For seven evenings in the autumn of 2001, 40,000 adults and children of all ages went on a journey of discovery and experienced the forest, as they had never seen it before. Click on read more to view video of this fantastic event.They walked by an illuminated lake in a shimmering forest, hearing mystical sounds that haunted the valley and trail, while electric locusts swarm close by. Lasers, whisps of fire and dancing lights touched the treetops creating startling vistas. Video projections drew them into intimate and incandescent spaces.
During an eight week period in September and October 2001, an extraordinary collaboration of artists, foresters and students worked intensively to create a light based performance event in the Forest of Dean. “Lightshift” was the result, an artist-led project which aimed to revive interest and bring back confidence in the Forest, closed to visitors and residents for 5 months during the foot and mouth outbreak.
Artists Mark Anderson of Blissbody and Robin Blackledge developed a concept and body of work for a journey through a section of the Forest of Dean Sculpture Trail. Into the trail the artists injected installations of sound, light, projection, fire and pyrotechnics that amazed people for seven nights.
“Lightshift” comprised thirty installations including works by Lulu Quinn and Julie Westerman, Tony Sinden, Elise Hurcombe, a young sound artist from the Forest of Dean, and David Gibbons from Urban Projects.
The whole event drew an audience of over 40,000 from all over the South West of England. It was amazing to see such a range of challenging works achieved in such a limited period of time and in a very unusual environment. Coupled with special excitement of the Forest being opened up at night, the work was extremely successful, engaging and inspiring the audience, which grew with every performance.
“A vital outcome of this project was to attract local people back into the Forest - to help them feel good again about their Forest and their community, and reinforce a local cultural sense of the Forest being special”
Lesley Green Chair of the Forest of Dean Sculpture Trust
Report by Sam Wilkinson Dec 2001
Some of Britain’s top visual and performance artists were brought together to take part in Light Shift. The artists created their work in response to the Forest, drawing on its industrial and social history. Communication was an important theme and was explored through sounds, video projection and light.
Profiles of the Light Shift artists
Mark Anderson is an artist who works with sound, video, kinetics, projections, and pyrotechnics. He is a founder member of the Birmingham based multi-media performance group Blissbody formed in 1992. He also works with a number of other installation/performance groups and individuals on site-specific work where a number of different artistic practices are combined: sound, visual spectacle, video and pyrotechnics. His productions vastly differ in size and location from intimate to large scale and he has made work for festivals, parks, clubs, arts centres, galleries and streets.
Robin Blackledge in his early career toured Europe as a performance artist building sets that he performed within over a period of days, producing and directing conceptual theatre. He is concurrently finishing a large public art, inter-active lighting commission in Wolverhampton as part of the ‘Out of Darkness’ Project and a body of work for exhibition, which includes photography and video installation
“The Forest of Dean Lighting project allowed me to call on my wide experience of ‘The Arts’ to successfully produce installations that require a great deal of pre-planning, technical knowledge and elements of ‘live’ performance. This event was extremely challenging and required a ‘hands-on’ approach, which I hope showed through in the work produced. The anatomy of the forest had a strong influence of the type of work that was made as opposed to working within more relatively stable conditions.”
Robin Blackledge, Lulu Quinn and Julie Westerman. For the Forest of Dean they developed a projection installation called ‘Where R U’ drawn from the phenomena of the mobile phone culture.
The artists needed the local publics. They were interested in how people see the Forest of Dean and what experiences they have had in the forest. They were particularly interested in different means of communication and chose the mobile phone as being appropriate for the outside space of the forest.
The project was advertised on a local level to elicit a response from the public based on a series of questions and provocations. These messages were edited and presented as narrative projections in the forest.
Can you help?
- We need to hear from you, can you answer any of the following questions on the enclosed forms or can you leave a message or a text message on 07813940170
- What does the Forest say to you?
- What was your most memorable time spent in the Forest?
- If you use a mobile phone what were the most memorable conversations you have had in the Forest?
- What were the most memorable text messages you received in the Forest?
- What was the favourite text message you sent from the Forest?
‘Where R U’ was a roving projection event that explored the one-sided conversations and text messages of the mobile phone culture. By projecting fragments of messages and overheard conversations into public spaces, the work illuminated the entrance of a private domain into a pubic context. The project presented the opportunity for the public to send in text and messages directly to a mobile phone.
“We are all familiar with the banal and intrusive proclamations that burst into our public spaces: I‘m on my mobile or I’m on the train - but as we sought to collect these messages we became aware that though ubiquitous, the mobile phone has many complex user groups. We were fascinated by these complexities. As with any means of communication we do not all use the medium in the same manner. However the mobile phone is bonding groups and sub groups through rapidly evolving shared languages and codes.”
Lulu Quinn and Julie Westermann
David Gibbons is a lighting designer and director of a creative lighting company called Urban Projects Limite. The company is responsible for some of the most innovative uses of light and colour in the architectural and urban lighting fields, from individual rooms to the master planning of lighting effects for entire city centres. David was responsible for the illumination of Croydon’s high-rise buildings in a form that allowed artists and members of the public to use the city as a canvas of ever changing images and colour.
Tony Sinden works in film and video and showed a video projection in the Forest called ‘Deluge’ , which use magical images of waterfalls projected in the trees.
Over the past decade he has exhibited a series of film-video installations in England, Japan and America that explored a contemporary perception of environmental issues in relation to urban culture and exhibition context.
“My experimental approach reflects the debate concerning the present context of moving image art, in all its different guises. Producing expanded film-video structures for different kinds of exhibition space, multifarious surface and architecture. The overarching strategy of my work is however about the imagination, using technology to open doors and dissolve the borders that often separate contemporary art from the natural environment. Questioning a traditional sense of language, subject matter and audience expectations.”
Light Shift was a Forest Regeneration Partnership Initiative and is grateful for the financial support and sponsorship from: Regional Development Agency; Forest of Dean District Council; Forest of Dean Sculpture Trust; Forest Enterprise; Forest Education Business Partnership; PALL; South West Media Development Agency; Reading Borough Council; Gloucestershire County Council; Watkins Hire Limited; Brandon Hire Limited; Amari Plastics plc; NEC; Osram
The Light Shift Project was produced and managed by the Forest of Dean Sculpture Trust