Living Lighting Installations: interview with Mitja

This interview was first published in the 103rd issue of HIŠE Magazine in March 2017. It was published in Slovenian language, but we decided to translate it and publish it here as well. The author of the interview is Mateja Panter.
Your name and the name of VISIBLE company brings to mind lighting installation.  How did it all begin and what brought you in the field of lighting?

Our path started in 2010 when I founded VISIBLE. But my first contact with lighting and multi-media started much sooner. It started in master’s course of Architecture Lighting Design in Royal’s Institute of Technology (KTH) in Stockholm, Sweden. I also worked as a lighting designer in Slovenia and later in Australia. When I came back to Slovenia in 2010 I founded a company, which, at the beginning, worked mostly in lighting design. Through the years, however, our focus was increasingly in advanced multi-media installations. In this niche, we found our home.

Who is VISIBLE?

VISIBLE consists of Maja Apih, who is responsible for marketing and logistics, David Žalik, who leads our software development efforts, and myself. Besides the three of us, we work with a wide network of motion artists and illustrators.

A very basic question, that can’t be ignored – what is the purpose of lighting installations? What is their effect on people and the environment?

First, allow me to say that modern lighting installations very often include other media as well. This can mean either a video projection or dense matrixes of light points, which create a low-resolution screen. Some level of interactivity is often involved as well. All of these elements bring new experiences and stories into the environment.

Most of your lighting installations are interactive. What mediums and technologies do you use and why?

We’ve developed our own media server called LightAct. It’s a unique product because it gives programmers and designers new tools for creating interactive environments. Besides LightAct, we regularly use light, video projections, sensor technologies and electronics.

Did investing into your own media server technology pay off for you?

Certainly! LightAct allows us to create interactive installations faster which, in turn, gives us more time to focus on the design. It all started for a very simple reason though: when we were starting, we just didn’t find a suitable product on the market, which would allow us to create interactive installations in an economically reasonable way.

You’ve created many lighting installations around the World. Which ones would you like to point out?

I would like to point out 3 installations. Fresno Cultural Arts District is our largest installation so far. It’s located in the city of Fresno, California and it consists of 5 large inverted ‘umbrellas’ or canopies installed on a public square. Above the umbrellas, there are around 400 lights, which react to the movements of people on the square. In this project, we’ve worked with Digital Ambiance and Anticlockwise Arts.

Fresno cultural arts district parkI would also like to point out Light Well project. It’s a small permanent intervention on a public square in Lahti, Finland. The whole structure resembles a water well, except that instead of water, there is light. So when you step on the glass platform, the light starts to radiate away from you. The reason that I’m particularly fond of this installation is that it works perfectly. Probably because its reactions are very immediate and personal.

Lahti Light WellLastly, I would like to mention Time Capsule project, which is a temporary interactive object. It was created for a Slovenian insurance company (Prva zavarovalnica d.d.) in collaboration with Saatchi & Saatchi agency. It is basically a cylinder that includes a whole bunch of sensors, pixels and electronics, which allow it to react with you.

Time capsuleHow do you find your clients?

Our promotional activities are mostly aimed abroad. We use LinkedIn quite a lot to find relevant contacts. I also travel quite a bit.

What does the future hold for lighting installations?

I believe that with the advancement of technology lighting installations will consist of more and more pixels and intelligence. This basically means that we’ll have more light points in a smaller area and that these points will react to its environment in a more intelligent and interactive way.

In VISIBLE, we don’t look at lighting as in trying to provide illumination for a given area. We look at it more in terms of enriching the experience of space with light. We want to give it another layer of meaning. This kind of Light is something that, I believe, makes us tick in a very visceral level. This is what’s behind the inherent attractiveness and beauty of, for example, fireflies, glowing plankton in the ocean and frankly, glowing creatures in the movie Avatar. Light, as used in these examples, is not something that illuminates our immediate surrounding, but it is a way of communicating for something that is alive. This is, I believe, the future of lighting installations.

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