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Q&A 21/12/2

For you personally, how does the light outside (in "the world") relate to designed light inside (in the theatre)?

Tomi Humalisto

Interesting question. The light outside performance influences my lighting choices in a performance but it is mostly an “ancient light”. With this I mean it is about my personal visual memories filtered by my experiences and emotions in the situation they were stored long ago. They are possibly and partially fake as well, as I don’t trust memory as an absolute data. There is a cultural filter too. I consider myself utterly influenced by my life in Nordic environment. Seasonal variations of light are extremes. I am raised in agricultural, rural and protestant community, later taking distance and embracing urban life. All these personal parameters have influenced, how light means to me and to what qualities of light I am sensitive or attracted to.

This doesn’t exclude use of representations of "natural" light, or whatever artificial light outside theatre. You may try to replicate a sunset or weird flickering light you saw in a parking lot month ago. Authenticity doesn’t interest me as an absolute aim when reproducing something on stage from outside world, it is good enough if the light engages the wanted association or interpretation. My imagination seems to be limited to operate with real world perceptions and visual memories which are just emotionally coloured or organised differently. Outside world light seems to be reflected on stage through a mindless mirror of my mind, it may distort or change the result.

Bruno Pocheron

I often see natural light - and natural obscurity -  as the golden measure, the unattainable goal and the ultimate reason for me doing stage lighting.

As it has been previously in my life for studying arts, practicing painting and photography.

The fact of never being able to attain such a strength, a versatility, a definition in trying to control artificial light is still a good reason for me to keep trying.

Very often, stepping out of a theater for a cigarette break, quite happy about some light programming I did, I have been totally blown out by changes in natural light, just occurring and changing the world around me: Nature, you win. So I keep trying.

On the other end of the spectrum, artificial lighting in the open / public space is harder and harder on me. I can still stare at the sun for a good while, but I feel more and more aggressed by the inflation of increasingly powerful LEDs in shop windows, on the roofs of emergency or police vehicles, on the facades of buildings etc.

I wonder often how far my perceptions are conditioned by growing up in a LED free time. I would be interested in hearing what the younger amongst us perceive.

I guess that in nature, on a macro scale, there are only two kinds of lights: incandescent as in the sun or the stars, or reflected as in the moon.

On a smaller scale there is more diversity, see fireflies, phosphorescent beings or minerals for instance.

A simple set of questions always present to mind when starting doing lighting for a piece is:

- how far do we want to create an illusion (of naturalism, of realism)?

- how far do we want to put the artificiality of what we do in the foreground?

- Does a specific piece need the revelation, or the masking of the theatrical apparatus, or a dynamic combination of both?

These questions are for me directly related to the relations between the lights we control, in the theater, and the lights that are, outside of the theater.

Jan Fedinger

the light outside, in the world, both natural as artificial is the main source of inspiration for me.

basically the light that I experience, the atmospheres and the emotional states towards which this leads me are what I’m trying to replicate in my work. These experiences are not only limited to what I experience in person, out in the nature, at a misty sunset or with the play of shadows on the street when the wind chases clouds over my head on a sunny day or the neon reflections when I walk through a rainy city centre at night. These experiences are also informed by what could be called second hand experiences. Atmospheres about which I read that I see in films that I hear in stories of other people. Together these experiences are what form informs us of our common cultural visual vocabulary, that we can tap into, that we can rearrange that we can sample into visual stories of our own, that we add to tis very global visual reference base.

So far this answer is of relative general nature. The reproduction and reassembly of experiences. Something that could be described as almost documentary. However there is a second strategy that I like to employ. When i look at my light inside the theatre, where i have reassembled that what i knew into something new, i tend to make new experiences my self. The artificiality gives rise to this new experiences. This happens especially in moments when I start to look at the stage in 2 different ways at the same time. I look at the performers, let their action be what keeps my attention active but I focus on the periphery of my vision. In this blurry field I see rather shapes, movements then clear images.

