MAI Blog

Interview with Helmut Bien / Luminale

Mr Helmut Bien initiated the Luminale back in 2000 and realized the festival for the first time in 2002. The Luminale – Biennial of Lighting Culture is an international festival of lighting culture taking place every two years in Frankfurt am Main and the entire Rhine-Main region.

1. Mr. Bien, the Luminale is already a well established institution in the area of light art.  Can you tell us about the origins of the festival?

In 2000 the lighting industry tradeshow moved from Hannover to Frankfurt. Michael Peters from Messe Frankfurt asked me for an event concept that should connect the city of Frankfurt with the new tradeshow called Light + Building. For the days of the fair Frankfurt should become the meetingplace for the whole world working with light. Not only the specialists and the industry but also the creative people, the architects, designers and artists and also the inhabitants and normal consumers should be involved. The idea was to create a transdisciplinary festival about lighting and energy and the qualities of urban living. Frankfurt should become a laboratory to see a wide range of approaches with light.

2. How did you personally came in touch with light art and what motivates you to take all the effort to organise such an event?

In the late 80ties i worked in Berlin as a curator (Berliner Festspiele) and in this time i made my first professional experiences with light, the scenographic power of lighting. The idea to realize an exhibition about lighting followed me since these days. Luminale was the chance to show this power of light to change atmospheres and to re-organize spaces. I am a little bit romantic in the classical sense of the poet Novalis. He explained that the romantic idea is to give normal things a new and higher meaning. Lighting design gives us the possibities to enchant the world. My friends of the scenographic agency Skertzò in Paris called themselves ‘engineers of dreams’. That is also my personal motivation. And on this way i am enjoying it to discover people, engineers, designers, artists who are working on the same project. That creates the spirit of Luminale.

3. Compared to other light festivals, what do you think makes the Luminale a unique event?

Since 2002 when we started the first edition of Luminale, it is a great success. A lot of people tried to copy the concept of the festival. Some of these festivals are important for the local people, some are made to promote the tourism, but the unique position of Luminale is the combination with the most important trade fair of the lighting industry. Luminale is the festival for the specialists and the local people. Luminale is well-known in the worldwide community of lighting enthusiasts and specialists. So Luminale is a pole position for careers of younger designers and artists. There are some festivals much bigger than Luminale. But at the end of the day you have to count the heads not the legs. Also Luminale is very popular but not a mass consumption event with coloured buildings looking like sad clowns. The unique combination with the trade fair gives Luminale the possibility to try new technologies and approaches and to give a chance to the un-known. The Media Facades Summit was such a project within Luminale.

4. What are your plans for the Luminale 2012 in terms of content and size. Is it still possible to top 2010?

The digitization of light is a fascinating subject. The storytelling with light is a never ending challenge. Media Facades, Vjing, Projections are great themes. On the other hand the questions of energy reduction, recycling and sustainability. The third dimension is the development of the urban life. The skyline and nightlife of Frankfurt are the stages of Luminale.

5. What are your biggest wishes and dreams for the long term development of Luminale

The biggest wish is that Frankfurt and the whole region accept light as one important dimension of its identity so that we can realize projects not only for the short time of the festival. A masterplan for the whole region with landmarks, light art, a green “balancity” which produces and consumes energy in a way that enrichs the qualities of life.

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