“If ever there was a show that was the venue itself then the luminarium was it.”
John Linklater, The Herald
Normally the luminarium is the show. Over the last 17 years most of the 2 million visitors to Architects of Air’s luminaria have enjoyed their experience simply for the experience of the structure itself.
However sometimes the luminaria play host to other art-forms where it has proved to be a wonderful setting for a large range of performances, from chamber music concerts to small-scale street theatre, story telling, circus acts or short film projections.
A luminarium is not like a conventional performance setting and there are many practical factors to consider when contemplating an animation. Aside from the physical characteristics of the space that limit what is possible, the space itself can be a distraction – so artists need to be able to work with the space.
It is important to bear in mind that an animation of a luminarium is a creative partnership between AoA and the guest artists. A full dialogue with the artists must take place in order to ensure that both the art form and the luminarium will be experienced at their optimum.
Dancers introduce another dimension to the sense of being in the luminarium. Where dancers intervene the visitors may feel themselves to be given license to explore their own movement in the space.
A visitor entering the luminarium becomes a living element of the sculpture that is the luminarium. Becomes a participant and part of the participative experience of the other visitors.
The visitor is often in a heightened mode of receptivity and is likely to accept behaviours not typical of the everyday place. They may be likely to enact behaviours they do not normally enact in an everyday public place.
Some performances are simply landed into the structure without any adaption to the environment and yet they can work. Other performances are more carefully adapted to the specifics of the space and are designed to direct the visitor’s perception of the space.
Storytelling is one of the most popular activities to take place inside a luminarium. It is a perfect way to involve large groups of children and to focus their experience of the luminarium.
The luminaria travel with their own sound system. The music played is a piece called 'In Gold', composed by David Bickley. It has been a music that has worked well with the structures – its contemplative & elemental qualities have been very much in harmony with the calm atmosphere we have wanted to maintain in the structures.
There is to be a reflection about who will be the audience for the sound - will it be the general visitor or will there be specific (e.g. separately ticketed) sessions set aside. If it is the former then the sound will ideally be compatible with the spirit of the structure. If it is the latter then it is easier to envisage the sound environment being more challenging, as people will know it is part of the deal.
One sound project that worked really well was an event we did to raise awareness about breast cancer. The organiser recorded testimonies from sufferers, from health workers. These were then played back by small speakers located outside, but very close, to the pods where people were sitting or lying. The immediacy of the intimate voice was very effective and often quite moving and uplifting.
One of the most successful musical interventions in a luminarium (and still on-going through our joint projects with Salamanda Tandem) has been working with Duncan Chapman. This has been working mainly with and for audiences of people with disabilities. Duncan does live sampling in the structures and creates sound landscapes that are the most sublime sound/ music experiences with the public as participants.
In Copenhagen in August 2009 students from Copenhagen University created two sound pieces. The students experimented with the ways sound creates and transforms space. The workshop was led by composer and producer Morten Jaeger. The sound pieces influenced the way people experienced our luminarium, ‘Amococo’.
Musical performances are frequently programmed either as separately ticketed events or simply as a kind of background animation. When ticketed separately the capacity of the structure may be increased up to 120 persons as the audience is likely to be sitting down. However the individual domes of the luminarium do not have the capacity for this number of visitors so the performance may involve the performers moving around the structure.
The outside of the structure presents an attractive backdrop. The barriers constitute an area of over 200m2 that can be decorated. The long queues that may be waiting to enter the luminarium are a willing audience for street performers.
Workshops of a diverse nature have been held in our luminaria. Increasingly yoga and relaxation sessions inside the luminarium form part of the offering a promoter will make to their public. Workshops have also proved to be particularly successful with children enabling them to learn and make the most of their visit to the luminarium.
Contemporary dance workshops as well as those more focused to people with special needs are also held with great success, particularly through Architects of Air's collaboration with the dance company Salamanda Tandem, towards our common project ‘Osmosis’.