voyageurs (The Travellers) by French artist Cédric Le Borgne. The travellers were a series of illuminated human forms frozen in flight above the street. These figures had already traveled from Toulouse to Geneva and Seoul, bringing a sense of reality to their name.
We then headed down the upmarket shopping parade that is Regent Street, normally busy with traffic, now completely closed for the festival. Here we discovered Keyframes by Groupe LAPS. This was our favourite of all the installations we watched and drew quite a large audience. Stick men made from florescent tubes seemingly bounced about, chased one another and danced to music and comedic sound effects. We really liked the sense of fun and were impressed by the effort and imagination that must have gone into its creation.
Northwards we walked to Oxford Circus where a huge jellyfish-like object (1.8 London by Janet Echelman / Studio Echelman) had been hoisted above the famous traffic intersection. Signs gave instructions on how to interact with the piece, but it didn’t seem to work when we tried. The piece was named after one of the astonishing impacts of the Japanese earthquake and tsunami in 2011.
“Such was the strength of the vibrations, the earthquake momentarily sped up the earth’s rotation and shortened that day by 1.8 microseconds. Using data from NASA, Studio Echelman turned this phenomenon into a 3D image, the basis of which was used to create the shape of this piece.”
From Oxford Circus, we took the tube to Kings Cross where a large concentration of illuminations had been installed. We managed to watch part of a huge circus themed projection (Circus of Light by Ocubo) but didn’t get much further. By this point, the crowds got the better of us and we abandoned any idea of seeing any of the other displays. The sheer number of people on the street made navigating a nuisance. We were lucky. So many showed up the following night of the festival, organisers were forced to switch of the displays temporarily in order to reduce the swell.
Sadly, this is now a common problem with events being held in London. Large events in the centre of the city always attracts huge numbers of people. For street-based events, getting around can become troublesome.
Despite the crowds, we enjoyed walking around the traffic-free streets and seeing the displays. Perhaps next time though, the installations should be in place for a week or two rather than four nights, in order to reduce any chances of disruption.