Lights, culture, action: the Indianapolis lights festival 

New light festival brings installations Downtown

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Most of the time, icebergs can only be found in large bodies of freezing cold water. This Friday and Saturday, however, Hoosiers might find an iceberg or two floating in Indianapolis' Downtown Canal.

Of course, these icebergs won't actually consist of ice. Instead, they will take the form of illuminated light fixtures created by the artist duo of Quincy Owens and Luke Crawley, who are taking part in the city's first-ever IN Light IN. Produced by the Central Indiana Community Foundation in partnership with Northern Lights, this free event will take place on the nights of August 26 and 27 at the Downtown Canal and Indianapolis Cultural Trail along Walnut Street, bringing more than 20 local, regional, national and international artists together for one giant visual spectacle.

In recent years, Owens and Crawley have created numerous public art pieces for organizations in Indiana and beyond, with many of these often involving some sort of lighted element. This includes five light sculptures at White River State Park (in the park's Locust Grove area) and a pair of Ka-Bike-O-Scope pieces on Indy's south side. Nevertheless, the duo has never taken part in a light festival before now, much to Owens' chagrin.

"As Luke and I started doing more and more work with light, we realized that there aren't a whole lot of light festivals here in the United States," he says. "I even wrote several grants over the past few years to try to get a light festival to Indianapolis."

This being said, the duo was ecstatic when IN Light IN organizer Joanna Nixon asked them to be a part of the light festival.

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"IN Light IN says something about the leaders of our city and their vision for what we bring culturally to the public," Owens says. "But then, it's also more specifically about the arts and how you can interact with the arts in a number of different ways."

After deciding on their global warming-themed iceberg piece called "2058: The First September Without Ice", Owens and Crawley quickly began making logistical choices, deciding to make 18 icebergs of varying sizes as opposed to one monster-berg.

"We decided it might be more fun to take the idea and to make them into smaller ones because multiples have a power as well, just through the repetition of form," Owens says.

As a result, each iceberg will be a part of a choreographed lighting sequence using DMX controls.

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Like Owens and Crawley, Melissa Mongiat and Mouna Andraos are a duo of artists who enjoy engaging the public with their work. Cofounders of the Montreal interaction design studio Daily tous le jours, Mongiat and Andraos will be traveling to Indianapolis for IN Light IN to present a visual display called "McLarena".

"It's a piece that was originally created to pay tribute to Norman McLaren," Mongiat says. "We were commissioned by the National Film Board of Canada to bring Norman's work out in the streets and to reinterpret it today."

For their tribute, Mongiat and Andraos chose to create an interactive piece based on a 1964 animated short that McLaren co-directed with Grant Munro titled Canon. "[In the film], you can see Grant Munro doing the first series of movements," Mongiat says. "And as he repeats it, he's canonized on the screen." After thinking about this repetition of movements in the film, the duo eventually formulated their idea for "McLarena", which will be presented for the first time outside of Canada at IN Light IN.

"We thought, 'Why not have collective canons?'" Mongiat says. "So we have people imitate the choreography, we project them on the screen, and they reenact the film as a way to create the film together. But to spice it up, the second person imitates the first person. So you're always imitating the person before you, up to 10 people."

By bringing so many engaging artists to one part of the city, Nixon believes Indy is in for something it's never witnessed before.

"There are going to be so many art installations and experiences that are going to be pretty jaw-dropping in many cases," says Nixon.

By having the festival be open to all, Owens ultimately believes IN Light IN will be a great thing for Indy's art community too.

"It's just something that's being brought to the city for the people of our city," he says. "I don't know what's better than something like that."


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