Now when I go back into nature when I stare out of a window, when I walk down a street I try to look at my surrounding the same way that I look at a performance. I try to have the environment provide the activity from where I can tune out to observe what is happening at the same time around. When I'm sitting in a train the shaking movement of the train can create a vibration in this interplay of formless movement. Arrivals of tunnels become new physical experiences of blackouts.On a boat, staring at the horizon the slow shaking of the waves make the world turn, make me move without moving my body.

What I’m trying to achieve here is, to create a feedback loop. That I’m not only consuming images, but that I’m also actively search for different ways of seeing inside everyday live. Ways that I can articulate again inside the theatre, where they provide new sensations in turn.

Henri Emmanuel Doublier

For me, there is a strong link between Outside and inside light.

I spend a lot of time observing naturalistic light, and phenomenon like reflexion of the light on the water on a lake, how water spiders makes light shining like a diamond…

Or the mouvement of the shadows of a branches of a tree moved by the wind, or simply the quality of the light in storm or the fog, or the density of the sunlight at different hours.

It gives me plenty of ideas of visual installations that I’ll never do. But it stays in my toolbox and many times, I go there to pick up an idea when I feel that it could work in a piece.

For the shows of the collective I worked with, there had many time moments of only performativity of the light with sound.

So, I was many time searching in my toolbox natural light phenomenon like a storm and a rainbow, light reflections on a swimming pool, a cloud on stage and borealis; or others things where light is involved like a car crash, or the light produced by a fire works on an audience.

The thing is that I’ll never be able to compete with naturals elements, but I love to find the ideas to transpose it on stage. Just to give the idea, something close to the yellow quality of the light after the storm, or the green light in a forest through the leaves of the trees.

Jan Maertens

For me as a spectator, I try to forget about the “outside light world” in order to fully embrace the "inside light world”, fully reset from scratch.

For me as a light designer, I often relate to the “real light world” but mostly in a pretty abstract way. Since I found out that my personal interpretation of "nature” or even “civil” phenomena - when installing references of it within the light design on a stage - do not necessarily match with how other peers in the creation (or the audience) imagine/interpret similar phenomena done artificially with “inside light”, I tend to keep it abstract, often non-referential at all or merely on very personal level. And what interest me the most here is the organicity of “nature” phenomena in a time based referential frame rather than a more “frozen” pictorial approach… the chaoticly dancing aurora borealis while watching with a frozen ass:-)… or simply the wind making the wheat move in a filed.

Emese Csornai

Outside is vast, in its own pace it is an infinity of possibilities to observe it from, in space and time, inside it is a little pinhole on time and space on what our eyes could comprehend and in a time-frame to contain something still to understand as behavior.

Q&A 22/12/21

What is a recent optical illusion/effect you have found? What does it do, how did you use it in the performance, and how is it technically done?  

Tomi Humalisto

This is easy one to answer, because I don't remember using any optical illusion purpously.

Perhaps playing with sensitivity of an eye and the threshold of barely seeing and partly imagining what you see. E.g. having so much haze combined with low intensities and introduction scene lasting 10min slow fade in of light until you detect perforners….

Jan Fedinger

There is not one particular effect that i recently discovered. But there are many directions that i often find myself researching within designs. One strong direction here is the use of constant flashing lights. At certain frequencies they start to produce interesting images, that could be compared to ‘overtones’ in music. Tones that are not directly played that come into existence through the combination of other tones. Another direction is movement of light. Where lights are lit in succesion to mimic movement. Basically a similar princiep as the working film. In a certain way the possibilities of film and animation are a great source of inspiration for me. To try to create gradient effects for example. both of colour or of shapes and textures of light. There is a lot of craftsmanship involved in order to tweak standart lighting equipment, like combining filters [scroller-tape can get you a long way] in order to create this kind of effects. For example the projection of an 80’s style sunset [in Rule of 3 by Jan Martens] with only 2 lamps, with different gobos and filters that were assembled to create a colour gradient in one lamp and the image of a circles interrupted by horizontal lines that was sharp in some parts and diffuse in others in a second lamp.

Henri Emmanuel Doublier

The last recent optical illusion was in October. I was working with a Mexican choreographer who was working with ice on stage.

