Tartu in (Radical) Light – Looking back

Tartu in Light that took place for the second time in October last year brought more than 125 lighting specialists from all over the world together in Tartu to discuss about social, environmental, spatial and political issues related to light and lighting design. The outdoor installation program of the festival aimed at reconfiguring space and provoking radical changes, casting light to issues, facts and locations that have remained hidden or without attention.

The festival will be remembered by vivid emotions, inspirational ideas, tons of beautiful photos and videos as well as valuable lessons taught by experts in their fields as well as the weather. The main and side programs of the festival lasted for 30 days. They included workshops about lighting design and up-to-date technological possibilities of visual arts, a light installations’ exhibition called “Radical Light” in city space, an indoor exhibition program called “Vacuum as a Mindset” about the links between psychogeography, new mythology and psychedelia, and an opening concert about the relation between light and shadow by Siiri Sisask. Side programs curated by Tartu New Theatre, Tartu Toy Museum, University of Tartu Museum and Kogo Gallery added an extra dimension to the subject of light.

Compared to 2016 the festival lasted longer, workshops and installations were organized on a larger scale and an extra day dedicated to light art was added to the conference. The preparation activities of the festival lasted for over a year. A number of specialist with a mission in the field of lighting joined the team of TAVA, several known lighting enterprises became our sponsors. As a result of this joint effort the budget of the festival was doubled, reaching 200 000 Euros. The support of Tartu City made up one third of it.

Estonian Ministry of Education and Research. Outcome of TAVA2018’s IALD Lighting Design Workshop. Workshop head: Johan Röklander from Sweden. Photo: Annika Haas

The pre-week of the festival was dedicated to education and took off on October 20 in the facilities of Shaté Dance School located on the 2nd floor of Atlantise Maja. In addition to the traditional IALD architectural lighting workshops led by Amardeep Dugar, Johan Röklander, Ruta Palionyte ja Simas Rinkevicus where new light outfits were created for the facades of the buildings of the Estonian Ministry of Education and Research , St. John’s Church and Tartu Toy Museum, great emphasis was placed on raising the skills related to up-to-date light art – there were workshops on video mapping, 3D mapping and interactive light led by top experts in the field like Alyona Movko, Sander Tuvikene and Varvara&Mar. The participants learned practical skills to create 3D live installations, to use video programs and VFX on 3D elements, to use Arduino freeware to control RGB LED lighting. TAVA workshops were curated by the Berlin-based lighting designer Sabine De Schutter.

3D mapping workshop by Sander Tuvikene at Atlantise Maja. Photo: Annika Haas

The workshop week was followed by a 2-day-long conference on lighting design and light art, and a light fair curated by lighting designers Johan Moritz and Tina Wikström from Sweden. Speakers with experience and reputation whose work and/or academic research is related to light, perception and public space took the stage. The first day of the conference “Resilient Design in a Changing World” that was dedicated to lighting design featured speakers Amardeep M. Dugar, Claire Tomara, Emre Güneş, Johan Röklander, Lina Färje and Darío Nuñez Salazar. The second day of the conference was filled with talks about light art by light artists Immanuel Pax, Taavi Suisalu, Mónica Ruiz Loyola, Timo Toots, Mischa Kuball, Jacob Tækker, Carl Michael von Hausswolff, Liisa Hirsch, Tammo Sumera, Kristel Saan, Johannes Luik, Aivar Tõnso and Artist Unknown.

Conference speaker and TAVA18 workshops curator Sabine De Schutter explained how Lighting Design workshops may not only result in examples of creative outdoor lighting but also contribute to further development of methods and strategies for cities with long periods of darkness. Photo: Annika Haas

The culmination of the festival took place on October 25 in the Estonian National Museum where Siiri Sisask Trio and VJ Alyona Movko gave an audiovisual performance called “Shadow” which marked the official opening of the 4-day-long public program in city space. Mesmeric collaboration between music and light broadened the senses and took the audience along to a journey that connected inner and outer dimensions. Siiri Sisask’s performance featured her latest compositions alongside with earlier ones, all based on Uku Masing’s poetry. Well-known Estonian musicians Robert Jürjendal and Peedu Kass participated in the arrangement and recording of the pieces.

Siiri Sisask Trio performance “Vari” (“Shadow”) at TAVA2018 opening gala at Estonian National Museum. Photo: Annika Haas

The festival’s Lightpath brought the best artists active in the field of light both from Estonia and abroad – Mischa Kuball, Mónica Ruiz Loyola, Immanuel Pax, Taavi Suisalu, Timo Toots, Jacob Taekker – together in Tartu. The concept of “Radical Light” of the road of light was put together by an Estonian-Spanish couple of curators Varvara&Mar. Exciting installations highlighted social, environmental, spatial and political issues. Besides professional artists the students of Estonian Academy of Arts, Viljandi Culture Academy, Tartu Art School and Pallas University of Applied Sciences participated at the event with 10 installations! Some of them created a certain buzz among the city folk.

Taavi Suisalu’s installation “Waiting for the Light” at St. John’s Church tower. Photo: Annika Haas

The indoor exhibition “Vacuum as a Mindset” curated by Kiwa brought the most well-known Swedish artist that “radiates red”, Carl Michael von Hausswolff, to Tartu. A number of items from Hausswolff’s private collection raised questions because of their borderline character – are they pieces of art or not? In addition to Hausswolff’s exhibition at Nooruse Gallery, Brion Gysin’s Dreamachine was exhibited for the first time in Estonia at Tartu Art House. The same gallery featured installations by several Estonian artists, some of which gained even more attention by the media than other events of the festival. The indoor exhibition program about different forms of light was definitely a success. In addition, the weather conditions contributed to attracting lots of people to the galleries. One of the festival’s side programs, an exhibition “Secret Whistle in the Forest” by Mari-Leen Kiipli and Kristi Kongi, lasted until December in Kogo Gallery. A review by Indrek Grigor about the program of the indoor exhibitions as well as the outdoor installations was published in Sirp.

