Lucerne is celebrating its first and highly successful Light Festival. From 10th to 20th January 2019, soft-lights shimmered across Lake Lucerne and this Swiss city’s beautiful architecture was highlighted by the installations.
Throughout this historic city, in the centre of Switzerland, national and international artists created 18 beautiful and thought-provoking installations. In cold and dark January, Lucerne had decided it needed a shot of festivity to see it through the depths of winter.
The Light Festival gave visitors the feeling that they were watching the development of a new and rapidly developing art form. After the success of the 2019 festival, artists will become more confident and adventurous. As the technology develops the 2020 Festival is likely to be even more impressive.
Yet, there will be no fireworks, no loud explosions. This is January. Lucerne’s citizens quietly get on with their business. They save their riotous spirit for February’s carnival.
Many visitors disembark from the railway station. For the Light Festival, the railway station’s grandiose and historic arch has been illuminated with purple light.
Across the lake, in front of the Music Pavilion, the LILU logo shines brilliantly with lamps crammed together to form the abbreviation of LILU.
This is a festival of interaction, fluidity and changing moods. One of the most popular installations was Juladi where everyone had their opportunity to be famous for a couple of seconds.
Stepping up in front of a camera, festival-goers found their faces projected onto the building ahead for the ultimate super-sized multiple selfie.
Cleverly with the Flurozoa installation, blue jelly-fish-like lights floated in the lake. The ebb and flow of the lake’s gentle waters acting as dimmers on the wires within the bulb, creating the effect of semi-organic aquatic life forms.
Reminiscent of airport security portals, the Aben installation, was a collection of illuminated door frames. Working as a team, people could time their passage through the gates so that the gates were illuminated at the same time. The message from art collective Bildspur is that when we work together we have the potential to realise visions that we could not achieve individually.
Another thought-provoking installation, Atoll, takes place below Lucerne’s most famous attraction, the Lion Monument, carved into the rock face to commemorate the death of 800 Swiss mercenaries during the French Revolution.
Projections of sea-creatures rising from the water by a deck-chair and sun umbrella make us question whether global warming will return tropical shorelines to Lucerne.
There were queues outside the Hofkirche for an astounding projection of 20,000 lumens of light which, in a virtuoso act of creativity, imagined the first three days of the creation. Few of us have ever imagined the creation as a spectator event. Some of the audience were in tears, and left speechless, by the spiritual emotions aroused by the spectacle.
Artists’ collective Projektil, who used music from Mahler and Hayden as their soundtrack, are already planning next year’s installation which will cover the next three days of the creation.
One of the children’s favourite installations this year was “Shake it.” People passing the Music Pavilion saw a snow dome and shook it influencing the images projected.
Artist Francois Chalet, who teaches animation at Lucerne’s University, developed the concept of a giant snowdome. Snow fell on dancing snowmen, skeletons and swans. There was a touch of Bauhaus to this cartoon-world creation.
The Schweizerhof Hotel is a prime location for visiting the Festival, grandly reclining on the shores of Lake Lucerne as it has done since 1845. In fact, the hotel puts on a light show for every day of the year, with its coloured lights reflecting off the lake.
With its breathtaking views across the lake to the mountains the hotel has attracted an eclectic range of celebrities from B.B. King to Wagner.
Celebrating this heritage, each of the 101 rooms has a small shrine to those who have stayed or had a connection with the hotel.
More than a festival
Once the light installations are switched off and the sun rises there is more to Lucerne than the light festival.
Visitors take cruises on the star-shaped Lake Lucerne with the snowy mountains glistening above. A lunch-time gourmet lunch cruise, provided by the Lake Lucerne Navigation Company, is a particularly good way to savour the scenery.
Lucerne is also home to Switzerland’s most visited museum, the Transport Museum. It also hosts an astonishing private collection of the work of Picasso, Klee, Renoir and many other artists at the Rosengart Gallery. Although the KKL arts centre is currently partially closed for refurbishment it is still worth walking around its prominent lakeside site for the astounding views.