What’s on at Lumiere

By Nicole Wu, Holly Downes, and

Just as Durham’s chilly winter begins to set in and the old cobbled streets grow cold and dark – the city is ready to come alive as soon as preparations are complete for the return of the UK’s largest light festival, Lumiere. Running from Thursday 18th to Sunday 21st November, there will be a staggering 37 unique artworks on display at this nationally-commended experience. The program promises a spectacle of pure colour and sound: each artwork having the capacity to offer spirit-enlivening and thought-provoking insights to an audience. For the first time in its 12-year history, Lumiere will also be venturing outside the boundaries of Durham’s centre to display six artworks around the wider county as ‘Marks in the Landscape’ – which should provide an exciting opportunity to explore sightseeing spots outside of the city. With so much to see, at Visual Arts we have collated our picks for the must-see artworks at this year’s festival.

Scattered Light’ by Jim Campbell
Exhibit number: 26
Location: St Mary’s College


Lighting up one of Durham University’s very own colleges is American new media artist, Jim Campbell’s piece ‘Scattered Light’. This remarkable work has previously graced festivals in the United States, Australia and Hong Kong. It is composed of almost 1,600 LEDs encased in standard light bulbs and suspended in a huge grid measuring 80 feet wide, 20 feet high and 15 feet deep.

Viewers are prompted to move through and within the light casing, so as to explore different vantage points. Indeed, from within the exhibit, the lights hang aesthetically in supposedly random flashing sequences. It is not until you move backward to view the grid of lights at a two dimensional perspective, that the image of huge human-shaped shadows are depicted walking back and forth through the lights – a design based on a video of commuters in Grand Central Station.

A spectacle of pure colour and sound Campbell encourages a contrast between the calmness of the playful scattered lights illuminating St Mary’s College with images of bustling urban traffic of commuters hidden within the lights. One cannot help but relate this to the student experience in the beautiful, yet increasingly busy city of Durham.

‘Apollo 50’ by Mader Wiermann
Exhibit number: 1
Location: Pasmore Pavilion, Sunny Blunts Estate, Peterlee


One of the ‘Marks in the Landscape’ pieces is ‘Apollo 50’, a work that will extend this year’s Lumiere festival outside of Durham City for the first time in history. The piece, situated in Peterlee, was first commissioned and displayed in 2019 to commemorate 50 years of the iconic Brutalist structure, Victor Pasmore’s Apollo Pavilion.The installation by Berlin-based artist, Mader Wiermann, consists of video-mapped light sequence, accompanied by a gentle soundscape that completely reinvents Pasmore’s original design. The light sequence adopts features of black and white illusion which quickly revert into huge blocks of colour or gentle pulsing waves of lines and curves.

While the artwork holds you in this mesmerised state, the artists guide you back to reality with fleeting images of people within the light sequence who seem to be walking through the projection by accident. ‘Apollo 50’ is certainly worthy of a visit and offers an opportunity to be taken off the well-beaten festival track.

A journey across the colour spectrum

‘When Today Makes Yesterday Tomorrow’ by Dominik Lejman
Exhibit number: 21
Location: Clayport Library Wall, Walkergate


A fascinating exhibit featuring at this year’s Lumiere festival is ‘When Today Makes Yesterday Tomorrow’ by Polish artist Dominik Lejman. This previously unused video mural was rediscovered by Lejman whilst digging through his archives. Initially meant for a 2008 solo show at the Atlas Sztuki Gallery, when looking back at this footage its social significance becomes much more clear.

Depicting grainy silhouettes of people greeting one another, either by hugging or shaking hands, it has an even greater poignance in light of the restrictions imposed by the pandemic. Resembling surveillance footage, this installation will be shown on the Clayport Library wall in Walkergate and promises to offer an insight into anonymity, human interaction and technology.

‘Omnipresence’ by Iregular
Exhibit number: 20
Location: Walkergate


Immediately captivating is Daniel Iregui’s ‘Omnipresence’, an interactive exhibition which takes its audience down a tunnel of mirrors. At heart, it’s all beautifully simple, only showcasing a ‘mirror in front of a mirror’. However, the underlying meaning is more intricate. Emphasising technology’s ability to curate our digital persona, it uses video feedback to freeze your reflection in time.

This digital infinity mirror then duplicates and distorts the viewer’s virtual reflection, interrupting perceptions of time and blurring identities. I am looking forward to experiencing this technological masterpiece, that promises to take its audience down a journey of disorientation and mesmerisation.

‘Hymn to the Big Wheel’ by Liz West
Exhibit number: 6
Location: Ushaw Historic House


Liz West takes her audience on a journey across the colour spectrum with this extremely visual exhibit. Set within the tranquil Ushaw gardens, visitors can observe the tinted reflections of the beautiful country house as they walk around the structure. The jewel-coloured glass means viewers can see different colourways and shadows mixing within the installation — it looks certain to be one of the most immersive experiences of this year’s Lumiere.

By challenging how we expect to experience reality, West blurs our mental categories and offers a very different, very aesthetically pleasing, way of viewing the world. ‘Hymn to the Big Wheel’ then looks set to be one of the most thought-provoking and original exhibits on display — it’s definitely worth checking out.

Images: Lumiere


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