Light up the Night
Moscow at night is a sight to behold: if there’s one thing Muscovites get right it’s ethereal uplighting and twinkly electric stars. I challenge you to stand on Red Square after dark and not be overawed by the shadows cast by the trees along the Kremlin’s scarlet walls, the shimmering gold at the top of Spasskaya Tower, the spectrum of colour that is St Basil’s onion domes that seem even brighter on the gloomiest night than on the sunniest day, and the beacon of fire that the many bulbs of GUM create.
It can’t get better than that, can it? If you had been to this year’s Circle of Light festival (Круг света), you would be telling me it can.
The Circle of Light marked its sixth year in the Russian capital and saw the city lit by projections and installations designed by both Russian and international artists. The festival has been recognised in previous years for its innovation in lighting technology as well as for its pure creativity and beauty, winning such awards as Best Cultural Event of the Year in Russia and the Guinness World Record for the largest projected image for its 19,033.3m2 illumination on to the Ministry of Defence in 2015. This year, icons of the city once again provided the backdrop for the festival.
The main building of the Moscow State University was lit with designs depicting developments and discoveries in Science as well as secrets of the infamous building itself. Lord knows I didn’t really manage to follow what the narration was all about as, due to the sheer number of people, we were a little bit late to arrive. Next followed some children’s entertainment with a lengthy animation about The Keeper. The Keeper of what was not entirely clear – I would assume of the Earth or of Russian nature, but, alas, the Seagull narrating the story lacked some much-needed coherence… Okay so it was brightly coloured and loud, i.e. exactly what children like, but the projection didn’t seem to make as good a use of the façade of the building as it could have and the cartoon was mighty lengthy. So we headed back to the Metro early to beat the crowds and go on to the next sight. It meant we didn’t catch the firework display from close proximity, but maybe that was a good thing as video footage soon emerged of sparks flying down on spectators and cars parked nearby!
The Bolshoi Theatre became the canvas for competition entries and really left an impression. The designers used the architecture of the building beautifully and each projection was different. A particular favourite of mine was one where plasticine stop-motion animation had been filmed for projection. Unlike the childish cartoon showed at the university, this was fun, clever and creative. Many of the illuminations at the Bolshoi, although each lasting no more than a few minutes, showed a coherent story or theme and left you in awe that such a beautiful building could be made even more pleasing to the eye.
At VDNKh, the invention of electric light was celebrated with brilliant installations by French artist Severine Fontaine. His larger-than-life light bulbs symbolised the evolution of light since the invention of electricity, starting with what seems now like an almost medieval level of lighting and finishing with the brightest colours and most intense illumination. Further on, the Main Pavilion was lit from behind with more competition entries, accompanied by music and narration. Further still, the Fire Tornado by Dutch group Kinetic Humour was, quite literally, ablaze. Lit by men in fireproof suits after a dramatic countdown and narration, the installation saw a pillar of fire contorted and twisted into a tornado by fans that circled around the flame. It had drama, it had modern projections and technology, but it also had the original manmade light source: fire.
This weekend allowed people to see Moscow from an entirely different perspective; like a child colouring in black and white pictures, the creative minds behind the event filled the city with colourful images and pure spectacle. Not to mention the technological feats of such accurate lighting and computerised artwork. The award-winning Circle of Light has cemented Moscow’s reputation as the new City of Light in recent years and the 2016 festival was just as magnificent. And it is not too late to catch it! Tonight, Tuesday 27th September, the installations and projections at the Bolshoi Theatre and VDNKh will still be shown. If you can make it, I would definitely recommend it.
More information about what still can be seen can be found at http://www.lightfest.ru/en/
Ellie, currently studying Russian at Liden & Denz Moscow