Starting tonight, the Inner Harbor will be awash in reds, blues, yellows, oranges and greens as the third annual Light City festival gets underway. The BGE Light Art Walk around the water’s edge is the heart of it all, featuring illuminated works of art, food and drink, performances and much more.
Last night, the Baltimore Office of Promotion and the Arts held a preview to show off the pieces featured in this year’s festival. Below are photos of most of the major works on display, with accompanying descriptions. Everything will be up through April 21. For an interactive map of the festival, click here.
“Octopus,” by Tim Scofield, Kyle Miller and Steve Dalkenoff
Created by the group responsible for “Charlie the Peacock,” “Octopus” displays a full spectrum of colors and has moving tentacles, with ambient soundtrack playing the background. “We wanted to expand on what we did with Charlie,” says Scofield. “Kyle and I are really into movement and mechanics.”
“Pulse Portal,” by Davis McCarty
With sharp lines and prismatic color array, “Pulse Portal” looks like the grand entrance to the frozen lair in a video game or sci-fi flick. Featuring a great view of the downtown skyline, “Pulse Portal” was a popular spot for pictures.
“Some Thing in the Water,” by Post Typography, PI.KL and Figure 53
The cords draped below the surface flash blue lights, sometimes in a slow fade, other times at a rapid pulse, as a plinking soundtrack plays.
“We wanted to do something that made use of an existing space in the harbor and kind of activate it,” says Bruce Willen of Post Typography. The abstract work is open to interpretation, says Willen, adding that it evokes water as a life-giving resource and a mysterious place where it’s not immediately clear what is at work down below.
“What Lies Beneath,” by Formstone Castle
Using long strands of LED lights, “What Lies Beneath” projects four animated sequences by three animators onto the water just off Pratt Street. The images include the movements of sharks, recorded at the National Aquarium using a cellphone, over a bed of rippling colors, and an animated yellow fish.
“As of a Now,” by Elissa Blount Moorehead
Shaped like a typical Baltimore rowhouse with the side wall peeled away, “As of a Now” tells the story of three different generations, one from 1918, one from 1968 and one from the present.
Blount Moorehead says she wanted to show the quotidian actions of typical West Baltimore residents, separating them from stereotypes. But she also wanted to focus on the stories that took place within the walls of some of the vacant homes that are now crumbling or being torn down.
“It didn’t start that way,” she said. “It started with an ambitious family that wanted to buy a house.”
“Pink Enchantment,” by Tine Bech Studio
The lines of pink and blue lights and fog machines turn the pedestrian bridge between the Power Plant and National Aquarium into an eerie, neon-lit swamp. Or maybe the walkway inside an ’80s-era nightclub.
“Sun Stomp,” by Sun Stomp Collective
The modulating bursts of color almost look like a tie-dye pattern come to life. A set of bleachers facing the screen lets viewers stomp on the boards at their feet, eliciting a sound that sounds like the distant bellow of a cave monster.
In reality, the visuals and sounds both come from the sun. The idea came from “learning that the sun is undergoing explosions constantly,” says Mark Brown, a visual artist in the collective.
“Every time it explodes, it sends out a big burp of gas,” says collective member Graham Coreil-Allen.
The sounds that come from people stomping on the bleachers are sourced from NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory.
Fittingly, the solar engineer in the collective, Matt Weaver, made it so that everything is powered by the sun. At night, LED strips outlining the solar panels light up and flash, making it look like the energy from the display on the screen is feeding them.
“Colour Moves,” by Rombout Frieling
The long stretch has long strips and patterns, like chevrons or circles, all in a repeating arrangement of colors. Positioned just above are strobing lights that quickly change hues, making the patterns appear as if they are moving.
Playing with the wavelengths of light creates the illusion of movement, says Frieling, a native of the Netherlands.
“It’s a perceptive trick.”
“Prismatica,” by Creation: Raw Design, Atomic3, Jean-François Piché and DIX au carré
Encircling a fountain near the Inner Harbor, “Prismatica” features more than a dozen prisms on circular bases. People can spin the prisms, creating, as a nearby sign says, “an infinite interplay of colourful reflections.”
“As the prisms rotate,” it continues, “a variable-intensity soundtrack comprised of bell sounds will play.”
“Urban Lights,” by Scenocosme: Gregory Lasserre and Anais met den Ancxt
The interactive display changes the lights and soundtrack based on the movements of the crowd. When people all placed their hands in the middle, as pictured above, the flights flashed rapidly and the soundtrack sounded like a dizzying dream sequence.
“Elantica,” by Tom Dekyvere
Resembling a neon mountain range or, for ’90s kids, the “Aggro Crag” from the old Nickelodeon show “Guts,” “Elantica” is made entirely from e-waste, such as old motherboards and panels. The lights themselves are powered by solar panels.
“I love technology, but I also love nature,” says the Belgian artist.
He said he hopes visitors will think about the digitization of our modern world, the waste created as we dispose of our screens and the ways we are connected through social networks, and then strive for more balance between the natural and digital world.
“Drone Prix,” by Global Air Media and Light City
Enclosed in a steel frame wrapped in netting, the “Drone Prix” race course has lit-up structures that look like steel bridges or cranes from a shipping port. The drones race above, buzzing loudly like gigantic wasps. A covered path that works its way into the center of the display allows visitors to get right below the action.