The UK's light art biennial will return to County Durham in November, lighting up the night for what organisers have said will be the "biggest" programme of events yet.
The long-awaited full programme of events for Durham's Lumiere, the UK's light art biennial that is set to light up Durham City and Bishop Auckland has been revealed ahead of its return from November 16 to 19.
From 4.30pm to 11pm each night, the city will become a nocturnal art experience hosting works made with light on its streets, bridges, buildings and river - from the bustling Market Place, to Durham Cathedral’s UNESCO World Heritage site, historic Bishop Auckland town centre and the prestigious Durham University campus.
Here is your ultimate guide to this years festival, including the names of artists, their work and where you can see them.
Within the Cathedral, two internationally-acclaimed artists will exhibit UK premieres. Montréal-based Mexican artist Rafael Lozano-Hemmer’s colossal immersive work Pulse Topology (2021) will transform the Cathedral nave. Shown at Superblue Basel and Miami, this site-specific edition will become the pulsing heart of Lumiere as thousands of light bulbs, activated by the recorded heartbeat of visitors, create a connective array of glimmering lights. With every new participant, a new pulse is added to the canopy, keeping the work constantly in flux.
On display in the Cathedral’s 11th century Chapter House will be Ai Weiwei’s Illuminated Bottle Rack (2018), the Chinese artist’s monumental work comprising of 61 antique chandeliers, inspired by Marcel Duchamp, which uses an enormous, upside-down bottle rack as its chandelier branches.
The Cathedral cloister will be the site of a new commission by US artist Adam Frelin. Inner Cloister (2023) replicates the shape and scale of the cloister arches that light in sequence, mirroring the passage of the visitors as they walk around the courtyard in the footsteps of the monks of old.
Outside the Cathedral on Palace Green, Spanish artist Javier Riera will create an immersive series of three-dimensional projections titled Liquid Geometry (2023), one of three commissions supported by Durham University. Visitors will be able to walk amongst and underneath the mind-bending geometric shapes that Riera creates, exploring the hidden qualities and dimensions in the buildings surrounding Durham Cathedral.
The interplay between light art and the religious architecture of Durham continues across the river on Durham University’s campus. In a UK first, Italian artist Edoardo Tresoldi brings his work Sacral (2021) to the grounds of St Mary’s College. Tracing the outline of Durham Cathedral in the distance, the work is an ethereal sculpture viewed from the terrace of St Mary’s College. Tresoldi, who was awarded the prestigious Gold Medal for Italian Architecture in 2018, was inspired by Dante’s Noble Castle of Limbo to produce this ghostly surreal reconstruction of a Cathedral transept.
The ground-breaking new commissions continue with Universal Loom (2023) by one of the most in-demand contemporary artists of recent years, Daniel Canogar, in his second commission for Lumiere. Developed as part of Lumiere’s longstanding partnership with Durham University, Canogar’s artwork is inspired by conversations with Professor Carlos Frenk of Durham University’s Institute for Computational Cosmology around the controversial string theory. Canogar will use custom-made software to apply a digital woven fabric onto the very building in which these scientific theories are researched and debated.
Themes of science and physics continue in a new commission by British duo Shuster + Moseley, who regularly work with neuro-scientists and engineers. Responding to Sir Isaac Newton’s prism experiment and engineered using geometric optics, Body of Light (2023) will create a specular rainbow across the iconic River Wear via a huge glass prism hand-cast in the Czech Republic and weighing 240 kg.
One of the country’s leading visual artists, Chila Burman MBE, will exhibit a joyful, new commission, Hurts So Good (2023), comprising of new and existing works that reference a range of issues and ideas including Indian mythology, female empowerment and Britain’s colonial legacy. With artwork in major collections around the world, Burman’s signature neon-light artwork will now be displayed in Durham Market Place, bringing her own particular world view to the city.
Architecture Social Club, a collective of British designers, technicians and poets, will take over the loading bay in Prince Bishops Place, a new industrial setting for Lumiere. Parallels (2023) makes a space for pure escapism with pulsating light beams, lasers and a soundtrack by Max Cooper. Multi-media artist Emma Allen returns to the city with Colourful Chaos (2023), creating a playful projection on the striking façade of Durham’s Masonic Hall with a cast of animated characters who tumble, climb and paint across this historic structure.
Across town, visitors can look out for a series of playful neon installations, Emotional Weather (2023), a new commission by UK artist Aidan Moesby, that reflects the relationship between physical and emotional journeys. With giant symbols typically used in weather forecasts, each work is set where people begin or end a journey. The series comments on the personal changes and transformations that often occur on our travels, and is a commentary on the relationship between climate change and wellbeing which is central to Moesby's interests.
For the first time, Bishop Auckland in County Durham joins the Lumiere spectacle with four works that will interact with a façade, building or public space, transforming the heart of Bishop Auckland for four nights only.
The historic town’s Spanish Gallery is UK’s first gallery dedicated to the art, history and culture of Spain. Internationally acclaimed Spanish artist, Daniel Canogar unveils the treasures held inside with Amalgama Spanish Gallery (2023), a new commission for Lumiere 2023. Using works by El Greco, Murillo and Velázquez, Canogar will create a beautiful projection that will melt across the exterior of the building. Nearby, Auckland Tower will be remade with The Drop (2023), a beacon of light and sound by UK lighting designer Phil Supple.
