Lumen Fest lights up Uptown Waterloo

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Photo by Alyssa Di Sabatino

On Sep. 28, Uptown Waterloo hosted Lumen, the second annual festival that features interdisciplinary installations of art, technology, and light.

From 6-11 p.m, festival-goers were able to explore Uptown Waterloo and interact with over 27 installations at over 25 locations, spread across Uptown in four “zones.” Several musical acts were also featured at the event throughout the night.

Lumen featured works from local and international artists and installations ranged from high-tech to low-tech, with one of the most industrial of installations being a 30’ long and 19’ tall metal fire-breathing dragon, named “Heavy Meta.”

Among the line-up of local artists were muralist and painter, Trisha Abe and photographer, Taylor Jones.

Low-tech, yet nonetheless intriguing, their installation titled “Luminous Living” featured a domestic living room set-up consisting of a couch, carpet, TV and coffee table, all of which were brightly coloured or covered in neon tape.

Black lights were set up to make the space fluorescent and glowing, and created a vibrant and minimalistic living room space. One of Abe’s murals was hanging above the couch, with the feminine silhouettes also glowing from the black light.

“We wanted to just kind of both do something different for this exhibit, which is pretty out of both of our comfort zones,” Abe said.

“We wanted to make something simple that we could put a fun twist to. We originally were thinking about lighting — using actual lights to light up and do outlines around the couch, but we landed on using bright fluorescent tape…” Jones said.

Those who visited this installation were able to sit on the couch, read the magazines on the coffee table and interact with it as if it were their own living room. The small crowd which had formed around the tent was reflective of the popularity of this installation.

I think having something that’s interactive gives people a chance to absorb it a little bit more.

— Taylor Jones, photographer

“It’s fun to see people actually taking on the role, people are putting their feet up and reading books and really making themselves at home here,” said Abe.

By the time I had reached the installation, the sun had gone down and the bright colours stood out even more in the dark, which made for plenty of Instagram-worthy photos and created a fun and lively atmosphere.

“I enjoy seeing the people interacting with it. You can put art out there and put it on the wall, but I think having something that’s interactive gives people a chance to absorb it a little bit more,” said Jones. This sentiment extended to all the exhibits, as the most popular ones seemed to be the ones where attendees were able to experience the art first hand.

Another one of my favourite installations was “Monarch,” a butterfly-shaped physical synth. Comprised of electronic circuits, oscillators, instrument picks and a reverb string, the butterfly on the screen would react when the instruments were plucked or picked.

When left alone the butterfly would float calmly on the screen, but when the strings and picks were touched, it would change colours, shake, twitch, and transform to the tune of the music being played.

Featured in Zone 1 along with “Monarch” was “Circuit Makers,” where festival-goers were invited to make potato batteries, reminiscent of a high-school science project.

A light would turn on once the battery was complete, and was then lined up on the ground to represent King St, Waterloo in 1911; the point in history when street lights changed from gas to electric.

This installation couldn’t have been more fitting for the festival. In a sense, Lumen’s aim to light-up Uptown Waterloo directly coincides with the point in history where Uptown was quite literally lit up for the first time, almost 108 years ago.

In Zone 4, another installation titled “Memory Lightbox Sculpture” placed contemporary Uptown Waterloo beside its own history.

Inside the lightbox were archived photos, found images, and shared photographs of Waterloo’s community art centre, The Button Factory, throughout its years in honour of its 25th Anniversary.

The latter two installations celebrated Uptown Waterloo’s public spaces throughout history, and the animation of these spaces invited attendees to momentarily step back in history and experience Waterloo’s past.

The intersection of both technology and art was really interesting to witness, and it allowed attendees to explore Uptown Waterloo from a new and fluorescent perspective.

Other installations ranged from a sculpture illuminated by human touch to light-up balloon instruments and more.

Lumen definitely had something for everybody and showcased a multitude of local and international talent in a fun and refreshing lens. Although Lumen is young, I can see it only growing from here.

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