Over the years, I’ve seen a fair number of cities bathed in light, transformed by vibrantly-coloured installations. I remember travelling up to Blackpool for The Illuminations as a child, lights snaking for miles along the front. Years later, I stood in Millennium Square, alone, mesmerised by Light Night Leeds. Since then I’ve seen light shows in Bern, Lyon, London and, now, Cambridge. I didn’t expect much from e-Luminate, but I was quickly surprised by just how good a show my current hometown put on.
Gone were the buildings enveloped in darkness, their façades cloaked in shadows; in their place, dynamic installations injected colour and life into a selection of iconic landmarks. ‘Night at the Museum’ at the Fitzwilliam Museum was our first stop. Artist Ross Ashton took viewers on a journey through time, inspired by the museum’s artefacts: prehistoric creatures, mummified remains, medieval scriptures – you name it, they featured in it.
We then swung by Bene’t Street (affectionately nicknamed Yummy Street by one of Laurence’s colleagues, as it’s home to so many eateries) to see ‘The Colours of the Brain’, produced by Oblique Arts. I found the concept behind this installation interesting: flowing ideas and emotions depicted in two circles, which, perhaps coincidentally, also subtly reflected the two sides of the brain.
On Market Hill – a misleading name for a square if ever you saw one, for this patch is as flat as a pancake – The Guildhall was a beacon of bold colours, a nod to the city’s rich heritage of LGBTQ scientists and innovators; it was aptly named ‘The Colour of Science’.
Rounding the corner, we spotted ‘Hammersmith Poem’ in front of King’s College Chapel. Robert Montgomery’s piece explored the importance of free education and neatly echoed its backdrop, a centuries-old fountain of knowledge and seat of learning.
Senate House, located a little further down King’s Parade, had my favourite installation of the night. ‘I See’ played on the relationship between colour and perspective, distorting the building’s features in a series of colourful optical illusions. (I’m still seeing rotating circles and tilting columns now, as I flick through the photos.)
Related: Fête des Lumières
Neighbouring Gonville and Caius College hosted a characteristically colourful projection by Patrice Warrener. ‘The Colours of Caius College’ breathed life into the intricate details of the façade, bringing this oft-overshadowed college into the centre of the action.
Our final stop was ‘Women Writing History’, an interactive installation created by BDP; the light effect could be changed by tweeting @restore2history with the hashtags #male, #female or #nonbinary. I couldn’t see what this cluster of lights along the river had to do with women or writing at the time, but a little digging afterwards told me that the piece commemorated both the 40th anniversary of the admission of female students and teaching staff to Trinity Hall and the centenary of women’s suffrage.
e-Luminate runs from 9th-14th February 2018.