Wonderland.

RIVER OF LIGHT 2022

Three of the artists from the Liverpool outdoor illuminated gallery talk unexpected twists and creating with light.

River of light2022
River of light2022

Liverpool’s waterfront is once again a mecca of light as local, national, and international artists descend to contribute installations to River of Light, the illuminated outdoor gallery, returning to the city for its 2022 run. Featuring several exclusive pieces and brand-new commissions, the light spectacular comes as part of a headline year for the city, also hosting The Turner Prize 2022 and the World Gymnastics Championships in the first week of November.

Spontaneous and unpredictable, this year’s artists were given the creative theme, ‘Unexpected Twist” to draw on in their creations, a challenge embraced by contributors Lucid Creates, Yinka Ilori and Kazimier. We caught up with them about bringing their pieces to the city and incorporating unexpected twists.

Head below to read our chat with them and to catch a glimpse of the works themselves…

Yinka Ilori

What’s one other thing you’re looking forward to today apart from this interview?
It’s currently Frieze week in London so I’ve been quite busy visiting the fair as well as checking out other events around town. It’s always a really busy and exciting time with so much to see and I love getting out there and experiencing other artists’ work. I’m also working on my installation for River of Light so it’s been extremely busy at the studio as we work on the final stages of the piece. Seeing something we dreamt up to become a reality is always a joy and I’m really excited to bring this installation to Liverpool.

Massive congratulations on your new exhibition! How are you feeling to be showing your work in the city of Liverpool?
Thank you! I’m really excited to be bringing this installation to Liverpool. It’s not somewhere that I’ve exhibited work before so I’m looking forward to seeing the reaction audiences will have. River of Light is a really fantastic initiative which brings art and design to a wide audience and encourages them to experience the city in a new way. So I’m really pleased to be a part of it.

This is your first time using light as an art medium. What’s the biggest thing you learned through working on the project?
That’s correct. I’ve never worked with light before so this has been a great learning experience. When you work with paint, you can control colours by mixing them but with light, it’s a very different experience. I’ve had to work with technicians and engineers to reach the right saturation and have had to learn how to manipulate the medium using switches and dimmers that help control the pace and speed of how light filters through. It’s been challenging but I’ve been working with a great team of people.

What’s been the most exciting part of venturing into this new medium?

In recent years, I’ve really wanted to expand my practice to explore new mediums and this is something I started doing over the last couple of years. First with “Launderette of Dreams” where I used LEGO bricks as a medium, then the architectural pavilion I created in Berlin titled “Filtered Rays” and more recently with animation and screens for a window display at the Conran Shop titled “Forest of Eyes”. Working with different mediums allows me to dream up lots of new ideas and achieve very different results. My work is almost always experienced during the day and what’s really exciting about working with light is that it not only creates a new dynamic, but also allows audiences to view my work in the nighttime.

River of Light 2022 has the creative theme of “Unexpected Twist”. How did you try to incorporate that into your work?
The installation responds to the theme by drawing inspiration from rhythmic gymnastics. I wanted to capture the energy and the poetry of the performance as well as reflect on the relationship between the gymnast’s bodies and the ribbons they use during a routine. The installation will be suspended from the ceiling and incorporates LED ribbons. Using light I wanted to mimic the movement of gymnasts and recreate the organic forms that they create with the ribbons. More than just the motion, I also want to evoke the joy of performance.

How does this exhibition compare to the projects you’ve done in the past?
With all of my projects, I like to create artwork or design for a specific context. Most of my work is very site-specific so it’s difficult to compare different works. This piece is an entirely new medium and I’m also working with my close friend Peter Adjaye, who is a contemporary conceptual sound artist. Peter will be creating a unique soundscape for the installation which will add another dimension to the piece and experience. Having said that, there are key themes and ideas that run through my work. Heritage, the community, bringing people together and creating a sense of joy are embedded in all of my work. ‘Dancing Ribbons’ is similar in that sense. It’s about bringing people and communities together to be part of something new and exciting, to get them talking about art and also to create a joyful experience.

