Projection mapping, an art form that uses buildings and other surfaces as canvases, has found a home in the city of Binghamton in upstate New York. For the fourth year, the city readies to light up for the LUMA Projection Arts Festival. The three-day event, which begins today and runs through September 9, is the only visual arts festival in the United States that focuses exclusively on projecting photos, videos and 3D animations.
Similar festivals have long been popular in places like Europe and Australia, where collectives like Mindscape Studio and MP-Studio were among the first to bring projection mapping to the masses. It was these spectacular shows that caught the attention of LUMA co-founders Joshua Bernard Ludzki, a photographer and videographer, and Tice Lerner, also a photographer, who kept seeing footage of the events pop up on their social media feeds.
“We thought it was spectacular,” says Ludzki.
Binghamton, where both of the co-founders are based, proved a natural fit for starting an American version of the outdoor art gallery of sorts. With its vast collection of historic buildings, particularly in Binghamton's downtown area, the city seemed as if it was almost waiting for art to be projected upon it.
More than 20,000 attended LUMA’s inaugural event in September 2015. Since then, the festival’s projection mapping pieces have continued to grow in scale, narrative and ambition.
“I was really interested in bringing something truly unique to Binghamton that would draw regional and national [crowds],” Ludzki says.
Already, LUMA has morphed Binghamton's city hall into a gingerbread house and its courthouse into Stonehenge. Artists from Binghamton's own backyard and from around the world—including places such as Budapest, Barcelona and Belgrade—will round out 2018's talent lineup.
Keep an eye out for one of the festival's largest projection mapping feats to date this year; called "The Neon Unconscious," the enormous piece by the Budapest collective MAXIN10SITY will envelop the seven-story George R. Harvey Justice Building with a "heart-thumping celebration of retrofuturism" that transports audiences back to the 1980s. The 44-piece Binghamton Philharmonic Orchestra has also signed on to perform for the Barcelona-based Onionlab's installation “Transfiguracio,” the festival's only ticketed event, which will be held inside the city’s 200-year-old church United Presbyterian Church.
“It will be a beautiful organic experience of just sitting there and hearing the sound of the instruments, looking up at the space and watching the lights dance around you,” says Ludzki.
In addition to the performances, the festival is hosting the first LUMA Storytellers Conference, which will take audience members behind the scenes of the installations to learn about the way the artists combined technology with storytelling to find the art of projection.
As Ludzi explains: “We’ve spent a lot of time thinking about what we do with this technology to truly compel beyond the spectacle of it.”
Editor's note, September 7, 2018: This piece has been updated to reflect this is the fourth-annual LUMA event.