The Lumen Prize: “My sensory heaven, a futuristic night out”

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Currently in it’s fifth year, The Lumen Prize celebrates the very best art created digitally by artists from all over the world. Its goal is to celebrate the power and potential of this exciting genre through an annual competition and global tour of works selected by a prestigious panel of judges. The Lumen Prize is a touring exhibition, and its Leeds leg took place as part of the Leeds Digital Festival. This year’s show in Leeds featured installations and showreels from the 2015/16 tour, as well as retrospective work by Bonjour Labs and Laura Dekker. TSOTA writer Sophie Dumont went along to check out what the Lumen Prize had to offer.

As I walked from the city centre towards Leeds Dock, a faint hum grew to a pulsing beat. Not knowing the exact location I literally followed my ears and watched the Dock’s water ripple as if the tower blocks were speakers throwing out vibrations. A bodyguard swung a door open. So unlike what I thought of as a light installation, this called to all my ‘heavy night out’ senses.

Filling a stark industrial space were stations of projected light inviting you to play. I followed the bass further upstairs to a feast of light. A huge DJ booth commanded the space, designed like an assorted pile of blocks. Projected onto each block were matching, moving geometric shapes, as if the DJ was at the centre of a kaleidoscope. The night out familiarity continued as spectators bobbed to the beat, beer cans in hand. Yet oddly, a huge taped X on the floor reminded us it was an installation – not to be touched – a strange juxtaposition that left me willing it to be an actual club, to immerse me, not merely the DJ.

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Downstairs I explored ‘Metamorphy’, my sensory heaven. A circle of nylon was strung in front of a mirror and when touched a liquid-like heat sensor was projected onto the fabric that reacted to your pressure and movement. As the spectator, it looked stunning – framing silhouettes of people as they slowly lifted limbs and allowed themselves to be swallowed, physically and viscerally, by light. I pushed my face into the fabric and could see my reflection in the mirror behind as if my face was at the centre of lava.

On our way out we sat down in front of ‘The Garden of Earthly Delights’, trying to figure out the random images. From waving our arms to jumping we saw ourselves multiplied in the art work and were projected in time delayed moments across the picture. It was a whole civilization made of us, at different moments in the last 60 seconds. As we left the installation and the room we saw our civilization gradually disappeared, replaced by new, curious spectators.

The experience was a futuristic night out, with narcissism, liquid light, a trippy DJ booth and huge octagon structures framing chatting couples. Our experience was very aptly rounded off by a few games of Mario cart in Dock 29. It was an exhibition that threw me into a future of a digital club night and yet had one toe still in the present, reminding us that this world wasn’t our every day reality– yet.

Find out more about The Lumen Prize on the website. Images credited to Sophie Dumont.

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