What do you hope attendees will take away from your exhibition?
As with all of my public work, I want to create something that will elicit an emotional response. I hope that it will be uplifting and I also hope it will encourage those who don’t really think art is for them, to think again.

Finally, once River of Light 2022 comes to an end, what should we expect to see next from you?
We have a number of exciting projects in the pipeline including my very first pop-up store in London ahead of Christmas which will create a fun and immersive shopping experience. I’m also working on a new sculpture for the park in Kings Hill titled ‘Slices of Peace’ which has been inspired by the culture and heritage of Kent, particularly the local history of apple growing. The project has been commissioned by Kings Hill development partners Liberty Property Trust and Kent County Council and curated by Turner Contemporary.

Lucid Creates

BEAM Lucid Creates
BEAM Lucid Creates

Hey both! What’s one other thing you’re looking forward to today apart from this interview?
We’re currently installing BEAM at Graving Dock, it’s a stunning location – so it’s really good to be back at one of our favourite spots to exhibit.

Massive congratulations on your new exhibition! How are you feeling to be showing your work in the city of Liverpool?
It’s a great feeling to be back at River of Light, it’s our third time at the festival. It’s always a pleasure to be included here among the other incredibly talented artists and work with a council striving to promote culture and public art in such an ambitious way. The trial is always curated beautifully and with a strong message behind it. The whole team at Culture Liverpool who works on River of Light have been so supportive of our work over the years and in facilitating our big ideas.

River of Light 2022 has the creative theme of “Unexpected Twist”. How did you try to incorporate that into your work?
We have explored the theme of ‘Unexpected Twist’ in a number of ways through this piece. As people enter and exit BEAM they will be perceived differently by those around them, creating an unexpected change in the environment. The idea of balance underlies the design and concept for BEAM, which was inspired by Liverpool’s hosting of the World Gymnastics Championships 2022 whilst River of Light takes place. Developing the theme of balance, we explored our complex relationship with and dependency on the Sun, a relationship which now hangs in a delicate balance due to climate change, the effects of which we experienced this summer.

How does this exhibition compare to the projects you’ve done in the past?
We always push ourselves to play with light at scale, using it as a medium to evoke emotion and change people’s perceptions of what’s possible within the physical spaces and environment around them. BEAM is possibly our most conceptual piece to date. It has been inspired by and explores our complex relationship with light and the sun, with BEAM we are playing with how we can use light and sound to create an essence of an emotion or feeling that is very familiar to us all.

What do you hope attendees will take away from your exhibition?
We hope this piece will make people take time to consider the complexity of our relationship with light and how integral it is in altering our emotions and well-being, how the slightest change in our environment has profound effects on us all.

Finally, once River of Light 2022 comes to an end, what should we expect to see next from you?
We will be taking BEAM on tour internationally, whilst a number of our installations will be exhibited in the UK across winter. And as always we have some very ambitious ideas and pieces lined up for the year ahead.

Kazimier

Kazimier
Kazimier

What’s one other thing you’re looking forward to today apart from this interview?
We have our first meeting with a scientist from Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine that we are collaborating with for an upcoming project. It is simultaneously a really exciting opportunity and a bit scary as we have never worked with real scientists before. A lot of our work historically has had a bit of a pseudo/theatrical science overtones – but this is the real deal!

What’s your relationship with River Of Light and how are you feeling to be showing your work in the city of Liverpool?

This is our fourth year working on River of Light, each time we have been lucky enough to work on a brand new commission, but this is by the far the largest and most ambitious. We have always felt really supported and nurtured by the Culture Liverpool team. However ambitious and technically challenging an idea we put forward, they always do their best to help us bring it to life. We have been working in Liverpool since 2008 and are lucky to have a really wide network of like-minded creative practitioners we can turn to for help. We run a number of venues, bars, a rollerskating rink and even a small art gallery! Over the years we have staged such a variety of events and shows that it has given us amazing opportunities to work with people across the board in the city, so we are pretty well placed to pull together a really strong team for each project we take on. The city is proud of its cultural output and always comes out in big numbers for events, especially as they are often free and accessible to all. In that regard it is a fantastic chance to showcase and try out work… also helps that our workshop is only 10 minutes away, in case anything breaks!

