Art / Technology
Light art festival Lux Helsinki uses AR technology to brighten up the Finnish capital
The virtual content on the electronic devices becomes part of the reality, the festival’s artistic director and curator Juha Rouhikoski explains.
5 Jan 2023

Organised by Helsinki Events Foundation, Lux Helsinki is a five-day light art Festival held every January around Epiphany since 2009 that wants to bring light art into the citizens’ backyards and aims to show the capital in a new light. This week, artistic director and curator Juha Rouhikoski, who’s also co-founder of The Finnish Light Art Society Helsinki (FLASH) and working on his PhD about light art in the Academy of Fine Arts in Helsinki, and his team can present the biggest edition to date.

— It’s also the most spread around the city, compared to the earlier years, he says. The curatorial theme has been ’change’ and all the artworks will relate to that in one way or another. The theme was already decided before Russia attacked Ukraine, which gave it an even deeper meaning. We’re always trying to offer a wide range of experiences for everyone and therefore, the theme needs to be loose enough. Also, light festivals have become the bad boys or the bad girls in the general discussion due to the energy crisis. I want to remind that the artworks consume very little electricity thanks to the efficiency of LED light technology. And as we turn off our TVs and lights at home while we are visiting the light festival, we actually save energy.

Rouhikoski’s festival highlights include Maxim Velčovský’s The Physical Possibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living, produced in collaboration with Signal Festival from Prague. 

— The work raises lots of thoughts on how the daily life can change in one night. The installation is composed of burnt-out cars from the war in Ukraine. The indoor venues in Ruoholahti and Suvilahti are also to be highlighted. The contrast between urban outdoor locations and more intimate museum or gallery-like spaces for more quiet and gentle artworks is an interesting combination and gives lots of variety to what kind of artworks can be experienced during the festival. For families and children, the Korkeasaari Zoo is definitely a highlight, too. Artworks are curated accurately in collaboration with the zoo staff to not to disturb any animals.

In December last year, Rouhikoski premiered his own work, Swan Song (pictured), which uses AR technology. Lux Helsinki is the second chance to ”see” it.

— AR technology has been an interest of mine for a long time, he says. Personally, I’ve always preferred live experiences while seeing light art but the daily use of smartphones is changing my opinion as the virtual content on the electronic devices becomes part of the reality. Using augmented reality AR as a medium also offers a way to show the audience something that is not there but still one can see that it is. Virtual art becomes real art by the experience of experiencing it. The fact is that nobody can see the light. We only see the light which is reflected from the surface or any particle that reflects it. AR artworks are a bit similar. You cannot see them but they are there. At least your smartphone is reflecting it for you to see it. Is it then real or not? The experience is, for sure.