I decided to make some filters for my light in ice and to project it on a white screen. No effect, just the timing of the ice melting and decomposing making the time dramaturgie of the show.

I used the lens of the PC to retroject the ice filter in sharp, so we can enter deeply into the Christal natural composition of the ice. I used also some painting to color them.


Jan Maertens

In the last scene of the recent creation with Lenio Kaklea (Sonates&Interludes), the dancer left the stage while the pianist continued playing the last, intimate Sonate. Rather than making things small and focussing on the piano only or leading towards a formal end, it was an idea to keep the overall lit stage fully present while installing a gentle movement in the lights in order to replace the presence of the dancer and accompanying the piano. All this in a discrete and abstract way without any apparent effect-fullness. Doing so, I was mapping video footage of a moving cloudy sky on top of chaotic 33par stage wash and found out that exactly the absence of the performer (otherwise the focal presence) in combination with the presence of the music (overall the basis of the performance structure and a promise towards an ongoing performance) made place for the possibility of an illusionary effect. The subtle complex but organic chaser on the stage wash - the result of the video mapping- was leading to the potentiality for a gaze into the indefinite void of an empty but openly lit stage. When letting go all further performative expectation while staring into the void and being accompanied by the musical performance, the light gave the illusionary effect of the stage itself gently moving on the music. Sure, only when informed one could factually recognise this effect as such, but I’m convinced that the presenting of this kind of subtle situations does play a role unconsciously in how this scene is being experienced.

At the very end of the Sonata, a drone was launched on stage, flying over like a noisy and hectic bee. The spell got broken. Even though the light effect simply continued, the illusionary effect was gone… no more possibility for a gaze into the void while enforced focussing onto the drone and its pathway….

Emese Csornai

I recently made a loop of 4 different colours that individually pass as white, meaning our eyes can set its white balance on it as base value. The loop itself is very didactically showing the relation of hues, with prompt transition, matched luminosity. Once the loop gets predictable and understood, even boring, I started inserting blackouts, anchoring them on the meeting of two colours. I extended the duration of blackouts from there, in each loop, until the eye and brain couldn't coordinate their references and all colours blinking out of the blackouts looked the same. This was a very nice de-mystification point in the piece.

Bruno Pocheron

In the last solo work of Philipp Gehmacher, In Its Entirety, I use a juxtaposition of 4 light matrices controlled by one touchscreen interface.  Each matrix of lamps is focused as a wash with a specific direction (diagonal front left, diagonal front right, diagonal back left and diagonal back right) and a different color filter. The focus is very precise, and each position of the 4 matrices are overlapping. The touchscreen interface allows me to travel simultaneously though the 4 matrices, and 4 master faders allow me to define how much each matrix appears (or, how the matrices are mixed) at a given moment.

I also have manual controls on transfer time between the lamps, inversion of the image (working in negative), the size and xy deformation of the objects generated by the touch screen, a blur and saturation effect.

All this allows for controlling in real time some sort of traveling and ever shifting pictural image that morphs between flemish classical painting, clair-obscur, fleshy Baconian images or the illusion of natural lighting for instance.

Q&A 23/12/21

Is there work you would like to make without starting from a question from someone else?

Emese Csornai

Yes and I’m trying to make it.

To research more what it does to perception to adapt cinema tools to stage.

It is a longer term research, the first piece I have made using some of the cinema tools was On being ill, then Stranger in 2017, it is being continued. On Being ill was very abstract, dealing with the idea of presence and absence, questioning how to trespass this binary in the life of chronic diseased persons. Talking off from the essay of Virginia Woolf, it was zooming into how the perception shift of illness can be a source of insight at work rather than the indicator of sufficiency or the lack of it.

I am implementing the imagery of edited film, such as zoom, camera angle change, cuts in a dialogue always showing one face at a time. It has been a more superficial research for 'Stranger' because of my productional circumstances, and now I am really looking deep into this rabbit hole with my new research project. What is very interesting for me in that is not its formal innovation in theater. (it may become that but it is not the goal). It is the fact that displacing some gestures that are so accepted in cinema became so normal for us that we do not even question them, but if we place them in theater, our normal spinal acceptance becomes questionable, and we get to look at it.

