Unusual's 'ingenious solutions' help Artichoke celebrate the 10th Lumiere Festival
28th November 2019This month saw the 10th Anniversary of Lumiere – the UK’s largest light festival – take place in Durham. The event, run by Artichoke has been transforming cities across the UK since 2009, with each Lumiere festival inviting local and international artists to create works that reimagine familiar buildings and public spaces, changing the way we experience our urban surroundings.
Over the ten years since the first Lumiere, Unusual Rigging has been a key supplier in the delivery of specialist rigging and engineering for the festival in Durham. Engineers, riggers and technicians work with Artichoke’s production teams to design solutions to the most challenging projects, from working in delicate heritage environments such as Durham Cathedral to rigging artworks over the river Wear or across the historic medieval streets.
Kate Harvey, senior producer for Artichoke commented: “This year Unusual has been working with us on a special edition of the festival to celebrate our tenth anniversary. The programme included a number of returning artworks from across previous editions of the festival, together with new commissions from artists specialising in the field of light related work. Led by Jim Dugan, the team designed and installed rigging systems for the French fire artists Carabosse in the interior of Durham Cathedral. They provided a rigging system to span the Cathedral nave on three levels and oversaw all work in the upper levels of the medieval building. Compagnie, Carabosse’s captivating fire gardens and flame filled installations have been seen around the world and the company last visited Durham in 2011.”
Kate continued: “Unusual also designed a catenary rigging system to hang Deepa Man-Kler’s Shoefiti across the historic South Bailey. Unusual’s experience installing lights and rigging in heritage settings across the UK, ensures that the methodology and approach is appropriate for the age of the buildings and sensitive to the needs of heritage organisations who are tasked with protecting the world heritage site. In the development of a new piece such as Shoefit, Unusual has the invaluable experience of having worked with thousands of large and complex structures and they are able to use this experience to work with artists to explain what is and is not possible within the laws of physics. ”
Other pieces that Unusual rigged include a giant piece of glowing knitting created by local textile artist Victoria Macleod and Celestial Brainstorm, the work of a young emerging artist, Amelia Kosminsky. Celestial Brainstorm is a large scale interactive illuminated sculptural object floating in space. Unusual worked over several months to provide design and engineering skill to enable the development of the project. A rotating lantern approximately 3m in diameter, it mimics the lanterns found in children’s bedrooms at night. Just as kids’ lanterns are intended to keep darkness at bay and create a sense of safety, so this project banishes darkness and flickering lights fill the darkest moments of the night. The design of the cut-work is based on imagery of neurons in the brain, illuminated from within. Artist Amelia explained:
“Having grown up with photosensitive epilepsy, I’ve always been fascinated and repelled by light and the effect that it has on the brain. Flashing lights can result in a seizure, whereas flickering lights are mesmerising and enchanting. Celestial Brainstorm describes the second state. It was technically an extremely complex piece to make and combines the techniques of early photography, lanterns and projection, with contemporary technologies of LED lighting and automated rotation. I couldn’t have done it without the support of Unusual who are the best in the business. Many thanks to them and also to Dyer Engineering who supported the piece with materials and workmanship, and to Guy Armstrong, Liam Strong and Ben Wallace for their work on the piece."
Kate added: “None of the artworks Unusual are involved in rigging are easy! But Unusual are fantastic at coming up with solutions to engineering and aesthetic challenges. Unusual’s track record in rigging and engineering gives a level of confidence to
everyone involved, from the artists trying to achieve the impossible, the building owners who grant permission for the temporary work to take place and the heritage authorities who oversee the protection of the city’s many historic monuments.”
She concluded: “The longstanding relationship between the work of Artichoke and Unusual means that we work closely as a team to identify challenges in presenting the artists’ work and find solutions which meet the needs of the artists and the various stakeholders and authorities who grant access to the spaces in which the work is to be installed. Artists always seek to achieve the impossible and more often than not the impossible is realised through Unusual’s ingenious solutions.”
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