Lightwaves, UK

Quays Culture recently launched the UK’s biggest digital light festival, Lightwaves, which took place in December last year. The festival brought light to the dark winter nights, as nine free light experiences spanned across The Quays in Manchester, from the Plaza between The Lowry and the Lowry Outlet, to MediaCityUK’s Piazza, and even illuminating the River Irwell.

The festival featured new and exclusively commissioned digital art displays alongside emerging talent, light workshops, and illuminations – from local, national, and international artists.

“People will love that this ten-day, annual, free event brings unexpected and beautiful artworks into outdoor spaces,’’ said Lucy Dusgate, Programme Producer at Quays Culture. “Central to each year is a new large-scale art commission, ensuring Salford is home to the best in innovative art creation. This year, we have everything from a large heart that illuminates when you hold hands, to 198 small, floating boats strung across the water whose rainbow of colours you can change with your mobile phone. Two years ago, we started off with just one artwork, and have grown to showing nine, including some fun historic ones from the infamous Blackpool Illuminations collection. Each year, we commission a brand-new digital sculpture for the Lowry Plaza outside The Lowry Theatre. All of the artworks we show come from artists who use digital in their work, so the art can be as intriguing as it can be inspiring.”

A brand new, large-scale commission, specifically for Quays Culture, is Heart Beat, the brainchild of artists and installation specialists, GNI Projects, who used Radiant Lighting following their collaboration at darc night. A co-commission with Blackpool Illuminations, Heart Beat is part of the GNI Project’s ‘Light Love Collection’ – a series of art installations using mixed lighting media to create the symbol of a heart. From one angle Heart Beat is an animated 3D heartbeat pulsing through the sculpture. From another angle, the lights join to form a heart. For the heart to appear spectators are encouraged to make a connection of love, or friendship, by joining hands in front of the sculpture; human touch reveals the heart. Once the connection is lost the heart is broken into fragments again.

Created by Aether & Hemera – a multi-disciplinary art and design studio, producing contemporary lighting art and interaction design – Voyage features six lines of 33 origami boats, occupying a space of 630m2 – the 198 boats were designed to engage with the community and transform the waterfront. The fleet composes an organic matrix of interactive lights, which change colour when passers by interact with it on their mobile phones. The public can transform the pattern and colour of the paper boats by connecting their mobile device to Voyage Wi-Fi network and opening their browser to access; users are given a choice of artworks to interact with, such as a rainbow or the night sky – choosing an artwork option to change the colour of the boats in the water.

This year, Quays Culture collaborated with lighting legends of the North, Blackpool Illuminations. Quays Culture is currently showcasing items from Blackpool’s light collection, which reflect the location of MediaCityUK, home to the BBC, including Dr.Who Daleks, The Tardis, and Spacemen. The collection also features iconic children’s characters, including Noddy, Postman Pat and SpongeBob, along with a forest of LED trees.

An emerging talent programme, SHINE, in partnership with Leeds Light Night, has seen the creation of three new commissions, from up-and-coming artists. Footsteps, by Sam Sebbage, consists of 80 illuminated footsteps walking a path. Each footstep is created from artificial grass and embedded with lights; representing the path each of us walks. Edyta Masior is the artist behind Laiki#5 – fluorescent fishing lines are suspended within a structure and fitted with contact microphones. This interactive installation creates air vibrations, when the strings are plucked, creating sound, like that of a harp. Fireflies, a creation from Fixed Grinn Collective, is a series of floating illuminations, which interact with their surroundings as they ‘fly’ amongst those that visit them. Consisting of hundreds of illuminated LED spheres that seamlessly float, the installation interacts with the public as its fire-like embers swirl; forming a connection, which is organic, yet synthesised, mechanic, yet fluid.

Today I Love You, created by Massimo Uberti & Marco Pollice, was commissioned for Amsterdam’s Light Festival 2015. Italian artist, Uberti is known for his poetic light installations; he wrote out this simple sentence in light, so that the words become matter and, more importantly, the uplifting words are repeatedly enjoyed. This presentation marks the start of a partnership between Quays Culture and Amsterdam Light Festival.

Lightwaves 2016 was made possible by funding from Arts Council England and AGMA, and support from The Quays, The Lowry, Peel | MediaCityUK and Salford City Council.

Quays Culture is a member of Lighting Up the North, a network of light festivals taking place in seven cities across the North of England.