Durham will bask in the glow of an interactive sun during next month’s Lumiere festival of light-based art.
Solar Equation, by artist Rafael Lozano-Hemmer, will be a highlight of the third Lumiere as it floats above buildings at Durham University Business Park.
Announcing the programme yesterday, Helen Marriage, of Lumiere production company Artichoke, said it was the world’s largest spherical helium ballooon – but exactly 100 million times smaller than the real Sun.
The artwork will be illuminated by a projected animation of solar activity sourced from Nasa and the public will be able to interact with it via an app.
The festival, following others in 2009 and 2011, will feature 27 installations around Durham city made by artists from Britain and overseas.
French company Top’la Design will use 3D projection to give the impression of a giant elephant on Framwellgate Bridge while Luzinterruptus, from Spain, will use recycled supermarket bags to create a 9m high Consumerist Christmas Tree at Prince Bishops Shopping Centre.
There will be illuminated watering cans on the North Road roundabout, neon-lit birdboxes at St Oswald’s Church and a red phone box transformed into an aquarium in the Market Place.
Outside the DLI Museum there will 30 transparent tents, each containing the image of a musician and emitting the music of a brass instrument.
“I saw this piece in Poland three years ago and it made me laugh out loud,” said Helen.
She said this year’s Lumiere would be fun but also highlight some serious social and environmental issues.
Greenhouse Effect will feature four electric cars transformed into ‘greenhouses’ with artificial plants and fluorescent tubes.
Litre of Light, involving local residents and schoolchildren, will draw attention to a simple devise – essentially a plastic bottle of water with an added touch of bleach – which has enabled thousands of the world’s poor to light their homes.
The festival, which runs from November 14-17, will feature a one-day international conference called Art Means Business, demonstrating the value of the creative industries.
Simon Henig, leader of Durham County Council, said Lumiere provided a powerful demonstration of the multiple benefits that can flow from backing arts and culture even in a time of austerity.
“The visitor economy is a very powerful part of the economy of the region,” he said.
“It creates jobs and puts a smile on people’s faces.”
He said the council had brought together private and public sector partners who had raised more than £1m for a festival which, in 2011, generated £4m for the local economy.
The last Lumiere festival attracted 150,000 visitors and footage of it was seen as far away as Vietnam and Hong Kong.