Starting in 2015, each year as part of Oxford’s Light Festival, Fusion Arts works with artist collective Luxmuralis alongside an ever-increasing consortium of institutional partners (now Oxford University Museum of Natural History, Pitt Rivers Museum, the Bodleian Libraries / Radcliffe Camera, University Church of St Mary the Virgin and the Museum, the History of Science Museum) and numerous community groups (including Multaka-Oxford, Oxford’s Windrush communities and LGBTQ+ groups) to produce a series of inspiring son et lumière displays; light and sound spectacles that illuminate the outside of some of Oxford's most iconic buildings and bring community stories and the partner institutions' collections to life. These shows are free and accessible to all.
Not only are these displays pioneering audiovisual feats but they have also helped democratise access to and engagement with collections housed in Oxford’s historic institutions and museums. The project has also had numerous benefits for Oxford’s communities, helping often marginalised groups feel that their experiences and stories have a valid place and platform within the city.
The project seeks to literally illuminate the museums’ collections and archives for the public to admire, bringing hidden collections into the public domain in the form of colourful light designs projected onto the museum's facades. In preparation for the events, Luxmuralis has worked closely with Multaka-Oxford to identify what parts of the hidden collections to choose and determine which were of greatest significance to them. The objects chosen were brought to life through the light show, prompting the viewers to consider the modern and historical research concerns they raise.
By creating unique, free and accessible encounters with the collections, these shows have managed to expose the museums in new ways, bringing their stories to the public and compelling passers-by to engage with histories that have for so long remained hidden.
Other works by Luxmuralis include: Poppy Field which toured Cathedrals around the UK; Lichtfestival in Limburg Germany; Earth What a Wonderful World, Lichfield Cathedral; The Maker of Middle Earth, Bodleian Libraries. Their portfolio, which includes a plethora of other light and sound events across the UK and abroad can be found here.
Read more about the light and sound events on the Pitt Rivers Museum Education Blog.
Illuminating the Museum is supported by the National Lottery through Arts Council England and every year is part of the Oxford Light Festival, which is produced by Oxford City Council and a range of partner institutions.
The 2016 light and sound spectacular was entitled Hopes & Fears. The kaleidoscopic imagery, made up of the images of the collection’s objects, was projected across the outside of the neo-gothic Pitt Rivers Museum, which exposed the sheer scale of the structure and highlighted the beauty of the objects within. The building was transformed into a living sculpture and was accompanied by a soundtrack composed from Pitt Rivers Museum’s audio archive. By opening up the archives to the public, Hopes & Fears was an inspiring four storey canvas of human endeavour and discovery. Watch the installations here and here.
In 2017, the theme for Illuminating the Museum was Lost and Found. Collections from the Oxford University Museum of Natural History, the Pitt Rivers Museum and the Bodleian Libraries were showcased in the light and sound spectacular that was projected onto the front facade of the Natural History Museum.
This year, the spectacular was part of the Oxford Christmas Light Festival 2017, as well as the Being Human Festival 2017.
“The Oxford University Gardens Libraries and Museums (GLAM) collections offer a wonderful and rich resource for both the city and the UK and as artist to bring the visual and sound archives to new audiences via a fine art projection onto the facade of the building is a wonderful project to be involved in.” - Peter Walker of Luxmuralis speaking about Illuminating the Museum 2017.
In collaboration with Luxmuralis, a number of different light shows were put on in 2018 across Oxford.
After 2017’s Lost and Found success, Luxmuralis worked alongside staff and curators at the Oxford University Museum of Natural History, the Pitt Rivers Museum, the University Church of St Mary the Virgin, the Bodleian Libraries and the Museum of the History of Science, to bring more collections than ever into the public domain. From their gardens, to their libraries, to their archives, parts of all of these collections were brought to life through a show of lights on the front facade of the Natural History museum.
