The UK’s Light Art Biennial returns to Durham from 16 – 19 November 2023 featuring over 40 incredible installations

Today, we’re delighted to announce the incredible full programme for Lumiere, the UK’s light art biennial. From Thursday 16 – Sunday 19 November 2023, 16:30-23:00 each night, this beautiful medieval city will become a nocturnal art experience hosting works made with light on its streets, bridges, buildings and river; from iconic locations like the bustling Market Place, to Durham Cathedral’s UNESCO World Heritage site, historic Bishop Auckland town centre and the prestigious Durham University campus.

Fourteen years after Lumiere debuted in Durham, and more than one million visitors later, it is now the UK’s first light art biennial, a global event with artists from 15 different countries exhibiting their artwork completely free for the public. Installations that will transform Durham include 16 new commissions and 7 UK debuts, ranging from local North East artists and schools and communities as well as group collectives and global artists prominent in the light art movement. Explore the full programme of artworks.

Lumiere is produced by Artichoke, and commissioned and funded by Durham County Council, which is committed to culture-led regeneration and cementing Durham’s position as the ‘culture county’. Lumiere receives additional support from Arts Council England, Durham University, County Durham Community Foundation, and many other supporters. The spotlight on Bishop Auckland is produced in partnership with The Auckland Project and supported by Stronger Towns Fund. View all of our Lumiere 2023 Supporters.

The façade of a building with projections of iconic Spanish paintings melting down the building.
Amalgama El Prado, Daniel Canogar. Museo Nacional del Prado, Madrid 2019

Cathedral Quarter

A highlight of the biennial for the last fourteen years has been the artistic interaction with Durham’s Norman Cathedral, and this year will see its most spectacular transformation yet, both outside and inside its walls.

Within the building, two internationally-acclaimed artists will exhibit UK premieres. Montréal-based Mexican artist Rafael Lozano-Hemmer’s colossal immersive work Pulse Topology (2021) will transform the Cathedral nave. Shown at Superblue Basel and Miami, this site-specific edition will become the pulsing heart of Lumiere as thousands of light bulbs, activated by the recorded heartbeat of visitors, create a connective array of glimmering lights. With every new participant, a new pulse is added to the canopy, keeping the work constantly in flux.

On display in the Cathedral’s 11th century Chapter House will be Ai Weiwei’s Illuminated Bottle Rack (2018), the Chinese artist’s monumental work comprising of 61 antique chandeliers, inspired by Marcel Duchamp, which uses an enormous, upside-down bottle rack as its chandelier branches.

The Cathedral cloister will be the site of a new commission by US artist Adam Frelin. Inner Cloister (2023) replicates the shape and scale of the cloister arches that light in sequence, mirroring the passage of the visitors as they walk around the courtyard in the footsteps of the monks of old.

Outside the Cathedral on Palace Green, Spanish artist Javier Riera will create an immersive series of three-dimensional projections titled Liquid Geometry (2023), one of three commissions supported by Durham University. Visitors will be able to walk amongst and underneath the mind-bending geometric shapes that Riera creates, exploring the hidden qualities and dimensions in the buildings surrounding Durham Cathedral.

Large-scale chandelier in a room with brick walls and high ceilings. The chandelier is made up of multiple other chandeliers and it is lit up, illuminating the room.
Illuminated Bottle Rack, Ai Weiwei ©. Image courtesy of Ai Weiwei Studio

New Commissions And UK Debuts

The interplay between light art and the religious architecture of Durham continues across the river on Durham University’s campus. In a UK first, Italian artist Edoardo Tresoldi brings his work Sacral (2021) to the grounds of St Mary’s College. Tracing the outline of Durham Cathedral in the distance, the work is an ethereal sculpture viewed from the terrace of St Mary’s College. Tresoldi, who was awarded the prestigious Gold Medal for Italian Architecture in 2018, was inspired by Dante’s Noble Castle of Limbo to produce this ghostly surreal reconstruction of a Cathedral transept.

The ground-breaking new commissions continue with Universal Loom (2023) by one of the most in-demand contemporary artists of recent years, Daniel Canogar, in his second commission for Lumiere. Developed as part of Lumiere’s longstanding partnership with Durham University, Canogar’s artwork is inspired by conversations with Professor Carlos Frenk of Durham University’s Institute for Computational Cosmology around the controversial string theory. Canogar will use custom-made software to apply a digital woven fabric onto the very building in which these scientific theories are researched and debated.

Themes of science and physics continue in a new commission by British duo Shuster + Moseley, who regularly work with neuro-scientists and engineers. Responding to Sir Isaac Newton’s prism experiment and engineered using geometric optics, Body of Light (2023) will create a specular rainbow across the iconic River Wear via a huge glass prism hand-cast in the Czech Republic and weighing 240 kg.