Brion Gysin’s Dreamachine (invented in 1959) at Tartu Art House. Photo: Annika Haas

It took nearly a ton or nearly 4 kilometres of cable, ca 300 lamps, lots of projectors, fog machines but also smaller technical and practical equipment to build the installations.

An estimated 20 000 people, ca 3000 of them from abroad, participated in different activities of the festival. Besides guided tours there were lots of wanderers with a map, especially on the first couple of days. The season’s first snow storm that started on the third day of the festival had its impact on the number of visitors. Despite of the chilly weather it was obvious that people had been looking forward to the festival. Active feedback in social media gives us inspiration for the next time.

The organizing team of TAVA will be creating shifts of light and enlightening the public again in autumn 2020. In addition to workshops on light education, the conference, professional light art that activates public space and an indoor exhibition program that gives meaning to the entity of light we plan to add more outdoor concerts and light performances to the program. TAVA unites different fields of light to create synergy that helps to cast light to blind spots in city space and the society.

We thank the City of Tartu for their ongoing support and contribution to the light education of Estonia that shares the festival’s mission to raise public awareness about light and to bring professional light art closer to people. We hope to continue our wonderful cooperation with all sponsors, supporters and partners in organizing the festival of 2020.
Until that have a look at our beautiful gallery of photos by Annika Haas, reviews published in the media together with galleriesand a video summary.

Have a look at our video summary of Tartu in Light / TAVA2018 and let us bring back all those fantastic memories we had last October! Director and editor: Kaisa Sammelselg (VideoID)

We thank again the whole organizing team, speakers, participants, entrepreneurs, sponsors and brave volunteers that made the world of light design and the festival happen.

Big thanks to the whole team: Elo Liiv, Sabine De Schutter, Kiwa, Johan Moritz, Tina Wikström, Varvara Guljaeva, Mar Canet, Marko Kuusik, Janno Siil, Margo Saaremets, Marika Goldman, Michelle James, Jaanus Tamm, Margus Tamm, Sander Tuvikene, Ergo Olek, Risto Spriit, Annika Haas, Kaisa Sammelselg, Isabella Mordeglia, Maarja Kohtla;

Authors of installations: Mischa Kuball, Monica Ruiz Loyola, Immanuel Pax, Taavi Suisalu, Timo Toots, Jacob Taekker; students of Pallas University of Applied Sciences and Tartu Art School;


Artists of indoor exhibitions and participants of the talks: Carl Michael von Hausswolff, Liisa Hirsch, Kristel Saan, Johannes Luik, Aivar Tõnso, Artist Unknown, Kristi Kongi, Mari-Leen Kiipli; workshop leaders:Alyona Movko, Sander Tuvikene, Varvara Guljajeva, Mar Canet, Johan Röklander, Amardeep M. Dugar, Simas Rinkevicius, Ruta Palyonite; conference speakers: Claire Tomara, Emre Gunes, Lina Fäje, Dario Nunes Salazar, musicians: Siiri Sisask, Peedu Kass and Robert Jürjendai. Also special thanks for tour guides Irina Orekhova and Ragnar Saage, and the citizens of Tartu as well as other visitors who came to celebrate light with us.

We thank our supporters and cooperation partners: Tartu City, Enterprise Estonia, Estonian Ministry of Culture, European Regional Development Fund, Cultural Endowment of Estonia, Danish Arts Foundation, Estonian Ministry of Education and Research, Tartu Toy Museum, St. John’s Church, The Widget Factory (Aparaaditehas), Tartu New Theater, Estonian National Museum, Estonian Association of Architects, Tartu Dance Academy, Kogo Gallery, Gallery Noorus, IALD, Pallas University of Applied Sciences, Tartu Art School, Tartu Artists’ Union, Tartu Art House, Science Centre AHHAA, Haap Consulting, Kohvik Atlantis, Pierre, Armastus, Suudlevad Tudengid, Ruunipizza, Crepp, RP9, Vilde and Vine, Kaks Kokapoissi, The Rocket, Krõbevahvel, Hektor Café, Hotell Tartu, hotel London, hotel Sophia, hotel Antonius, Barclay Hotel, hotel Lydia, hotel Dorpat, hotel Pallas, Tampere Maja, Hektor Design Hostels, Looming hostel, ArtLight Magazine, arcMagazine, Darc Awards, Darc Room, arcMondo India, Illuminet, Lux Review, Sirp, Müürileht, KesKus, Tartu Postimees, Linnaleht, Õhtuleht, ERR.

Specially big thanks go to our sponsors: Hektor Light, LEDS C4, E&T Valgus, Meyer Lighting, IntiLED, Silman, Ledshop, Elektrilevi, Stockholm Lighting, Eventech, Focuspoint, hotel Tartu, Reggiani, ADAM Decolight, Studio+Plus, ELV Tehnika, Top Ledshop, Gaudré, Tehnikateenused.ee, Meeskond Security, Teleprint, Kaup24.ee, Welement, Rait Wood.