Tomi Humalisto

I assume now this does mean own and individual starting point relating to how visual artist create ideas for their works solo. Saying this, I do realise that, I rarely believe "originality". Everything is basically already made, used and re-used, it is just digested again through one individual .ind which leaves flavours, combinations and perspectives to material, method and the result.

I have every now and then ideas for solo works, some might use light or some optical phenomena is important for making it or to achieve certain aesthetics.

Now I am in the middle of a process for performance piece, where I have been creating the concept with anothet artist. In this work I am inspired of scifi and acheology and non-visible waveleghts of light/radiation.

I have also another wishes to operate with bioluminance and phosphorous minerals. I am also interested in diamonds.

Jan Maertens

Yes, as i feel it could be interesting/challenging to use light(design) as the initiator for making a performance… even more, it is since a while that I keep this idea in the back of my mind to invite some of the choreographers I’ve been working with in the past and ask them to make a choreography for a light design … turning around the role of the initiator.

But No, as I don’t really feel the urge to have to communicate something explicitly through making a performance… nesting myself maybe too comfortably behind the scenes?

Henri Emmanuel Doublier

Yes, I have many ideas of installation, but I’m lazy to find productions. Many are already taken by olafus or anne Veronica now…and at the end, I prefer to renovate my house and make my garden when I have free time. I think I like collective creation more than to be alone. I love theaters. I consider myself like a technician more than an artist.

By working on papers ghost, I had an idea of installation: I’d like to make a mirror where we can see everything reflected except people.

The idea would be to reproduce exactly the same room separated by a window which would look like a mirror.

The lighting of the 2 rooms should not create reflections on the window,

If not, what I like a lot is the humanization of the old theater light fixture.

It means: putting an umbrella on a lamp when it’s raining. Making a lamp of a par64 falling and attached by an electric cable, like a falling eye.

I like also to use theater light in another way: create transposition for the light it can create, by breaking the Lenz, changing places of mirrors, …

An exemple with the following picture for an installation I did in Z33 with artists Sarah and Charles.

Jan Fedinger

I am making work that does not start by the commission of someone else.

When i work with other artists i always try to be a tangible or experiancable presence on stage together with the human bodies of the dances. In my own [non-comissioned] work i try to work with light as performative body. One could call them solos for those performers that now don t need to share the space with human performers. These non-human performers, [one could call them post-human performers, since they are an extension of my performative body], are mainly light, but can not be reduced to only light. A better way would be maybe to call them experienceable environments wherein light might be the driving expression.

Bruno Pocheron

Since beginning 2020, I am carrying a tricky electrical experiment, together with lighting, sound and musician colleagues, in which we directly power low voltage episcope halogen bulbs (24V 500w) with sound signals (sound amplifiers). The sound signals make the bulbs flare, and the bulbs themselves act like tiny loudspeakers. I find a great beauty in that paradoxical convergence of light and sound in bulbs, that creates some sort of synaesthetic experience.

Some (imperfect) video documentation is to be found here https://vimeopro.com/brunopocheron/lightworks password: brunopocheron


Lighting design has many sub facets, which ones do you naturally focus on?

Jan Fedinger

In the lighting designs i make i often realise that i speak more about the dramaturgy of the piece then about how to best light the piece. And although i often join very early on in processes, it takes most of the time a while until i start experimenting with real light on stage.

I consider the work i m doing with light for a large part as visual dramaturgy of the piece. As i propose how the audience is going to see what is proposed by the moving bodies on stage. The idea here is that it it more important that the whole team works towards a common goal. Not that every discipline is working on their own island of individual fascinations. Not every performance needs the most spectacular lighting design, but instead one that fits the total work. And great discoveries can always be kept for another project. Or even start a next one.

Jan Maertens

What keeps me busy especially since quite some time is the lighting control aspect of the lighting design business. I feel that I’ve been creative much more with implementing new digital media tools onto the light control universe rather than researching alternative ways of dealing with the hardware tool box of stage lighting where It was more a purification approach that kept me going.

