Tuesday, 19 November 2013

Durham Lumiere 2013

I've always loved light installations and so when I heard about the Lumiere coming back Durham this year I knew I really had to go. So this weekend my cousin Janet and I headed over to the North East to see the show.

The Aquarium
We arrived just after lunchtime and wandered around the city centre. The oldest area of the city, including the castle and cathedral (a World Heritage site),  is built on a hilly peninsula created by a loop in the River Wear, So that means you keep fit as you wander up and down steep streets. We happened upon the first of the installations unexpectedly in the Market Place, an old-style red phone box which had been imaginatively transformed into an aquarium by Benedetto Bufalino and Benoit Deseille from France.  It was amusing to see such an iconic British item in a place you might expect it but having a very different purpose. Even in daylight it was impressive.  We sat for a while watching the fish nonchalantly swimming as we listened to some musicians playing South American music.

We then wandered around some shops before going for a late lunch at Cafe Rouge on Silver Street right beside the Framwellgate Bridge. Luckily we were given a table beside a window looking out over the river which was lovely. I had goat's cheese salad for starters, coq an vin for main and only had room for ice cream for dessert! All washed down with a lovely Merlot. For a chain restaurant the food was good, I love French style food anyway.

It was dusk by time we left the restaurant and we decided to go up to the cathedral and castle via the riverside path. It was lovely walking along, lit by lights that reflected in the river, the path gently sloping upwards taking the hard work out of getting to the top.

There wasn't a lot of signage to guide you to the installations so we just followed other people who seemed to know where they were going! In places it was quite dark and we were glad of our little torches especially when walking on the cobbled streets. We went into Durham Cathedral's beautiful cloisters to see Dresses by Taegon Kim (Korea/France). They were three very beautiful fibre-optic dresses that slowly changed colour. These creations were stunning as they glowed in the dark, with the cloisters in the background adding to the beauty of this installation.

After leaving the cloisters we came across another installation called (M)ondes by Atsara (France). This consisted of flickers, sparks and lines of lights that seemed to jump about, or follow lines of tree branches, even shoot into the air. This was accompanied by water-like noises. It was ok, but didn't really grab me.

We then headed along the North Bailey and joined a queue to go into the Palace Green beside the cathedral - the Lindisfarne Gospels were recently displayed in the library here.We timed it perfectly, the son et lumiere show, Crown of Light by Ross Ashton, Robert Ziegler and John del Nero (UK), was just starting. This consisted of images from the history of the cathedral projected onto the cathedral walls.  Many of the images were from the Lindisfarne Gospels and seeing them huge on the walls showed their intricacy and beauty perfectly. The projections were accompanied by music from the eras of art that were displayed on the walls and both melded together very well. It was a wonderful show, I loved every minute of it.
Crown of Light

Afterwards we walked back out of the cathedral grounds and headed downhill along Saddler Street. We passed under a large neon installation that stretched across the street that said A PLACE BEYOND BELIEF by Nathan Coley (UK). Apparently this is a quote from a woman on returning to work in a still traumatised new York after 9/11.

 Just beyond this, after turning right down on to Elvet Bridge we saw Elephantastic by Topla Design (France). This installation consists of a huge 3-D image of an elephant projected onto an archway across the street.  The first image you see is a rear view of the elephant which trumpets, flaps its ears and with each footstep a deep, bass thump rumbled out. Smoke came out from under and above the archway.  People streamed under the archway and on the other side was the front view of the elephant. It really was a brilliant creation, I loved it, and judging by the faces of the people around me it was a very popular piece.

Elephantastic 1

Elephantastic 2

Consumerist Christmas Tree
We were coming to the end of the installations we had time to see - there were others further out of town. In the Prince Bishop's Shopping Centre was the Consumerist Christmas Tree by Luzinterruptus (Spain). This was an installation made up of inflated plastic shopping bags in the shape of a Christmas Tree. And strung high across the street there were more illuminated Shopping bags.  I like the thought behind the work, Christmas has become obsessed with consumerism and material things.

On our way back to our bus we passed by The Aquarium once more, surrounded by a throng of people and all lit up, it looked great. Then, when we were nearly back to where we were to get the bus, on a building by the river, we saw Volume Unit by The Media Workshop (UK) Which was a "visual jukebox" with red light pulsing in time to amplified music that you could request by tweeting #lumieredj.

So that was the Durham Lumiere, even the weather held out for us! A fabulous experience, with beautiful and varied light installations and all for free. Not too far too walk, but if you have difficulty with mobility it might not be feasible due to the hilliness of Durham and the many cobbled streets.  The previous two nights had apparently been very busy, but the night we went (the last night of the Lumiere) it was busy but not over so. I definitely would recommend you visit if there is a Lumiere there next year.

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