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The Highlights of the Tallinn Light Biennale 0

From  November 24 to December 1, for the first time in history, Tallinn city centre and old town have turned into a platform of light installations, exhibitions and workshops, where well-known international and local professionals can be seen presenting their work and sharing their knowledge. 

With such an abundance of attractions, Tallinn will become a glowing and sparkling furnace in the darkest time of the year. The Light Biennale celebrates well-designed quality lighting, aiming to spread the idea and bring it closer to the people. The event allows visitors to see, feel, hear and touch light, teaching them to appreciate it and change it to their liking.  

The following questions were answered by Eva Tallo, one of the organizers of the Biennale.

Ocubo (Portugal). Sea of Light

What is the main idea behind the Tallinn Light Biennale program?

The idea is to involve people in the magic and knowledge of the lighting world. The Light Biennale combines light art, design and light in architecture. The light art and architectural lighting workshops have been selected in a way that everyone can participate and contribute to the final solution, hands on. Contemporary technology has erased borders between light art, show lighting and architectural lighting. This is a trend that we would like to emphasize. Lighting technology today gives similar tools to everyone who works with lighting, and this creates an endless number of possibilities and challenges.

What is the approach used by the work-selection committee to choose the light installations and artists that will be exhibited?

The complicated part in selecting the works is to combine quality and quantity, while keeping it within the budget. In terms of quality, I mean high-tech and innovative. The works with the most cutting-edge technology tend to be the most expensive.

Peeter Laurits (EST). Gordian Knot

How do you start to put together ideas for the Biennale? Did you start with a wish-list of artists you thought might be suitable?

The selection is based on four principles. First, we wanted to present an overview of Estonian Light Art and light artists, as there hasn’t been a retrospective like that in Estonia; this could be the starting point for the Light Biennale also in the future. Secondly, we wanted to bring to Estonia an exhibition by a light artist known world-wide, and our choice here was Paul Friedlander – because of his large-scale works and out of an interest for scientific art, as such. Thirdly, we wished to create outdoor installations that would engage as many viewers as possible. And lastly, the aim was to bring the renowned PLDA workshops to Estonia.

What sort of obstacles do you have to overcome to put together a program like this?

The greatest challenges have to do with the budget and funding – finding sponsors and supporters, just as with cultural events in general.

Paul Friedlander (UK). An Alternative Approach to Unifying... 

Could you please name some highlights of each program section (light installations, exhibitions and workshops), and give us a concise commentary on each?

The highlight event of the Biennale is certainly the Light Gala on the 29th of November, in the former Helios cinema in the Old Town. Sven Grünberg will perform his film music together with the vocalists Ott Leppland and Sandra Nurmsalu, and all of it is accompanied by the light performance “Visual Piano”, by the German artist Kurt Laurenz.

Light Gala is the most glamorous event of the Biennale where the old movie theatre Helios will be filled with live music and light performance by composer Sven Grünberg and light artist Kurt Laurenz Theinert. Here you can see Kurt Laurenz's Visual Piano in Festival Narracje Gdansk 2008. Photo: Philipp Haas

The gala also gives the opportunity to see the exhibition “Light Utopias”. Among other authors, the British physicist and kinetic light artist Paul Friedland presents his recent work here – monumental kinetic light installations.

In the urban space, the Light Route guided tours offer insights into all of the installations and the reasoning behind each of them.

Marit Ilison (EST). Lúmine. Estonian Light Art exhibition

I would also like to emphasize the exhibition “Estonian Light Art” in the Architecture and Design Gallery, which is taking place for the first time on that grand of a scale.

In your opinion, what is the most magic thing about this festival?

The magic is to shine some light into the city during this very dark and depressing season, and demonstrate the positive effect of great lighting solutions on people even as they go about their everyday lives.

How does the festival deal with the city environment? How do you consider which locations to choose?

We have chosen locations in the town centre, so that as many people as possible can be part of it. At the same time, of course, the architectural features of the city centre are the most varied – from medieval buildings, churches and city walls to modern architecture.

Since many of the installations and events take place in public areas, including in a shopping centre, the number of visitors could reach many thousands.