Beams, patterns and lights choreographed to a catchy musical score will illuminate the full height of the Tower and will be seen right across town. On the ground, Illumaphonium will entertain families with an interactive, multi-sensory musical sculpture that beams with ever-changing patterns of light and sound. Accompanying it all are the exuberant hanging recycled installations of Flowers and Chandeliers, made locally with designs created by young people from Durham Sixth Form Centre and New College Durham.
BRILLIANT – Lumiere’s small-scale commissioning programme
Signed Light (2023), located in St Oswald’s Churchyard is by UK artist Martin Glover. Drawing on a passion for education around British Sign Language, the work consists of five signs fingerspelling the word ‘Light’, encouraging viewers to learn the basics of BSL.
Glover is one of five artists exhibiting their work at Lumiere this year as part of the BRILLIANT commissioning scheme. The scheme, encourages anyone from the North East and across the UK, to submit their artistic light ideas to be created and exhibited.
Other BRILLIANT artists include multi-media artist Emma Griffiths’ I am Ecstatic Right Now, a three-dimensional work that explores her recent hearing-loss diagnosis; Un-reel Access by Kappa (Kaori & Patrick Jones), a door fixture with light attempting to burst through at Walkergate; Gareth Hudson’s Panta Rhei which combines choral singing and light in a visual symphony at Prebends Bridge; and Seaham-based Angela Sandwith’s Ghost Nest, which sends a message about the environment with an illuminated work comprised of repurposed discarded fishing gear from East Durham beaches.
Disrupting daily life
The interruption of the norms of daily life is a hallmark of Lumiere. Located in a city street lamp, Chomko & Rosier’s award-winning, global work Shadowing (2014) in Court Lane is a mischievous installation that captures and remembers movements by passers-by, encouraging audiences to perform, dance and play before their movements are echoed back to the next visitor. In the historic cobbled South Bailey, French light-art studio Pitaya will fill the sky with a new galaxy of hand-sculpted planets. PLANETOÏDS (2021) is a dream-like experience that has previously been exhibited at the Fête des Lumières in Lyon.
Yinka Ilori MBE, known for his use of bright colours is bringing In Plants We Trust (2021) to the North East of England for the first time. The artist’s shrine to plants that thrive in urban settings was first produced in 2021 to reflect his native London, and will now interact with the natural world and city atmosphere of Durham College.
As the River Wear snakes its way around the ancient city, so Lumiere will unfold along the riverside. Constellations (2018) by French artist Joanie Lemercier, will take visitors on a cosmic journey through the universe featuring three-dimensional planets, stars and deep into the interior of a black hole.
Suspended beneath Framwellgate Bridge will be German artist Anselm Reyle’s neon installation Untitled (2023), comprising of leftover tubes from industrial and urban spaces to create a nostalgic retro reflection in the river. Legendary UK visual artist Anne Bean will bring her autobiographical Reflect (2016) to Durham, one of several critically-acclaimed UK-based artists who will be exhibiting and installing work at Lumiere.
Lampounette (2021), is the latest addition to the permanent collection of light installations in Durham: a giant iconic desk lamp by French studio TILT that will light up the area around Pennyferry Bridge in its new Durham home. And visitors following the 4km walk along the riverside will encounter Rumination, a collection of larger-than-life illuminated sheep sculptures made by UK artist Dave Young, using textiles, willow, as well as salvaged and recycled junk.
Changing the world
Community, social justice, and the celebration of global cultural rituals are underlying themes at this year’s Lumiere. The UK premiere of On Blank Pages (2021) by anonymous Spanish group Luzinterruptus, will create a light wall of free expression in Millennium Place using hundreds of notebooks containing writings from those who have lived experience of the UK justice system, both good and bad. Other pages will be left free for visitors to contribute their own thoughts and responses. Durham is a particularly appropriate location for this installation, with the original Magna Carta held in Durham Cathedral – a symbol of the evolution of the constantly changing attitudes to justice in England.
Shirin Abedinirad’s Heaven on Earth #3 (2023) is an ode to the important place that mirrors have in Persian culture, and especially its architecture. The Iranian artist will position mirrors in a symmetrical composition rising up the Magdalene Steps at Elvet Bridge, providing audiences with a transformative view of themselves and their notion of how the world is structured. Portuguese group OCUBO will recreate Holi, the Hindu festival of colour. Holi (2020) is an energetic interactive piece that invites visitors to digitally paint the Gala Theatre wall using hand and body gestures, while spreading one million digital colour particles in real time.
Colour the Castle from Dutch production house Mr.Beam will transform Durham Castle with a magical colouring book projection onto the 11th century building using drawings by 150 residents and visitors to the city. Local Durham schoolchildren will take their place in Ron Haselden’s Watchtower, the artist’s evolving collection of luminous portraits by children, here presented as a rising tower structure.
This powerful work with its urgent message around children as the future of the planet asked 50 pupils from Laurel Avenue Primary School to take part in workshops that contributed to the final artwork. Past Lumiere alumnus, Mick Stephenson creates a large diamond with Diamond Garden (2023), that will light up The College using solar technology to reflect the importance of renewal energy. Educating Durham young people on the evolution of energy, they’ve also created their own solar lights that will surround the installation.
Also, as part of the community participation programme, young people from Durham Sixth Form Centre and New College Durham have used recycled materials and common landfill objects to design Flowers & Chandeliers, inspired by this year’s programme as well as using plastic bottles to grow a garden of flowers that bring light to the Durham skies.