After a hiatus in 2016 the LUX festival was reconfigured and back lighting up the Wellington night for 2017. Starting earlier in the year meant that the installations were powered up earlier in the evening which allowed us to attend with Alayna at a reasonable hour which was a bonus. The works were divided into precincts which was a logical progression and overall the organisation seemed improved on previous years, for instance having two areas set up with food trucks reduced the queues and the crowds.
We attended as a family twice and invited along some of Alayna’s friends and their families and this helped give the visits some variety. Both times we started with some food and then facepainting before setting out to explore the installations beginning with the Playground precinct.
Control No Control by Studio Iregular was a firm favourite and probably my pick for best installation. A large cube with a changing roster of lighting effects linked interactions. Touching the walls caused the effects to change and with plenty of space a large number of people could interact at the same time. Fun to play with and fun to watch it set a very high bar.
The nearby Social Sparkles by Studio Toer was also interesting with suspended lights like hyperactive little fireflies following people as they moved below. Alayna for some reason wasn’t interested at all in this installation, perhaps the nearby sights and sounds of Control No Control were simply more engaging for a 3 (nearly 4) year old.
Capital-E had a couple of shipping containers set up with things to do. One had a sort of VR action game where hand movements influenced (rather than controlled) geometric shapes in front of a large face displayed on large screens. Of more interest to Alayna and her friends was the Electro Jungle where a black light lit container contained fantastical beasts and a forest which could be drawn on using glowing chalk. As with the last LUX there was also an area on the waterside path set aside for glow-in-the-dark chalk activities but it was much warmer (if cramped) in the container.
Nearby was a totem-like installation named St Elmo’s Fire Tree created by Nelson local Anthony Genet. Four chaotic balls of fluorescent tubes sparked to life in glowing red. When the wind was blowing strong the straps helping to keep the piece in place would thrum adding to the almost ritual feeling of the piece.
Walking on to the Te Ao Mārama Precinct there were a couple of highlights. Tane Te Wānanga by Hemi MacGregor & Mara TK was a giant waterscreen in the middle of the lagoon which was captivating to watch and the amphitheatre seating at the edge of the lagoon made this a perfect spot to sit and take in the projections. Geometric shapes and dancers appeared and moved set to music and sounds while the wind through the water screen changed the size and intensity of the projection.
Neaby was another intriguing installation. Kaokao by Bob Jahnke. Two large Xs side to side and with red neon tubes enclosed in glass were striking from a distance and then close up the internal reflections made the neon appear to duplicate to infinity. It gave the piece a hidden depth and led to many people wandering around trying to figure out the optical illusion. I played around with shutter speeds and manual zooming to give an added effect to some of my photos.
We also happened to see the returning Lux Cats near Kaokao. First featured in 2015 these cats wandered around the Lux precincts in mysterious fashion. They happened to stop nearby and just stood there, occasionally turning there heads and appearing to stare at people. After a period of time and with no warning they started walking again, very enigmatic.
The Circus Precinct took in Civic Square and the City to Sea bridge and was our next destination. To one side of the bridge in the grass space fronting the Michael Fowler Centre there was an installation called Passing Me By created by Christopher Welch & Makers Fabrication. For a static piece this one was quite playful. If you stood in one place it was simply a wall with different colours glowing under the black lights. If you walked in parallel to the work the colours changed with the change in perspective. Many people were just standing and staring without realising how fun it was to view while moving and try to figure out what was going on.
Then on to the big display projected onto the council building. Circus of Light by Ocubo was a circus illustrated in an animated cutout style and involved a variety of animals performing (generally lame) tricks and most often failing in an unamusing fashion. Alayna summed it up for me when she asked after a few minutes “when does the real show start?”. It was pretty but overall for me and Alayna just boring. Plenty of other people seemed to find it enjoyable. The artists and acrobats entertaining between screenings were much more fun to watch.
Also found in Civic Square and then wandering around the festival were a pair of woman wearing Little Sun solar light dresses promoting the Little Sun project. Again this was a return from 2015 where there was a static installation of Little Suns displayed on a grid and it was good to see them back in a different form.
I was hoping for a night of rain during the festival but this didn’t happen during any of my visits. I like to photograph the reflections and reflected glow of the installations and I think the work Drawn by Lisa Munnelly & Angus Donaldson would have become even more interesting in those circumstances. Pretty much just some net curtains drapped over a large lightbox Drawn was interesting to watch when there was a wind blowing, the interferance patterns created by the fabric covered light were mesmerising at times.
Near Drawn was Augmented Geometries by Erica Sklenars, another projection mapping work. I liked the contrast with the grafetti covered wall below and the sequence was a lot more interesting (albeit on a smaller scale) that something like the Circus of Light.
My other favourite installation was Into the Underscore by Anita Dykes. A series of light emiting hoops suspended between buildings off Opera House Lane the colours and sequenced noises created an interesting if slightly disquietning show. Many people would approach and stand underneath mesmerised and looking like they would be transported up and away to some alien spaceship. This would have been another piece that would have looked great in the rain with reflections but the most I got was a section of hoops reflected in a tiny puddle.
Stretching Light by Joshua & Sam Lewis was a suspended lightwork above Opera House Lane. A number of neon strings navigating through a series of geometric frames it was diverting and an interesting addition to the laneway.
Over the road above just past the entrance to Eva Street was The Light Launder by Rayzordoll. A larger than life washing line with suspended linen was used as a medium to project slides of family memories. Eva Street is now home to a number of light installations that had their beginnings in past Lux festivals so it’s always interesting to have a look around.
So that’s a selection from this years LUX festival. I’m looking forward to the next one already and in the meantime there is a new light event planned for the Hutt Valley taking place later this year. The more the merrier I say :)