One of the country’s leading visual artists, Chila Burman MBE, will exhibit a joyful, new commission, Hurts So Good (2023), comprising of new and existing works that reference a range of issues and ideas including Indian mythology, female empowerment and Britain’s colonial legacy. With artwork in major collections around the world, Burman’s signature neon-light artwork will now be displayed in Durham Market Place, bringing her own particular world view to the city.

Architecture Social Club, a collective of British designers, technicians and poets, will take over the loading bay in Prince Bishops Place, a new industrial setting for Lumiere. Parallels (2023) makes a space for pure escapism with pulsating light beams, lasers and a soundtrack by Max Cooper. Multi-media artist Emma Allen returns to the city with Colourful Chaos (2023), creating a playful projection on the striking façade of Durham’s Masonic Hall with a cast of animated characters who tumble, climb and paint across this historic structure.

Across town, visitors can look out for a series of playful neon installations, Emotional Weather (2023), a new commission by UK artist Aidan Moesby, that reflects the relationship between physical and emotional journeys. With giant symbols typically used in weather forecasts, each work is set where people begin or end a journey. The series comments on the personal changes and transformations that often occur on our travels, and is a commentary on the relationship between climate change and wellbeing which is central to Moesby’s interests.

A ghostly render of a cathedral building in a spacious room. The installation is made with wire mesh and illuminated from within.
Sacral, Edoardo Tresoldi

Spotlight On Bishop Auckland

For the first time, Bishop Auckland in County Durham joins the Lumiere spectacle with four works that will interact with a façade, building or public space, transforming the heart of Bishop Auckland for four nights only. The historic town’s Spanish Gallery is UK’s first gallery dedicated to the art, history and culture of Spain. Internationally acclaimed Spanish artist, Daniel Canogar unveils the treasures held inside with Amalgama Spanish Gallery (2023), a new commission for Lumiere 2023. Using works by El Greco, Murillo and Velázquez, Canogar will create a beautiful projection that will melt across the exterior of the building. Nearby, Auckland Tower will be remade with The Drop (2023), a beacon of light and sound by UK lighting designer Phil Supple. Beams, patterns and lights choreographed to a catchy musical score will illuminate the full height of the Tower and will be seen right across town. On the ground, Illumaphonium will entertain families with an interactive, multi-sensory musical sculpture that beams with ever-changing patterns of light and sound. Accompanying it all are the exuberant hanging recycled installations of Flowers and Chandeliers, made locally with designs created by young people from Durham Sixth Form Centre and New College Durham.

A woman touches the art installation. She is seen from the side wearing a beret and a scarf. The artwork has a metal frame and lots of hoops attached to it. The hoops are illuminated and glow blue.
Illumaphonium by Michael Davis, Mount Street, Mayfair. Lumiere London, 18 - 21 January, produced by Artichoke and commissioned by the Mayor of London.

BRILLIANT – Lumiere’s Small-scale Commissioning Programme

Signed Light (2023), located in St Oswald’s Churchyard is by UK artist Martin Glover. Drawing on a passion for education around British Sign Language, the work consists of five signs fingerspelling the word ‘Light’, encouraging viewers to learn the basics of BSL.

Glover is one of five artists exhibiting their work at Lumiere this year as part of the BRILLIANT commissioning scheme. The scheme, encourages anyone from the North East and across the UK, to submit their artistic light ideas to be created and exhibited. Other BRILLIANT artists include multi-media artist Emma Griffiths’ I am Ecstatic Right Now, a three-dimensional work that explores her recent hearing-loss diagnosis; Un-reel Access by Kappa (Kaori & Patrick Jones), a door fixture with light attempting to burst through at Walkergate; Gareth Hudson’s Panta Rhei which combines choral singing and light in a visual symphony at Prebends Bridge; and Seaham-based Angela Sandwith’s Ghost Nest, which sends a message about the environment with an illuminated work comprised of repurposed discarded fishing gear from East Durham beaches.

I Am Ecstatic Right Now, Emma Griffiths. Lumiere 2023 render

Disrupting Daily Life

The interruption of the norms of daily life is a hallmark of Lumiere. Located in a city street lamp, Chomko & Rosier’s award-winning, global work Shadowing (2014) in Court Lane is a mischievous installation that captures and remembers movements by passers-by, encouraging audiences to perform, dance and play before their movements are echoed back to the next visitor. In the historic cobbled South Bailey, French light-art studio Pitaya will fill the sky with a new galaxy of hand-sculpted planets. PLANETOÏDS (2021) is a dream-like experience that has previously been exhibited at the Fête des Lumières in Lyon.

