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Fetes des Lumieres, Lyon

Issue 83 February / March 2015

Paul James paid a visit to the world’s most established festival of light and managed to force his way through the bustling crowds and huge queues to find some interesting installations.

The official twitter account of Fetes des Lumieres confidently predicted that three million people were expected on the streets of Lyon between December 5 - 8 to see this lighting spectacle. And boy, at times it felt like it! 

The crowds remorselessly pushed their way through the narrow cobbled streets and enclosed plazas in such a frenzied way that it sometimes verged on the dangerous. But such is the want for an incredibly successful festival of light that has its roots in a candle lighting ceremony from 1852.

The Festival of Lights is a unique event because, unlike other large events in France and other countries, it is tied to the territory and local history. It perpetuates a secular tradition whose celebration has evolved over time. This living heritage has been transmitted from generation to generation. The people of Lyon see the Festival of Lights as an essential annual event, which they enjoy participating in. Many associations, companies, cultural institutions, hospitals, schools and universities mobilize each year to propose, welcome or support creations that contribute to animating the different city districts. Anyone may also light windows and balconies with candles on the evening of December 8th.

Since 2005, ‘Candles from the Heart’ has invited the public to support a charitable association by purchasing candles and participating in the giant light fresco on the evening of December 8.

This year, to celebrate its 150th anniversary, the French Red Cross is the beneficiary of this act of solidarity. The French Red Cross and its 53,000 volunteers support projects promoting the social link. For many years, the association has been committed to supporting the sectors of health, independent living, emergency and rescue, training and international solidarity.Everyone is invited to support this social solidarity operation by purchasing one or more ‘Candles from the Heart’ at one ofthe dedicated points of sale open during the four days of the Festival of Lights, as well as on the days preceding the event.

The installations that took place are outlined below:



Artist: Gilbert Moity 

The Tour Incity, the tallest building in Lyon at 200 metres, is due to open in 2015 but it made the perfect vehicle to create a dynamic lighting scheme created by French light artist Gilbert Moity. 154 circles of blue light were installed on the west facade of the tower, creating geometric movements over the surface of the entire side of the building. The patterns represented the comtemplative and captivating activity and energy generated inside the tower but also the architectural dimension of the building.


These ‘Variations’ created an endless, intense blue scene that created a hypnotic visual spectacle to watch at any time. The installation was visible across the city.


Artist: Jean-Luc Hervé


The Hôtel de Région became a cathedral of water and light during the festival. Spectators were captivated by a projection of an immense cascade of water running down the facade. Inside the cathedral the Concert de l’Hostel Dieu choir were joined by a soprano to make the light vibrate in harmony with the Kyrie and Mass in C Major by Mozart. Gradually distorted and elongated, the sounds were transformed into an aquatic symphony of streaming, dropping and lapping water.


Artist: Damien Fontaine


The 70th anniversary of the disappearance of Antoine de Saint- Exupéry was commemorated at the huge Place Bellecour by Damien Fontaine with the help of projection specialists La Maison Production. The square became a temporary theatre for an inspired evocation of the life and work of this writer and pioneering aviator from Lyon, who wrote The Little Prince (the subject of Fontaine’s spectacular projection at last year’s festival). This production blended music, large images, special effects, acting and gigantic decoration. The series of dreamlike settings evoked fragments of the existence and adventures of Saint-Exupéry.


Artists: Kimi Do, Wilfried Della Rossa and Thomas Mathieu 


The set of a fantasy film? An archeological site? Sheltered by the Town Hall courtyard transformed into mysterious sanctuaries, some 30 transparent monoliths, created by WECOMEINPEACE, enclosed the spirits of the air. Materialised by a multitude of feathers floating on a light wind, these spirits danced a ballet of light. The composition seemed to convey the breathing of a living being. Created by Squeaky Lobster, the soundtrack participated in the magical, poetic atmosphere of the setting.


Artist: Beam’Art


Inspired by the ‘Test Your Strength’ carnival game, this interactive animation was created by Beam’Art, a collective born from the meeting of two research engineers Benjamin Petit and Antoine Vanel. It aimed for the most powerful and precise hits possible to create a luminous beam, which crossed the walkway and lit up the Palais de Justice and its 24 columns. Visitors large and small took turns taking up the challenge. The most talented triggered an amazing show of music and light.


Artist: Christophe Martine


A passionate fan of air and wind, Christophe Martine has used luminous kites for several years as a way to share his enthusiasm. For Inter Park, once night has darkened the park, visitors entered a fairyland, where plants with delicate curves and scintillating flowers open their buds and corollas inside crystal greenhouses. On the water’s surface, eggs light up on the sleeping lake. The magic rises to the sky, where a nuptial parade of dragonflies and carps watches over this fantastic world.


Artist: Severine Fontaine


Eight gigantic incandescent lamps wrap the Rhône riverbanks in a warm glow in this installation by Campagnie IKB (founded by Fontaine) helped by Airstrip and using Philips lighting. A knowing wink at the lighting of yesterday, their shapes and multiple filaments present light intensities and shades in all their variations. Like a live body vibrating with energy, a ten-metre-tall reproduction of the cap base ‘E27’ lamp came to life in a poetic light ballet to the rhythm of a musical composition inspired by the sounds of nature.


Artist: Guillaume Jeol


For the permanent lighting of the Book Silo at the Part-Dieu Library by Atelier Roland Jeol, the north and south building facades evoke the edges of a book on a shelf, while the spiral stairway shines with a warm light in reference to the gilding on ancient books. Façade light lines (instalight 4010 ) from Insta were attached vertically on the side walls of the building in order to present books of different thicknesses. On the south facade, an emergency staircase was staged as a protruding ancient book with golden letters, and the east facade represents the transition to the digital media age with light points. eldoLED PowerPIX 1 are used to light the east facade, symbolising the emergence of digital communication and the exchange of knowledge at international level. 


Artist: Aurélie le Gougouec


For the Festival duration, the Place Sathonay was transformed into an ephemeral ballroom. During the day and at night, trees took the stage in white tutus. Here and there, their naked branches revealed the curve of an arm, the arch of a torso or an extended leg, depending on the whims of the visitor’s imagination. Each evening, the ballet came to life to the music of great composers. Waltzes, symphonies and ballets followed each other, while the air took on varied hues, from the coolest to the most sparkling, in harmony with the musical background.


Artist: Christophe Mayer


For the duration of the festival the Jacobins Fountain in Place des Jacobins became a gigantic base for a night light topped with a shade reflecting backlit silhouettes. Invited to find a haven in the soft light of this oversized lamp, visitors were cradled by the lullaby of a music box and dreamt their dreams of childhood.


Light Night at Jacobins
Related Articles

  • Ballet Room

  • Part-dieu Library

  • Incandescence

  • Winter Garden

  • Hi-Striker

  • Njord, Spirit of the Wind

  • Night of Dreams

  • Cathedral of Water and Light

  • Variations


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