The environment was on the mind of many of the artists in this fifth iteration of lights displays around the Canary Wharf estate, given the inclusion of recycled materials and sustainability manifestos in several of the works (participants used plastics to construct futurist cityscapes, tubular tree snakes, and psychedelic lily pads adorning a water feature within Jubilee Gardens). Yet the most impressive (and memorable) pieces sailed straight past any messaging into the properties of pure, unaldulterated sensation: Squidsoup’s monumental Submergence invited viewers inside a forest of suspended lights (24,000 individual bulbs) that in convergence with an ethereal soundtrack grows steadily from teasing trickles of light play into a final movement of frenzied, shifting waves of coloured illumination, a maelstrom of kinetic kick that sends a viewer off into a giddy spin; the spectral Ghost Whale, in conjunction with an eerie, evocative soundscape, suggests the contours of a phantom, a shape materialising in and out of vision-a sharp rebuke to the indifference to the passing of great mammals (also echoed simply in the march to extinction of a series of silhouetted animals in Alexander Reichstein’s Last Parade, moving haltingly-and defeated-along a concrete wall until fading altogether from sight); Flow (Squidsoup’s second entry) suggests, in its constant spill of grounded light, the phenomena of  ley lines, a carpet of connection across landscape and time; Stuart Langley’s Two Hearts beat in relaxed, unhurried tandem from the windows of the still-under-construction residential tower Newfoundland Place, a harbinger of the warmth and life soon to inhabit the empty space; Heofon Light transports the spectator into a tight labyrinth of light fluctuations, creating the feeling of an infinity chamber; Colour Moves, along the length of the covered Adams Plaza Bridge, is a woozy, trippy interaction with shifting, swirling shapes and patterns, walls alive with sudden movement, set off by the complex interrelationship of pigment and wavelength of light-it will cause a disarming state of vertigo; the fountains in Cabot Square are set to a colourful choreography in beat with various pop songs (Daft Punk, the Jackson Five), a “fireworks”-like display of explosive and elegantly designed jet sprays; Adam Decolight’s Sasha Trees is an hysteria of neon-lit “fir” trees, hallucinatory in their brightness and clarity, the inducement of a fevered mind. Admirably, almost all of this year’s pieces were situated outside, as is proper-in the last few years, there has been a disheartening development towards locating many works inside unused corridors and spaces, which seemed to defeat the intended purpose of staging a “winter”festival. Winter Lights 2019 ended on 26 January-for video footage of this year’s works (which is really the more appropriate media through which to experience the pieces, an image being too static), please visit this site’s Instagram account 


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