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Lights on the European capitals of culture

Lumen, Matera2019 Lumen, Matera2019 Photo by Matera 2019

Light, a metaphor of life and rebirth. But also energy, fire, heat. Perhaps, for these reasons, many European capitals of culture have chosen to dedicate a space of their activities to this theme. Individual actions and artistic works, chapters, but also entire bidbooks are dedicated to light. Let's take a look at some of them.

There is a new light installation in Esch, by Martine Glod. In her work, Martine Glod, who studied visual arts with a focus on painting, questions the traditional way of working with painting. Experimenting with new means of representing colour, she seeks to replace brushes and paint with other materials. In her work ‘Color as light’, for instance, which was shown as part of Luxembourg and the Greater Region European Capital of Culture 2007, the colours were produced with the help of light.

Her new light installation ‘All we need is light’ at Annexe22 was inspired by traditional Asian sand mandalas, which are here presented in a glass pavilion, similar to the way they are displayed in Asia. The form of the installation derives from the radial symmetry of mandalas: starting from the centre, it rotates around its own axis and spreads out in different directions. Up to 16 million different shades can be programmed and generated through the individual LED bars, opening up continually new dimensions of pulsating movement.

The pavilion thus transforms into a kind of ‘sanctuary of light’, from which the coloured rays of light radiate to the outside, penetrating and illuminating the area around Place de la Résistance (Brillplaz). Offering a moment of meditation, the point of light at the crossing point of the square invites passers-by to pause and engage in a new experience of body and space.

It is possible to admire the work in Annexe22, Place de la Résistance (Brillplaz), Esch-Alzette until March 27, 2021.

Light, in Matera, the European Capital of Culture in 2019, was at the center of a major social innovation project that saw the participation of thousands of citizens for the production of luminous bags and large map-pointers, such as the ones in Google Maps, installed in most symbolic places in the city. Below the presentation of the project.

Lumen | Social Light is a light shining over Matera, to illuminate the past and future of Southern Italy. But there is more to it. The project consisted of two parts, two different ways of producing a single great floodlight. Lumen rediscovered the ancient tradition of illuminations, made for the occasion by the Basilicata community and by some of the most important companies in this sector in Southern Italy.

Fifteen light installations for fifteen strategic points which brought light to those places, those open spaces and buildings where the highlights of Matera 2019 took place.

Social Light, on the other hand, spread light over the whole of Basilicata, starting from the people. Over 4,000 people took part in workshops at the Open Design School, making luminous objects called 'bag lights', to be carried around the city and create flashes or glimmers of light, illuminating Matera’s streets.

Illuminate, illuminate all: this is a different vision, lighting up the night to find new directions and prospects.

The city of Romania, European capital of culture for 2023, has dedicated all its cultural strategy to the theme of light.

In 1884, Timisoara was the first city on mainland Europe to have electric street lighting. In 1989, the sparks of Revolution against Ceausescu’s regime were ignited on the streets of Timisoara. In 2023, it aims to become a European Capital of Culture, sharing its aspirations with the rest of Europe: “Shine your light—Light up your city!”.

The concept is inspired by the universal metaphor of light and it is an invitation to join on a journey through light and dark spaces, a long and often difficult process of personal change and development towards a collective sensibility.

They imagine a challenging journey, from loneliness to togetherness, from light through darkness and back again, across three territories hiding keys for Europe’s current struggles: people, places, and connections.

They gather courage and travel through 6 stations, following 18 trails throughout the process of becoming the European Capital of Culture 2023. The main generator for this journey is the “Power Station”. It provides competence, energy, synergy, and skill.

Timisoara is the perfect place to initiate a profound and systematic engagement of culture, to return hope to troubled European cities. It focuses on audiences, people, citizens, voices—unheard but not lost. There is a story to tell: that of a cosmopolitan city, first resisting oppression and then reinventing itself, located at the edges of South-Eastern and Central Europe. It will initiate both small- and large-scale collaborations across the city, the region and the continent.

The Cultural Programme invites and trusts audiences to navigate the light and dark spaces in their history and their future from three perspectives of crucial importance today: People, Places, Connections.

People are the essence of community. Behind the horror and anger that the media spreads daily on a global scale there are individuals. They want to unlock civic energy, the capacity to think critically and to speak out, to accept responsibility and take action. They want to increase inclusion of marginalised groups, celebrating diversity, resisting intolerance. The European theme here is cultural citizenship.

Places are the visible grounds of society. We see the flaws and we are disturbed by the damage humans do to the ecosystem. They want to re-vitalize public space, places where change happens. They want to overcome neglect and misuse, finding new functions for old buildings and hidden edges of our city. The European theme is co-creating public space, participatory urban reinvention.

Connections define the complexity and the intelligence of a system. They form a common vision for the future of the city. On a larger scale, they connect with other engaged and creative global movements. They redefine the international profile of Timisoara. The European theme here is interdependence. Lights over Borders brings audiences together in the largest celebration of diversity, which spreads across the region, along the trails, aiming to expand networks of citizens, cultural operators and cities and work together.

The lights will guide the cultural program of Timisoara in 2023. The lights to illuminate the past, the present, and the future of Europe.

Serafino Paternoster

Ecocnews Founder, Journalist, repentant jazz guitarist, music critic and film lover.

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