Out of sheer coincidence, Quito and I found ourselves in Brussels on the day before the start of the Bright Brussels light festival. Usually held in February, this special edition runs for 10 nights, from October 28th to November 6th.
We realized something had to be going on when we walked past the Palais Royal, and it looked like this:
This is what the “mapping” part of video mapping looks like.
This edition consists of two routes, one through the Royal District and one through the European Quarter, with a total of 12 art installations, 8 Bright OFF fringe events, and 7 late-night museum openings to accompany the event.
One of the museums specially lit up for the event was the Musical Instruments Museum.
We chose to start with the route that went through the Royal District and headed to the Mont des Arts, where Le Jardin Magique Du Mont Des Arts by Magic Monkey was about to start. The official description says:
A light and sound creation that places the audience at the heart of the experience. A unique, ethereal, and hazy aerial installation.
Ethereal and hazy was right. We lost ourselves in the mist, pretending to float on kaleidoscopic clouds. Around us, friends and couples posed for the perfect shot. As we made our way to the back of the garden and to the stairs leading us to the top of the hill, the air became thick with the smell of weed. Someone must have been having a good time.
With quite a bit of time on our hands, we watched the show once more from the top of the hill.
Next on our itinerary was Persistence Of Times by Xavi Bové Studio, “An installation that evokes how information is passed on and its persistence through time and in collective memory.” Almost everyone stood in silent awe as the lights bobbed up and down, resembling atoms and planets.
Given our previous run into the Palais Royal, we were expecting something colorful, but Chiaroscuro is “An artistic video mapping performance by internationally renowned Belgian collective Dirty Monitor” mostly in black and white. It didn’t make it any less stunning, though. So much so that it seemed to garner the most spectators out of all the installations that first night.
A team-up I loved to see, The La Cambre School of Visual Arts and Visit Brussels were Shining A Light On Brussels Heritage through light installations created by the students. A little bit abstract, this exhibit would have benefitted from better (or at least more visible) explanations to each piece, for those of us who knew nothing about Brussels heritage. The best piece, in my opinion, was Witches’ Lace by Deborah Wadey. Projected onto petals of fabric were four “feminine and protective plants”: marjoram, honeysuckle, bear’s garlic, and lotus. According to the website, these plants were chosen for their protective properties and together pay homage to the Beguines, independent Belgian lacemakers who helped develop the city of Brussels.
We must have lost track of time because before we knew it, the bright lights were being dimmed and guests gently ushered out.
There was one last installation on our itinerary for the day that wouldn’t close any time soon; a colored light installation in what we had assumed was a pedestrian tunnel inside a metro station close to where we were. If we had paid a little more attention to the information on bright.brussels, we would have realized that LiminaLight by Antoine Goldschmidt + STIB/MIVB was in the actual metro tunnel through which the trains passed, running between the Arts-Loi and Parc stops. I was still debating whether it was worth buying a ticket just to have to come back to the same station when Quito shoved us both through the turnstiles. Thankfully, unlike on the other side of the world, there is a general implicitness of rule-following, and so no officer or guard was there to see us pop through. Not that I was happy with what had just happened, but making a scene was pointless. The train came and went, and came and went again, and only a disappointing flash of color passed us by. I later found a video that better demonstrates the effect, if only barely.
The next day, we started on the second route, this time through the European Quarter.
Our first stop was The Firefly Field by Studio Toer, simple in its execution but mesmerizing. We spent a good hour admiring these lifelike lights and trying to capture their beauty. I’m not entirely sure we succeeded, as these pictures do not do them justice.
Right across from the fireflies, The Performer N°5 by Ha Suk-Jun consisted of two humans supporting a solar panel that illuminated the statues at night. The colors and intensity changed and flowed through the acrylic figures like blood through veins. According to the artist, it represents the relationship between technology and man and the need to return to nature.
Between the number of people present and our unwillingness to get too close to strangers, Lightbattle III (wonder what I and II looked like) by Venividimultiplex was where we spent the least amount of time. In different times, this surely would have been the most fun of the night and a great way to meet new people, language barrier be damned.
Inspired by colors found in nature and accompanied by an amazing soundtrack, Horizon by Loïc Marafini was the last in the projection-based installations and my favorite as well. There was a large fence surrounding the garden in front of the building, and it wasn’t until a security guard approached us that we realized it was a construction thing and not an attempt to keep us out. Armed with that knowledge, several of us snuck onto the grass to get a closer look.
Dites-le Avec des Fleurs, an installation by Les Allumeurs d’Images was, in my opinion, the most family-friendly exhibit due to its bright colors and playful, childlike shapes. This is not to say that it wasn’t being enjoyed by people of all ages.
At the end of the Parc du Cinquantenaire nearest to us was the last installation, The Wave by Vertigo. Imagine walking late in the night through what feels like a dark forest (but is just a city park open after hours), and stumbling upon this glowing, thrumming piece that seemed to sense our arrival. There was a mystical quality to the movement-sensitive panels, enchanting all who approached it. And boy were people enchanted; you wouldn’t believe the number of people stopping every two steps to take a selfie.
To say that we were lucky to have been able to attend this festival would be an understatement. Being in Brussels in the first place was a necessary evil, if you can even call it that, but this event wrapped up a chaotic week of traveling quite nicely.
The next edition will run from February 10-13, 2022. Check out the itinerary here.