One bright idea brings vibrance to the night skyImagine an autumn evening, in an instant, turning nearly to day. This will happen in Bucheon, west of Seoul, next week, the sudden burst of light caused by 340,000 bulbs strung together in an intricate design and lighted.
Bucheon Luminarie, an illumination festival organized by Mariano Light, a prestigious lighting company from Italy, opens Monday at Bucheon’s Hosu Park.
“Luminarie” sounds like it could be an attraction right out of a 19th-century carnival, right next to the phantasmagoria and the camera obscura. In fact, it is a widely celebrated form of entertainment in its native Italy, where the history of decorative lighting and creative design has a deeply rooted tradition.
On the night streets of Renaissance Italy, torches were used to light the way. These were gradually replaced by tube lights using gas fuel. The simple design of these lights gave way to flourishes in design, with small, twinkling arches supported by columns. These in turn became the grandiose lighting architecture of today, with multi-layered arches, each made up of thousands of light bulbs, creating shimmering corridors of lights. By the 20th century, artists began to use colored bulbs and experiment with the positioning of the lights in search of creative effects.
The tradition of Luminarie began in 1894, put on by the first Italian lighting company, Illuminarte. It began as a religious celebration: the sacred was combined with spectacle, held to please rich patrons.
The event gradually evolved from private entertainment to a public festival held on city streets in recent years, rivaling the annual patron saint festivals that occur in many Italian villages.
What once stood as a symbol of European novelty has spread around the world. Madrid, Houston and Tokyo celebrate Luminarie festivals, to name a few cities. Kobe, Japan, which first began Luminarie as a requiem for victims of the 1995 earthquake there, now holds its festival each Christmas near the city’s largest lake, pulling an average of 5 million viewers.
Bucheon’s festival will be divided into four sections, consisting of three large-scale structures and 40 smaller pieces. One of the larger works will be “Hope for Peace,” a grand structure stretching 24 meters (80 feet) into the sky and spanning 100 meters, representing hope for peace on the Korean Peninsula. “The Light of Renaissance” couldn’t be a more Italian shape ― it’s that of the Coliseum.
For “Lake of Light,” light will be projected onto the surface of the park’s lake; visitors will be able to see shapes on the water as they walk the surrounding path. In the hands of these designers, light becomes more than mere function; it moves, and dances.
by Park Soo-mee
“Bucheon Luminarie” runs through Oct. 20 at Sang-dong Hosu Park in Bucheon, Gyeonggi province. Throughout, the Eurasian Philharmonic, led by the conductor Geum Nan-se, will perform. Call (032) 327-3744 or check out www.luminarie.or.kr.
with the Korea JoongAng Daily
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