Did you go and see Lumiere? Wasn't it great, apart from the exhibits that were a bit underwhelming, and the crowds, and the long distances, and the queueing? If you're getting withdrawal symptoms, or if you missed it, there's a chance to catch up with another festival of light this week at Canary Wharf. It's called Winter Lights, it's free, and it features eighteen different illuminated installations scattered across the estate. Head down between 4pm and 9pm - Friday is the last day - and you could take a look around. But is it any good?
One Canada Square 1) The Luminous City: This artwork will outlive the festival, remaining inside the lobby until 12th February, but I misread the date so I failed to go, so I didn't enjoy Nathaniel's "large scale installation examining the interplay of light and structure in the built environment". [steve's photo]
Crossrail Place 2) Light Sphere I: Imagine a spinning metal hoop with LEDs around its rim. It's supposed to appear spherical as it turns - a 3-D optical illusion - but at low speeds it just looks like a rotating metal hoop with LEDs around its rim. [veronica's photo] Do start here, by the way, in the plaza below the space age walkway leading to the Crossrail station. Volunteers are handing out maps, or rather a 16 page full colour brochure packed with information. As is usual with this kind of artistic orienteering, a map is essential. 3) Liquid Space 6.1: No, this contraption's already been removed. Three of the artworks were only planned to remain in place until last Thursday, of which this interactive humanoid form was one. [andrew's's photo]
4) We Could Meet: A reedbank of twin-toned lighting poles rises from the pool outside the coffee bar. They're quite pretty. They do not necessarily "change the juxtapositions of our colour perception." [photo] 5) A Parallel Image: Oh, this one's in the basement. More specifically it's on level Minus Three, one floor above the new ticket hall, and accessible only by lift. Pixels powered by 2500 individual cables form a moving LED image. 6) Moon: I wish I'd read the blurb before I approached this dark subterranean corner. Apparently the square frame represents a interactive window with a lunar presence behind, whereas the group of us investigating merely worked out we could create electronic noises by waving our arms around. 7) Aura: Step inside a temporary room where a switched-off lamp points at a circular disc on one wall. Alas, either they'd unplugged it, or I completely failed to understand how to make something happen. [tony's photo] 8) Lumen Prize Exhibition: Wow, the highlights of an international digital competition are being displayed here at Canary Wharf! All I saw were a slightly-cubist portrait and some spears on poles, which weren't wow, but I think I missed something. [photo]
Montgomery Place 9) The Pool ★: This is more like it. A few minutes walk away, on the piazza in front of the easternmost Jubilee line entrance, several dozen touchpad rings have been laid out in a large circle. Step or jump on one and it changes colour, much to the delight of the children running merrily across. "Do you think adults are allowed on?" asked the couple next to me, before deciding that they were and stepping aboard. [photo] Apart from these youngsters, the vast majority of people I saw following the Winter Lights trail were of retirement age. Financial operatives were noticeable by their absence (maybe they all toured last week).
Jubilee Park 10) My Light Is Your Light: Six neon silhouettes trudge across the lawn by the fountains. They're supposed to represent Syrian refugees, but I only realised this when I got home and read the programme properly. [photo] 11) Globoscope: Sorry, again, this garden of glowing spheres was only around last week. Shame. [jon's photo] 12) Flawless: Damn, I thought I'd seen everything, but I totally overlooked this "shimmering curtain of falling elm leaves". Trying to read a map in the dark is over-rated. 13) On The Wings Of Freedom: Perhaps I'd been distracted by this radiant cloud of die-cast plastic butterflies flying over the lawn nearby. Apparently they interact with the mobile phones of those watching, but alas they didn't metamorphose rainbow-wise for the crowd while I was watching. [photo]
Middle Dock 14) Infinity Pools: Five circular mirrors have been dropped into the dock opposite the main entrance to the Jubilee line station, their dotty pattern creating the illusion of a bottomless well. The two that hadn't steamed up looked quite convincing. [photo] 15) Bit.Fall ★: Hurrah, it's the word waterfall that wowed the Olympic Park in 2012, here positioned by the dockside beneath the DLR. Random words plucked from live newsfeeds... University... Brother... Events... (Pictured)... are projected onto the tumbling droplets in ghostly capitals. I should've filmed it, rather than attempting to click my camera each time a word appeared... damn. [photo][someone else's video]
Cabot Square 16) Totem: Another artwork which responds to mobile phone signals, its red tubes brightening the more an invisible aura surges. Ho hum. [photo]
Columbus Courtyard 17) Chorus: A monumental kinetic sound sculpture with rotating arms atop giant metal tripods. Sounds awesome. Alas disassembled last week. [andrew's photo] Not that this stopped people hunting for it last night, A small asterisk on the key on the map isn't enough to prevent visitors keenly searching for something that's no longer there, it seems.
Westferry Circus 18) Fantastic Planet ★: And to finish, an 18-foot-high inflatable figure in alien white, leaning down across the lawn to investigate its new surroundings. Looks impressive, sounds like a bouncy castle attached to an airpump. [photo]
Once you're done, which in my case took 45 minutes, the marketing team at Canary Wharf hope you'll hang around and visit a Shop, Bar, Restaurant, Cafe, Parking or Roof Garden. I know this because these are the six options in the mini-questionnaire they handed me with my festival programme. This outdoor display hasn't been staged for altruistic arty reasons, Canary Wharf are simply attempting to boost footfall at an awkward time of year while at the same time elevating public perceptions of their brand. On that front I'd say Winter Lights is a success, if not a must see.
Indeed what most struck me wandering around was a 19th illuminatedartwork, wildly more impressive than the rest - a gargantuan forest of towers with thousands of tessellating square lights blazing down from the sky. If you seek true meaning, stand here any evening and watch One Canada Square puff steam above a glowing financial powerhouse, and ponder on what we have created.