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Bright lights, big city, affordable luxury and Sting’s Flying Circus

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Ian Martin dishes out some premium content

Monday. Lunch with someone whose identity may only be revealed to those with an online subscription password. As those of you without online access can imagine, there will be serious repercussions when this (premium content) hits the fan. I don’t blame his Lordship. I blame those who put temptation (?) in his taxi home.

Tuesday. To Brighton, for the 23rd World Congress of Illuminology. ‘Innovation’ is the key theme for LUMEN 2010, as it was for LUMEN 2009, LUMEN 2008 etc. Illuminologists are thorough, and consistent. This year, however, there’s a frisson, a sense that Organised Light may be at some sort of ‘glittering point’. Congress president Florian Blink spells it out.

‘The Age of Architecture is over. The Queen of Plastic Arts is dead, long live Illuminology. Aesthetics, mystery and craft have now passed to us, Brothers and Sisters of Dazzlement – let us ignite the world!

Now, we’ve got some great speakers lined up. Housekeeping note: could you please turn off all mobile phones. Lunch will be at 1 in the Banqueting Suite…’ Obviously this is just an edited version of what he said, he was on his feet for at least 15 minutes. This message – light engineering is the new architecture – wafts intermittently from the platform all morning. You can measure the level of complacency by the number of times people say ‘there is no room for complacency’ or ‘we cannot afford to be complacent’. Bullshit. Illuminologists are the arty new lluminati. They have inherited the earth, and they’re anything but meek.

It would be easy to blame the architectural profession for losing its pre-eminence in the world of epic space, but that’s no reason not to. Architects have for years successfully managed public expectations of the built environment, downwards. These days everyone expects a building to look boring as shit during the day, redeemable only by coloured light in the evening. Clients have been quick to take the hint, and now routinely commission deliberately dull buildings thatonly really ‘live at night’.

One hugely respected Pritzker laureate tells me his high-profile patrons now order the lighting shell first, then hire him to fill in the hole with whatever fits. As he says, ‘My latest museum’s got as much presence as a litter bin during working hours, so what? Once twilight falls and it’s being caressed by a million stars, I’m a genius again…’

Wednesday. Day 2 of LUMEN 2010. The morning session features guest speakers from the worlds of architecture, who all stress the collaborative  nature of construction in a frankly hilarious attempt to land some work.
The afternoon session is basically illuminologists showing off. Someone had a ‘transformative trip to Nepal, which left me with a new understanding about the value of light’. Someone else describes a journey of discovery into ‘bokeh’, the phenomenon of unfocused  light, and how that helped her become more mysterious and expensive. Another compares the physiological and psychological effects of light on the viewer and concludes that they’re both chargeable at a flat rate.

Thursday. Last day of the conference. Rock Steady Eddie the fixer has joined me. He’s always alert for new opportunities. ‘Fiat lux, mate. Fiat lux. Latin for Affordable Luxury. Hold up, I’ve got Sting on the line…’ He  moves away. I can hear him saying things like ‘cool’ and ‘mindfuck’ and ‘that’s class, man’.

Today at LUMEN 2010 everyone’s speculating on What’s Coming Next. Believe me, there’s some pretty exciting illuminology in the post. Item: a costed plan to seal the atrium of an empty, themeless hotel in Dubai, then fill it with glycerolised  water and a wax ball the size of a bungalow to create the world’s biggest lava lamp. Item: a light-based ‘day sheet’ that can be thrown over ugly buildings. Item: self-aware organic light tubes that ‘find you’ in the dark.

Eddie’s back. ‘Sting. What a hoity-toity PONCE. Sillybollocks wants a Circus of Lights over his eco-mansion for World Earth Day. I told him for fifty grand we can turn the whole place into Apocalypse Now for the evening. You in?’ I am.

Friday. Crisis in Manchester, as Urbis is being booted out to make way for a football museum. Rebalance Manchester’s popular culture with a proposed new building so the city’s teams can have one each.

Saturday . Five-a-zeitgeist. Psychogeographical Academicals 2, Spam Theory Wanderers 1.

Sunday Create a ‘behind-the-scenes look’ by moving the recliner behind an illuminous daywall and then asking myself what’s going on.


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