A sustainable Illuminated City
Set to be a collective regional platform of artistic expression and exchange of ideas and technology among the people through more than 20 delightful light art installations, the 'i Light Marina Bay' festival in the Singapore nightscape is the first major sustainable light art event in Asia. The festival's director and a light artist, MARY ANNE KYRIAKOU, while walking along the illuminated Bay of Singapore with ROMAIN MAITRA, explained how only energy-efficient lights and lighting techniques were used to create awareness of the profitable utility of using energy-saving lighting technology, not only in the commercial milieus and public spaces but also within the homes.
How did you conceive the means of using energy-efficient lighting in 'i Light Marina Bay'? (Mary Anne, please explain here the ideology and method of this public light art installations).
I had developed the concept a number of years ago in Sydney and we held the first Smart Light Sydney Ltd event in May-June of 2009. The Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) attended the event and invited us to make an application to hold a similar event at Marina Bay this year to coincide with a year-long celebration of project completions at Marina Bay.
The overarching theme of our organization, Smart Light Singapore Ltd, is energy reduction from lighting, creating an urban after-dark environment that has been much appreciated. The goals of the festival include making artists aware of LED technology and encouraging the use of sustainable materials. They have to use artistic process to produce creative and inventive outcomes, while, at the same time, learning to work with artificial light in creating new art works for public spaces. Many of the local artists had never worked with LED technology in this capacity and the people found an opportunity to experience new works that incorporate new ideas and materials in an innovative way. Singapore is a technologically advanced city and it is important that the city dwellers get to experience first-hand creative human-scale works. This brings about a greater understanding and knowledge of technological advances and promotes new thinking.
How do you wish to inculcate public awareness of sustainable use of light in commercial ambience, public spaces, and within homes?
One of the key areas is steering awareness towards energy reduction. Our survey results from the event showed that people's awareness about energy reduction had increased and indicated that they would switch off lights/curb overuse of air-conditioning at home. There was also a greater awareness about benefits of recycling. One of the festival activities was to bring in a litre of used cooking oil in exchange for an energy-saving LED lamp. The used cooking oil was treated and used as fuel for bio-diesel-run power generators for the largest light installation – Tilt.
How would this movement through art be spread further (across further geographic spaces)?
Activation, innovation, education, and sustainability are key drivers of the Smart Light Singapore Ltd and Smart Light Sydney Ltd companies. The events promote dark city skies, best lighting and energy-reduction practices, socializing in a pleasant atmosphere and public space free of advertising materials. The people living in cities need to connect to the nightscape in a new, exciting way. The events are large-scale, having a 400,000-plus audience and website traffic of 4.8 million in just six weeks' time. Social entrepreneurship is a key element required to drive the movement forward. This means, we have to work non-stop behind the scene with affirmative governments and innovation leaders in lighting, telecommunications, and consumer product sectors to build up sponsorship. In addition, we partner with organizations that share similar thinking and strive for outcomes that go beyond tangible products and reach other aspects of the human psyche, such as touch, atmosphere, and sight that can facilitate inspirational and meaningful social activities. In Singapore, two of our best partners were the People's Association and the Sun Festival. Smart Light Singapore Ltd organized and conceptualized the major event, i light Marina Bay, with the Singapore Urban Development Authority acting as the presenting partner.
Through the festival and curating, we introduce a wide range of multimedia artists who bring along their ideas and skills to create art works. Through the festival's curation process, works are selected and a number of light artists invited. The new works have to meet a set of criteria, including use of new technology, recyclable materials, and energy reduction in creating light art works. The idea is to create something new for a public space that creates and captures a new atmosphere. The works have to captivate, inspire, and connect people. A large number of the works are interactive. As the founder of Smart Light Festivals and Smart Light Walks, I have to face many challenges of running a social entrepreneurship. Much professional time spent for solving technical problems is unchargeable, besides the time spent for accommodating sponsorship requests. A huge amount of effort and time goes into making this event a success.
The Smart Light event is a movement. Inevitably, at one point, every city becomes aware of the fact that a joyous city-night-space is also a quality public space. City nights don't just resonate with retail units and bars. Turning down of the lights reveals a new beauty and a new connection with the natural environment of the city.
The festival also aims at conveying the message that rapid urbanization, especially in Asia, also means higher energy consumption and immergence of questions about sustainable urban solutions. With lighting accounting for a large part of a city's energy consumption, energy-efficient lighting alternatives have a role to play in ensuring sustainability of urban centres. As a light art festival in an urban setting, i Light Marina Bay aims to raise awareness and effect behavioural changes towards reducing energy consumption and ensuring long-term sustainability of the city.