Yinka Ilori MBE, known for his use of bright colours is bringing In Plants We Trust (2021) to the North East of England for the first time. The artist’s shrine to plants that thrive in urban settings was first produced in 2021 to reflect his native London, and will now interact with the natural world and city atmosphere of Durham College.

As the River Wear snakes its way around the ancient city, so Lumiere will unfold along the riverside. Constellations (2018) by French artist Joanie Lemercier, will take visitors on a cosmic journey through the universe featuring three-dimensional planets, stars and deep into the interior of a black hole.

Suspended beneath Framwellgate Bridge will be German artist Anselm Reyle’s neon installation Untitled (2023), comprising of leftover tubes from industrial and urban spaces to create a nostalgic retro reflection in the river. Legendary UK visual artist Anne Bean will bring her autobiographical Reflect (2016) to Durham, one of several critically-acclaimed UK-based artists who will be exhibiting and installing work at Lumiere.

Lampounette (2021), is the latest addition to the permanent collection of light installations in Durham: a giant iconic desk lamp by French studio TILT that will light up the area around Pennyferry Bridge in its new Durham home. And visitors following the 4km walk along the riverside will encounter Rumination, a collection of larger-than-life illuminated sheep sculptures made by UK artist Dave Young, using textiles, willow, as well

Two people stand in front of a blue projection. It is abstract, but looks somewhat like a black hole. It is night time and the street is cobbled.
Constellations de Joanie Lemercier

Changing the World

Community, social justice, and the celebration of global cultural rituals are underlying themes at this year’s Lumiere. The UK premiere of On Blank Pages (2021) by anonymous Spanish group Luzinterruptus, will create a light wall of free expression in Millennium Place using hundreds of notebooks containing writings from those who have lived experience of the UK justice system, both good and bad. Other pages will be left free for visitors to contribute their own thoughts and responses. Durham is a particularly appropriate location for this installation, with the original Magna Carta held in Durham Cathedral – a symbol of the evolution of the constantly changing attitudes to justice in England.

Shirin Abedinirad’s Heaven on Earth #3 (2023) is an ode to the important place that mirrors have in Persian culture, and especially its architecture. The Iranian artist will position mirrors in a symmetrical composition rising up the Magdalene Steps at Elvet Bridge, providing audiences with a transformative view of themselves and their notion of how the world is structured. Portuguese group OCUBO will recreate Holi, the Hindu festival of colour. Holi (2020) is an energetic interactive piece that invites visitors to digitally paint the Gala Theatre wall using hand and body gestures, while spreading one million digital colour particles in real time.

Colour the Castle from Dutch production house Mr.Beam will transform Durham Castle with a magical colouring book projection onto the 11th century building using drawings by 150 residents and visitors to the city. Local Durham schoolchildren will take their place in Ron Haselden’s Watchtower, the artist’s evolving collection of luminous portraits by children, here presented as a rising tower structure. This powerful work with its urgent message around children as the future of the planet asked 50 pupils from Laurel Avenue Primary School to take part in workshops that contributed to the final artwork. Past Lumiere alumnus, Mick Stephenson creates a large diamond with Diamond Garden (2023), that will light up The College using solar technology to reflect the importance of renewal energy. Educating Durham young people on the evolution of energy, they’ve also created their own solar lights that will surround the installation. Also, as part of the community participation programme, young people from Durham Sixth Form Centre and New College Durham have used recycled materials and common landfill objects to design Flowers & Chandeliers, inspired by this year’s programme as well as using plastic bottles to grow a garden of flowers that bring light to the Durham skies.

A large-scale illuminated wall covered in thousands of notebooks. You can see the silhouettes of people standing beneath the art installation, writing things in the blank pages. It is dusk.
On Blank Pages, Luzinterruptus. Photo by Manuel Villar

Sustainable Lumiere

Artichoke is committed to addressing climate injustice and reducing the environmental impacts of all the work it produces. Lumiere artists pledge to support this work through the design of artworks, making responsible use of materials and ensuring works produced contribute to the circular economy through future touring. Key technical suppliers are chosen based on their sustainability commitments and work together with Artichoke to challenge established practice and plan the operational aspects of Lumiere as sustainable as possible. Industry experts, A Greener Future, will undertake a carbon impact assessment of Lumiere 2023 to examine the success of the planning and to enable future editions of the light art biennial to further reduce emissions.

Tickets & Opening Times

Lumiere is free for everyone to attend. Peak-time tickets are only required to see the artworks in Durham city centre between 16:30 – 19:30. You can enjoy the event without a ticket from 19:30 – 23:00 each night.


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