What’s the biggest thing you learned through working on the project? 

Kids love pressing buttons! The piece we built is called Light Looper, it is a large deconstructed arcade game consisting of four stations where audiences are able to bounce a moving beam of blue light around a round sculpture made up of looping tracks of LED light. Similar to Snake on the old Nokia phones, audiences need to direct the beam in order for it to get faster and larger as it travels around the game eating little yellow pixels of ‘food’. When the beam reaches its top speed it is ready to be sent up to the very top of the sculpture where it can ring the 8 bells. When the game is completed it unlocks a beautiful sequence of sound and light that plays out across the whole sculpture.

The big learning curve was really the game development itself, it was a totally new direction of travel for us and we were lucky enough to work with an incredible programmer (Oliver Hollis-Leick)
who was able to build all the intricacies of the gameplay in Unreal Engine. His work perfectly integrated with the original score composed by Nick Smith and with all of our hardware and lighting design. We were able to build the entire project in our workshop to fully test it and work out how to take it apart and put it back together. But, going back to the kids pressing buttons – the interfaces consist of three buttons: Left, Right & Forward. When we built and tested it we had no idea how much those buttons would get pressed, but the game logs lots of stats and it is averaging 35,000 button presses per hour! That is some serious stress testing we did not anticipate.


River of Light 2022 has the creative theme of “Unexpected Twist”. How did you try to incorporate that into your work? 

We wanted to build a piece of work that was as engaging for the spectators as it was for the players. To play on that sense of awe, experienced when watching someone achieve a complicated feat. I hope we managed to deliver a bit of that. There is an elegance to the piece which I think is very mesmerizing.


How does this exhibition compare to the projects you’ve done in the past?
We are as much producers and fabricators as we are artists, which gives us a unique opportunity to shape the work as it evolves and make creative changes right up until the last minute. This way of working has always been part of our practice and has given us a strong foundation in working outdoors and at scale. The big departure with this project is undoubtedly the game element and really opening up the work to public interaction. Our previous works have been often time-based – i.e the work consists of pre-recorded looping audio-visual content playing out across a custom-made installation. Interactivity can sometimes be a bit of an opaque term especially if the interaction is not immediately apparent to audiences. Light Looper is totally real-time and audiences have the opportunity to shape the way it looks and sounds dynamically. The play element is really responsive and easy to understand, creating space for playful interactions between total strangers.

It’s also nice working on land! A lot of our previous works have been on or under water, which poses a lot of technical challenges. Admittedly other elements like wind and rain are still a problem even on land but at least you are not working from a wobbly boat.


What do you hope attendees will take away from your exhibition?

Our initial concept was for a game that would bring people together and give them a common goal, there are multiple interfaces and the circular nature of the piece means audiences all stand in a circle facing each other as they play. Our background in the arts includes putting on lots of theatrical / multi-disciplinary club nights often with some sort of ceremony or unifying element. This undercurrent of bringing people together into a shared experience is something that is very important to our work and we hope we have achieved that with this piece. Or, as a friend described the piece – the beginnings of a cult initiation ceremony. Which also works for us.

Finally, once the River of Light 2022 comes to an end, what should we expect to see next from you?
This last year has seen us pivot quite a bit into the PLAY direction – i.e building games, and interactive experiences and Light Looper is our biggest one to date. We would love to build more and place all these games into a large format exhibition/fun fair/theme park of the future, where audiences are free to roam and unlock hidden spaces and experiences.

Head to visitliverpool.com/riveroflight for more information!

RIVER OF LIGHT 2022

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