February 7 to March 2
Fraser Avenue, Kings Park
A stellar line-up of artists from Australia and around the world is set to add sparkle to summer days and nights this year.
Scattered Light in Kings Park, by renowned US media artist Jim Campbell sees shadowy figures rush across a suspended curtain of up to 2000 light globes. Trained in mathematics and engineering, Campbell filmed commuters at Grand Central Station in New York in an extraordinary marriage of art and science. Festival visual arts program manager Margaret Moore says Campbell breaks up images, fracturing them until he almost explodes the video and builds it up again. "It's like abstracted reality in a way, using technology for poetic means," she says.
At John Curtin Gallery, Italian-based artist Grazia Toderi's digital visions have been described as "frescoes of light", a nod to her Italian heritage and her technique of layering film, photographs, maps and sound. Born in 1963 in Padua, Toderi is a three-time exhibitor at the Venice Biennale, winning the Golden Lion award for Best Pavilion in 1999. Orbite Rosso, her creation for the 2009 Biennale is included in her Perth exhibition, together with other major works, marking her first solo show in Australia.
The floor-to-ceiling projection transports viewers to the sweeping panorama of an unidentifiable city tinted red in an evening view, and seen through circular orbs, suggesting an atmosphere of surveillance. Layers of indistinguishable sound add an unsettling element of foreboding, while flashes of light, glistening and moving in seemingly random locations, add a sense of wonder.
Speaking from Milan, Toderi says her childhood experience of the 1969 first Moon landing proved pivotal to her work. "I discovered spacecraft, travel to another planet, the power of television sending us images made of light, and the absence of gravity. It made me start to think about the universe," she says.
Toderi says she has collected an archive of thousands of images of cities to use in her video projections. Some are from military archives; others are satellite images or images she has produced herself. On her first visit to Australia she hopes to add to her archive, targeting the city, the desert or the sea. "I like to travel and find places with high points of view above the cities. I hope my archive will grow with Australian images, over the cities, desert or sea," she says.
The visual arts program mirrors the theme of light at the opening night of the Festival, when the University of WA celebrates its centenary by transforming its campus into a walk-through gallery of projections on buildings in LUMINOUSnight.
UWA Cultural Precinct director Ted Snell says the one-night stand also represents the history of the university. "It's a luminous campus which has shown the light of culture and the arts for the past century," he says.
LUMINOUSFLUX at Lawrence Wilson Art Gallery examines how local and international artists harness the palette of light. The exhibition features new commissions and loans from the Kerry Stokes Collection. A late-night opening from 6-10pm on the evening of the Festival opening allows visitors to take full advantage of a range of activities on the night.
Insert yourself into one of Raj Kapoor's filmic extravaganzas at the Central Institute of Technology and find your inner Bollywood star in My Name is Raj. Or, witness how an obsession for sport influences an artist's practice in Inside Running: The Sport of Art at Fremantle Arts Centre.
Renowned British art collective Greyworld invades Brookfield Place with moving signage among the skyscrapers, and Brisbane-based Ross Manning presents his first major solo show, Volumes, at the Perth Institute of Contemporary Arts.
Moore says some of the most inventive and interesting contemporary art is found in new media and video formats.
"We live in a world where images are catapulted around the world at such a fast rate that when we want to pause and look at art, we demand a lot from it. This year's program certainly delivers with the quality of artists involved," she says.
The visual arts program overtly expands and stretches across the Festival this year to classical music and the Perth Writers Festival, linking visual artists working with light to music and words.
Tenebrae et Lux (Darkness and Light) at Winthrop Hall partners the St George's Cathedral Consort (singing Carlo Gesualdo's 400-year-old a cappella choral work of the same name) with esteemed Parisian artist Benjamin Bergery, whose light installation replaces the traditional "order of candles" extinguished during the master work. Bergery has also collaborated with Jim Campbell (Scattered Light, Kings Park) for Tenebrae et Lux, using Campbell's custom-made electronics.
At the Perth Writers Festival, on the grounds of UWA, participants are invited to speak a word into a box, which then glows blue. By turning the box upside down into the garden the blue light drains away, but the word remains audible in the area for several hours. Commissioned by the BBC for the Free Thinking Festival in Gateshead, England, and created by Greyworld, participants soon discover other words left by visitors nestled among the trees or hidden under bushes in a unique sonic environment.
Throughout the visual arts program and beyond the positive power of light is likely to be your constant companion.