It’s that time of the year again, when tourists and locals alike can see London in a completely new light, and it’s all thanks to Lumiere. This incredible street exhibition is produced by the Artichoke group and supported by the Arts Council and the Mayor of London. This year, the work of international artists lit up the streets of London from 14 to 17 January. Pitched as one of the biggest cultural events of the year, the festival is a springboard for other installations and exhibitions across the capital.
So far the festival has been a success, pedestrianising parts of Oxford Street, the Mall, Piccadilly and Regent Street for people to view the illuminations. Huge numbers gathered to admire and photograph the artist’s works, and businesses report a 10-25 percent trade increase from this same week last year. However, tweets went out on Saturday night warning of crowd control issues and advising visitors to come the next day instead – at moments, the festival was too popular for its own good, although organisers remain “delighted” with the turnout.
“AT MOMENTS, THE FESTIVAL WAS TOO POPULAR FOR ITS OWN GOOD”
The works on show share the common theme of light but are otherwise interesting and varied both in content and style:
Tae gon Kim’s “Dresses” reminds me of the creepy bride in the recent episode of Sherlock, but actually draws inspiration from Roland Barthes’ A Lover’s Discourse, tackling themes of love and the expression of desire.
“Litre of Light” is a more immersive project and acts as a critical social commentary on both the absence and necessity of light for communities worldwide. Artist Mick Stephenson collaborated with Central St Martin’s students to create the sustainable light bulb: filling a plastic bottle with water, adding a drop of bleach and pushing it through a hole in the roof. This simple idea can refract as much sunlight through it as a 55-watt bulb, and has been pioneered in developing countries and post-disaster zones across the world. Audiences at King’s Cross can walk through the tunnel of light made by bottles designed by local school children, experiencing the sustainable technology for themselves.
In the St James area of London, Beth J Ross’s: “I Haven’t Changed My Mind in a Thousand Years” simply and elegantly delivers uplifting ancient proverbs in her young son’s illuminated handwriting. The writings come from an 11th century manuscript found in Durham Cathedral and surprised artist Ross with their contemporary relevance.
“Aquarium” is perhaps one of my favorite pieces from the festival, as Benedetto Bufalino and Benoit Deseille turn the redundant red phone box into an escapist display of exotic fish. The colourful little fish are supposed to “invite us to dream of travel and escape from our everyday lives”. Although sceptical about the piece’s escapist qualities, I love the playfulness of this work, which finds fun in an iconic symbol of British city streets.