This focus on lighting control has been resulting in new approaches of dealing with design assignments and has  in a way also been redefining my approach to stage light design much more as a (post human) performer.

Tomi Humalisto

If we are thinking of fuctions of lighting design as Richard Palmer (1985) considers it, I feel the following most natural for me:

- shaping stage and form

- composition of stage picture

- establishing ryhym.

If thinking of controllable properties along with apalmer again, intensity, direction, shape and frequency seem to ring my bell.

Outside of Palmer's framing, I have always been interested in dramaturgical structures and questions. This may be reduced into two simple questions: how light itself changes throughout performance (= dramaturgy of light) and how light participates creating multilayered dramaturgy of the whole piece? I have also been increasingly interested in materiality of light and what kinds of ontological experience does that special light quality create.

Henri Emmanuel Doublier

What I prefer in light design, is the moment when in the process, after documentation and having seen the first rehearsals, I have some ideas and I start to experiment them by making a prototype.

Many of them don’t work, but sometimes, I can find things even différent and better than what I imagine. And it’s for me the best exciting moment. I !!!

Or the moments when I make mistakes and interesting things happen.

I think that creation is for me being open to whatever can happen during the process. That’s why the place where I create is so important for me. If there is workshop, if there is a brick wall, if there is an old dusty lamp waiting for me in the cave. I always explore all the places in a theater beforeI create.

The second strong and interesting moment for me is when I can have time to program and special with sound software and midi. It’s really moment of composition.

Emese Csornai

I am quite opposed to the idea of narrowing viewpoints down, on the other hand I do understand it is not a bad conversation starter to ask where a person sees one's work from.

In my opinion light is either not talked about, or not properly, or lighting designers get narrowed down to a specificity they stick out with from the rest of the colleagues, and characterized by that continuously. I insist I am a multiplicity as a creative (and so are others), and I rather have a current research than place myself in a sub-facets of lighting design. So in terms of current research and ongoing research, as I previously mentioned, I am considered to have a specific use of colors in my work, firstly, and I say I am considered because in my point of view that research has at least as much to do with angles and timing and rhythm than with colors, nonetheless I happily agree, colors are very important for me and I explore them with much excitement.

Then secondly I come from the study field of audiovisual arts, which means I have a particularly strong connection to installation, film and animation and comic books (rediscovered recently). The influence of that can be understood in the broadest sense.

I do not have a strong relation to computer sciences, any sort of programming so far I only picked up because I was very motivated to find new tools and thoughts in lighting, and I was pretty good at mathematics always. Nonetheless I did find some breakthroughs and I hope to continue doing so in the future. Abstraction and my mind are in sympathy.

As assets, third aspect, I mention I am a female lighting designer, which fact I started to give more importance to, when I understood how long it took me to rid myself of certain social codes in theater and still I catch myself in the wrong shoes, and when I noticed that my former male former student has a higher salary then myself, unintended. It is a real ghost, this aspect, and I wish it is more sincerely addressed, I believe I know numerous persons with patriarchal reflexes.

And then as a fourth aspect or asset I mention that I have been studying architecture for the shortest while. It is the best for both me and the rest of the world I did not pursue that career, but there is a sense for space and animating space (I cannot elaborate upon but clearly notice when I rely on it,) I do have a touch for, even though I can only experience what that sense is when I can make enough space to work deeply, for which I do not always get the circumstances provided.

Bruno Pocheron

I am approaching lighting from different directions. My work includes precise multi layered programming (Lanbox), mixed with an haptic control of lights allowing for instant decisions and improvisation (by ways for instance of pixel mapping and touchscreen interfaces programmed in pure data or vvvv), and direct or filtered interactions with music and sound (by ways of MIDI or OSC synchronization, by using sound frequency analysis to influence the behavior of lights for instance).

I see more and more analogies between lighting design and polyphonic musical composition. 

I enjoy closely working with my colleagues musicians and sound designers and creating together a space both visual and acoustic

and, when possible, co-designing lights and escaping loneliness and compartimentation in the tech booth.