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Smart Light

The world’s first digital low-energy urban light art celebration was Smart Light Sydney, held in May 2009 as part of the New South Wales Government’s first early winter Vivid festival. It was founded by Australian light art engineer and music composer Mary-Anne Kyriakou and involved British digital musician Brian Eno illuminating the sails of the Sydney Opera House.

Coinciding with the early development of the d_city network is the international lighting industry’s rollout of advanced new light-emitting diode (LED) technologies for lighting urban environments using substantially less electricity than traditional lighting systems. For example, a recent illumination system for City Hall, London, is claimed to use only as much electricity as two domestic hand-held hair dryers.

LED and other new digital lighting systems and products offer extraordinary creative opportunities for artists concerned with dynamic performances in outdoor environments – from lighting buildings as media facades of individually addressable lamps, projecting images onto architecture, creating stand-alone artworks, and illuminating public gardens and walkways.

Smart Light festivals discourage fireworks and incandescent lamps and encourage lighting systems which use alternative energies like solar and peddle power. They also restrict promotional material printed on paper in favour of communications directly to festival-goers via mobile phones.

Another Smart Light festival will be held at Marina Bay, Singapore, 15 October to 7 November 2010. Other light festivals around the world, many networked together by German light artist Bettina Pelz, are also increasingly showcasing creative applications of the new LED systems.