“Fabulously choreographed and beautifully portrayed”
“If every community had something like this, where we had something to celebrate, bring people together and remember heritage and values… placemaking – you’re the ultimate placemaker, you create value where you are so thank you very much.” - Members of the public
Taking place in November of 2018, Imagine Peace was a light show that was displayed inside the university Church of St Mary the Virgin. Inspired by art that considers peacemaking in the modern world, it aimed to commemorate 100 years since the end of the First World War. Together with the Luxmuralis team, the display was designed to inspire hope, reveal hidden stories, and bring people together in the historic venue.
“We were speechless” – Members of the public
Talking Maps was the grand finale of the 2018 Christmas Light Festival in Oxford. It showcased the special collections from the Bodleian and projected them onto the library’s historic Old School Quadrangle. The display revolved around ideas of identity, journeys and the movement of people.
“Absolutely beautiful, stunning to see it projected like this” – Members of the public
Undiscovered Oxford showcased some of the lesser known aspects of the city across many exciting events over the same festival weekend. Many of Oxford’s cultural organisations came together to present a dazzling array of performances, exhibitions, events and workshops for everyone in Oxford to enjoy.
2019's festival theme “Discovery” was inspired by scientific discovery and by the 50th anniversary of the first moon landing. At the Oxford University Museum of Natural History and the Pitt Rivers Museum, the artwork celebrated the diversity of the natural world and its inhabitants. A unique, free and accessible encounter from the street outside the Museum.
Space: God, the Universe and Everything at the University Church of St Mary the Virgin
As we celebrated fifty years since humans set foot on the moon, the University Church hosted a stunning visual spectacle inspired by the 1969 Moon landing. The exhibition featured internal son et lumiere, sound and light-based art installations that transformed the space in the church. Watch here.
Talking Maps Light Show at the Bodleian Libraries Old School Quadrangle
The Talking Maps Light Show returned to the Old School Quadrangle of the Bodleian Library for Illuminating Oxford. Stunning images from the Bodleian Library’s exhibition Talking Maps were projected onto Oxford’s most iconic architecture using the latest digital techniques, transforming this picturesque corner of Oxford into a break-taking light show.
Sculptor Peter Walker and local composer David Harper (both part of the artist collective Luxmuralis) have worked alongside staff and curators of the Oxford University Museum of Natural History, Pitt Rivers Museum, University Church of St Mary the Virgin and Bodleian Libraries to bring their hidden collections, research and archive to life in the public domain. The artworks will be projected on a magnificent scale over two nights on some of Oxford’s most iconic buildings. Watch here and here.
This Diverse World at the Oxford University Museum of Natural History and the Pitt Rivers Museum
Luxmuralis worked with Beyond the Binary, community groups and artists to respond to the Museums’ collections in new ways. The artwork celebrated the diversity of the natural world and its inhabitants. A unique, free and accessible encounter from the street outside the museum. Watch here.
Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the 2020 Oxford Light Festival was a little different to previous years. Events involving people gathering in-person couldn't be held and instead everyone was encouraged to create their own Light Festival on their doorstep. Likewise, due to Covid regulations, 2020 the son et lumiere projections were pre-recorded before the festival (18th November) premiering online for the public to watch during the festival weekend.
Displays were projected onto four iconic Oxford buildings: Christchurch College Meadow Building, the University Church of St Mary the Virgin, Radcliffe Camera and the Museum of Natural History. The displays built on the success of previous years, collaborating with venue partners to highlight fascinating and lesser-known aspects of their collections. We also worked with local communities, community groups and artists to devise phrases and words that reflected the hopeful and thankful spirit of the 2020 Oxford Light Festival and its 'Be the Light' theme.
Although this year was somewhat a pause from the traditional light spectacles, 2020 showed that it is still possible to deliver creative, inspiring work that demonstrates the commitment and resilience of culture and community. Click here, here, here, here and here to watch the installations.
Fusion Arts work with artists, groups and communities from across Oxfordshire and beyond to support a variety of imaginative and socially engaged projects.
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