The History and Evolution of Light Festival, Lucerne

Though the Lilu Festival of Light had its inaugural presentation this January 10 through 20, 2019, Lucerne has been called the “city of lights” since the late Middle Ages. One legend of Lucerne is that angel bearing light showed its people the site where they should build a chapel honoring Saint Nicholas. The Hofkirche was built there. This legend is accompanied by the belief that the city’s name explains its lakeside location and abundance of fishing, as Luciaria means “a shoal of pike”. But whichever derivation one accepts, Lucerne has been associated with light and fish for hundreds of years.

The city uses light according to the “Plan Lumière” which allows light to be used in key spots to illuminate the city beautifully each night. The new festival expanded upon this idea for 10 glorious evenings.

The very first Lilu Light Festival expanded the city’s traditional illuminated buildings and squares of Old Town to encompass the entire city. New installations by light artists appeared in unexpected places. Many were accompanied by music or were interactive. The city presented international light artists among the local and national artists invited to create installations for this first event. All visitors were welcomed to the city by the spectacular lighting on the railway station’s historic archway. From there, visitors could meander through the city, attracted by the artistic light installations. The Bahnhofplatz was the location of the 3-D LILU sign, which offered a cheerful greeting to guests.

Artistic installations were as varied as the artists who created them. Video artist Elke Radtke, known as Juladi, created an interactive exhibit capturing giant-sized selfies of people bathed in light on a projection screen situated at the council buildings next to the Jesuit Church. Light collage artist Liwaï Keller, who lives and works in the city, created Mirage I and II; large amorphous light bodies which drew viewers to the Jesuit Church façade and the Reuss Bridge to stand and gaze at the light as it hovered over the square below. Francine Eggs, Andreas Bitschin, and Matthias Pabsch created Animaux de Légends, a rotating cylinder with its own poetic text, which projected deep blue projections onto the Mühlenplatz.

Pet & Flo, aka Peter Göltenboth and Florian Giefer joined Denis Bivour to illuminate a statue to create the Gazing Stone, a woman unexpectedly looking back at visitors. Estonian visual-auditive art field artists Jari Matsi & Judith Parts illuminated the tall trees in the Kurplatz with exquisite and colorful lighting to create The Secret Life of Trees. Bildspur erected Åben in the Kornmarkt to challenge visitors to team together to master passing through all the gates at the same time in order to light the gates simultaneously.

Sandro Poli, Simon Schwarz, and Andrés Villa Torres, the artistic collective known as Labor5020 floated blue fluorescent orbs in the river near Rathausquai to create Fluorozoa. German-born Karin Eugster and Swiss-born Hans-Ueli Baer created the luminous shadows and magical color of Luzia’s Shadow on Kapellplatz at St. Peter’s Chapel and invited visitors to discover their own colorful shadows. Multimedia producers Martina Horber and Vanessa Peter created Novis; a tribute to the strange light sighted over Lucerne which gave the city its name. Their series of square illuminations drew visitors out of the dark into Hertensteinstrasse. Andrea Wolf-Simone created interactive E-mbroidery in front of the Matthäuskirche so that visitors could enjoy Hi-No-Tech; embroidery connected to an electronic circuit and an antenna receiving electromagnetic waves.

Media artists and film makers Karim Niazi and Simón Schwarz combined their photography, motion design, illustration and environmental scientist skills to create Atoll; filled with a swimming dolphin, blue water, and South Sea beach at the Lion Monument. Joan Costes and Adrien de Maublanc presented See the Music, which transformed the Ice Age kettle basins in the Glacier Garden into an unexpected universe of light and sound. The Zurich artists Collective Projektil transformed the ceiling, walls, and structures of the Hofkirche Luzern with the light show Genesis; reinterpreting the first three days of creation. François Chalet’s animation and concept, along with the music of Mathias Vetter and the interaction of Michael Flückiger brought Shake it to the Music Pavilion. The interactive snow globe allowed visitors to shake the ball- which mixed up the sounds, colors, and shapes projected inside the pavilion.

These 17 major installations of the festival were joined by numerous other presentations during the event, such as the lights and music presented by the Hofkirche organist Wolfgang Sieber and a show about the aurora borealis presented in the planetarium of the Swiss Museum of Transport; Spatial Sound- the story vocal ensemble performing in the Glacier Garden; and voice artist Agnes Hunger performing with a light installation at the Museum Bourbake Panorama.

Chocolate lovers could visit the illuminated and animated winter window display at the family business Max Chocolatier. Swiss singer Heidi Happy brought her multi-instrumental skills to perform in the Glacier Garden. So did New Orleans musician Jeb Rault, who performed his original guitar-driven roots music there, along with his bandmates Lucerne native Pädu Ziswiler and German-born Winnie Bucher.

The Lucerne Hotels and Lucerne Tourism founded the club Lilu in September 2018. The Lilu Lucerne Light Festival was designed to be held annually during the winter months to make the city of lights shine. Partnering with Aroma, the city developed and realized the light festival this year. The goal is to make the city attractive not only to its residents, but also to visitors. This year’s festival was open every evening from 6pm to 10pm during the event.

Lucerne is easily reached by car from Zurich, Bern, and Basel. There are regular, direct rail connections to Lucerne from all major Swiss cities as well. Hotels and restaurants offer lodging and meals, and many offer special festival packages. Though the 2019 festival is over, the 2020 festival is in the planning already, and luminous artworks will once again surprise and delight visitors all around the city. It’s never too early to plan a winter trip to Lucerne to see the amazing Lilu Light Festival Lucerne.

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