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Interview: Jakob Kvist – “To me, light is pure magic!”

Danish lighting designer, Jakob Kvist, has always been fascinated by light and all the possibilities that lie within this bright art form. FROST has invited Kvist to create lighting design at some of the biggest and most challenging venues this year. By using lighting actively, Kvist hopes to bring music and architecture closer together at some of these stranger venues. We have talked to the Copenhagen based designer about lighting design, music and architecture, and asked him to unveil some of what we can look forward to.

By: Ida Medici

How does lighting contribute to the staging of alternative venues?
Lighting serves as a link between music and architecture in the sense that the lighting mediates one actor towards the other. By using lights, I am capable of manipulating the music to create a sense of cohesion with architecture – or the other way around. I work to create a separate space between music and architecture, which provides the audience with a whole new dimension to the concert.

Because I cannot change the actual music, I engage in long dialogues with the artist and have an say in every aspect of the concert – from set-up over choice of clothes to set list and scenography. Most often, it is the combination of work with both music and architecture, which gives the audience an experience beyond their expectations.

Where does your fascination with lighting design derive from?
I have always been fascinated by light: sunlight, artificial light, conventional light or LED, it has all been interesting to me. In my opinion, light is a very creative force, which has enormous influence on our well being, and it is a great inspiration for my work to observe how people react to all kinds of light. To me, light is pure magic! I am, and have always been, fascinated by light and its potential. It is a constant inspiration to my work and everyday life.

(Jakob Kvist's Panorama project for STRØM 2013, photo: Kim Matthäi Leland)

(Jakob Kvist’s Panorama project for STRØM 2013, photo: Kim Matthäi Leland)

You are creating special designed lighting for the biggest events at FROST 2014: Denmark’s Aquarium, Christian IV’s Brewery and Hollænderhallen? Which venue is the most challenging?
The most challenging venue is without a doubt Denmark’s Aquarium, because I have to create a new space in an old building, associated with one specific function. It is an aquarium, not a concert venue.

An obvious solution would be to create an illusion of water through lighting, but this element would not bring a new dimension to either music or architecture. An idea could be to use lighting to manipulate the division between band and audience that is present at the aquarium due to the glass front. By using this actively, I can use lighting design to bring audience and band closer together.

What kind of atmosphere are you hoping to create at the different venues?
Generally, I wish to create an atmosphere, where both music and architecture are embraced separately and forced to merge at the same time. Of course, the atmosphere will depend on the specific venue and the band playing there. Christian IV’s Brewery is a great example. The setting will be the same two nights in a row, but the atmosphere will be different due to the different musical universe acted out by The Mountains and Turboweekend.

Which venue are you most excited to work on?
I am really excited to work with the closed down public swimming pool, Hollænderhallen, in Dragør. Here, all challenges and elements involving lighting design at special venues, come together in the most wonderful way. Erlend Øye is in deep water, the atmosphere and lighting have a perfect balance of architecture and music, but it is still challenging to the audience. Challenging experiences are what make such events truly memorable.

Can you unveil some of what we can look forward to at Hollænderhallen?
By using special designed blue laser lights, the audience will literally have to dive into the swimming pool to experience the concert in the deep end of the pool. It will not be possible to experience the concert from the edge of the pool …

How much work lies before an event like this?
An enormous amount of work lies ahead of these events: all aspects such as planning, invite offers, 3D drawings, conceptualizing and visualizing. Beforehand, I have to relate to both architecture, music, safety and electricity to come up with an idea for a fitting light concept. Furthermore, I always try to push the boundaries for what is possible. For the laser light installation in Hollænderhallen, I had to search for the right technology in China, USA and Belgium!

Visit Jakob Kvist’s website here

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