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5. September 2009

Luminale 2010 – The Biennial of Lighting Culture

The Luminale – Biennial of Lighting Culture is an international festival of lighting culture taking place every two years in Frankfurt am Main and the entire Rhine-Main region. In addition to Frankfurt itself,Offenbach, Darmstadt, Mainz and Wiesbaden allplay host to the festival. The concept was developed by Helmut M. Bien (Westermann Kommunikation) in the year 2000 and realized for the first time in 2002. By the third edition of the festival in 2006, it comprised some 180 lightingprojects and around 160 events in museums andgalleries, adorning the facades of tall buildings, warehouses, streets, city squares, churches, parks, river banks and bridges. 2008 Luminale had 227 projects with roundabout 180 events. In 2010 Luminale was concentrated again on the nucleus Frankfurt-Offenbach. The growing number of international designers and artists wanted to perform closer to the trade fair Light+Building.

The energy and climate debate has put lighting conditions on the agenda. Electricity, its production,distribution and application is a key social issue on which much, if not everything, depends for the future of humanity. The rapid technological developmentof lighting and control technique is opening up new possibilities that will change lighting conditions. Here the markets of the future open up for producers but also for creative professions.With all enthusiasm for „greenovations“ it is goodnot only to be informed about technologies, theirpossibilities for use and their saving potentials inthe abstract but also to keep in mind the aestheticdimensions and repercussions for the quality of life.

Light concerns us all. Light design is determined by many factors and participants. Light is not just a subject for specialists, rather it needs a broad understanding of its possibilities and their effects.Sensibility and interest in this area has increased inrecents years.

The ban on light bulbs heralded the end of the Edison Age in 2009. Now the dynamisation of light and the digitisation of light sources in the form of LEDs is leading design professions together which previously had little to do with each other. Light has become a subject for media artists as well as for graphic designers.Light has become the fourth dimension of architecture and thereby has itself become building material.With new construction light design is an integral element of modern architectural planning and not cosmetics after the event not an expendable luxury.

Light festivals are a special challenge for light design. Here it is a matter of temporary presentation of locations, buildings and public places for a large audience. The fascination of light events ispredominantly derived from new technological possibilities. Light is used as a medium to reveal alternative worlds to everyday life. The stagings are notconceived on the basis of their everyday effiency.On the contrary. They serve a romantic longing,lend highter meaning to everyday life (Novalis) andbring circumstances into a dance for a happymoment.Light festivals are also representative events inwhich a society draws a picture of itself and allowsothers to participate in it. Since ancient times opulence and extravagance have been part of the inner logic of such large-scale events, as well as criticism of them, which nevertheless hardly has a chance against the good spirits which are a rule connected with such exceptional social situations.

Urban space transforms itself into narrative space, which in the best case tells a story by bringing the buildings into a dialogue with each other and the public through lighting and projection on their facades.For this reason light festivals are developing into popular instruments of image and identity creation.

The Luminale has founded a tradition of its own as a festival of light culture, inspired by the oldest light festival of all, Lyon’s 150-year-old ‚Fête desLumières’. With its multifarious lighting and son et lumière installations, art and performances conveying vividly the endless possibilities of light, the Luminale is a presentation platform upon which architects, designers, town planners and artists can exhibit before the general public their latest work and product ideas within the context of a festival.Luminale projects regularly win design and architectural awards.

Unlike other festivals, the Luminale has an international impact. It coincides with the world leading trade fair for lighting: the Light+Building, the venue for which is the Frankfurt trade fair centre. This fairis attended by people from all over the world with a professional interest in light. Among the 180,000 international guests, there are thousands of architects, who in addition to the trade fair visit the Luminale. Special bus tours are organized to make it easy for international visitors as well as the general public to visit the individual lighting installations and compare them.The programme of the Luminale is addressed both to visitors from all over the world with a professional interest in lighting and to the general public of the region. This makes the Luminale different from other lighting events, which are guided by purely commercial or touristic goals.

The Luminale is a lighting laboratory open to the public. Innovation and experimentation occupy centre stage rather than oft-rehearsed illumination spectaculars aimed at a mass public. In many respects, the Luminale is a kind of meta-festival. Anyone whose work at the Luminale finds favour in the eyes of the lighting world will be invited to other festivals of light.

Lighting is becoming increasingly important due to the citification of the world. In 2006, for the first time, more people in the world were living in cities than in the countryside. Light and electricity are the most important mediums of urban life. In this respect, the Luminale is an urban age festival that reflects the development of the urban world. The Luminale is now a station in the yearly round of a number of photo communities. Professional andamateur photographers alike treat the Luminale as a photo-shoot, presenting their perceptions of the city in exhibitions and on various websites.

The concept of the Luminale has many roots. It was developed by the cultura scientist Helmut M. Bien on behalf of the Messe Frankfurt. In terms of organization, it represents a combination of events formats ranging from the Fête des Lumières in Lyon to the internationally successful concept of “Museum Nights” and design-off programmes such as the Design Horizonte (Michael Peters) of the Eighties.The Luminale as an event the essence of which is the perception and temporary transformation of the city has its philosophical roots in the theories and reflections on the subject of the Flaneur (Passagenwerk by Walter Benjamin), the Promenadology by Lucius Burkhardt and the walkings of the peripatetic Bazon Brock (Prussia understandig by walking), all of whom interpret public space as a surface of the imagination upon which the wishes, interests, traditions and yearnings of a society are manifested. For such writers, aestheticsis the science of perception.

Proceeding from the actions of the Situationist International (Guy Debord) of the late Sixties, in which the inhospitality of the cities and their reappropriationare thematized, the interest of a younger generation of architects in the issue of city appropriation has been growing for years. The projects realized bring to light the temporary and performative aspects of architecture – filling the lacunaeand ‘non-places’ of shrinking cities with new life, finding transitory solutions for the slums andfavelas of mega-cities, and transforming into temporarystages or enhancing with architectural structuresareas of wasteland within cities – give publicspace new attractiveness and altered meanings, allof which come under the rubric “Temporary Urbanism”. Even the theme “Art in the Public Space” belongs there. The best-known project, the Muenster Sculptural Project (Kaspar Koenig) gives a platform to artists experimenting with the public and perception. “Urban Art” and “Street Art” are also of relevance in this context. For temporary as well as for performative creative strategies light is an appropriate, effective, readily available and economical medium. The Luminale takes up all these tendencies in architecture and art and translates them into a festival programme.

More Information: Projectoffice Luminale

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