Art | 29.07.2009
For Cologne artists, light is their paint and the world their canvas
Cruising through the streets in the dark of night, a trio of young men is out to leave their mark on Europe's cities - at least temporarily, with neon lights. The new trend known as light graffiti, or light writing, has one-time spray painters exchanging their paint cans for flashlights.
The Cologne-based group "Lichtfaktor" (Light factor) made a name for itself in the novel art form after its videos got upwards of 2 million clicks on YouTube.
"You just stand in front of the camera and use your flashlight to draw pictures," said Marcel Panne, who makes up Lichtfaktor along with Davi Luepschen and Jens Heinen. "It's really important and exciting for us to capture the background when we are taking the pictures."
The photos they take are sequenced together to create movement, or "stop animation." A special setting on the camera is used to help control the moving pictures.
Music is added to the animation and, when the video is finished, the viewer experiences something that never actually took place - light moving through the city.
Bildunterschrift: Lichtfaktor plays with existing perceptions of the city
"I actually studied civil engineering, but I've always been interested in art," said Lichtfaktor member Heinen. "I think the combination between both technology and art is very interesting."
Heinen's technical expertise comes in handy, as the group is constantly working on developing the art of light writing. They have even designed a special printer which allows them to write letters and words in the sky with blinking lights.
Many of the artists currently involved in light writing used to be graffiti artists. Some say they switched media because light graffiti gives them more options. For them, spatial and dimensional limitations are removed and the world is truly their canvas - and developing technology only expands the possibilities.
"I'm not just a graffiti artist," said Luepschen, "I'm an illustrator. The difference between graffiti and light writing is that everything we do now is digital. We don't even use photo paper."
With projects in cities across Europe, including London and Istanbul, the budding artists are not going unnoticed. They've been featured on the front covers of sports magazines and were even pictured in an advertisement for a light bulb company.
Lichtfaktor may be at the forefront of developing their art form, but they're not alone in the pursuit. A group from Holland has invented a so-called lumasolator - a machine that allows for real-time light writing. And other light graffiti include Marko 93 in France and PIKAPIKA in Japan.
Click on the link below to see more pictures of Lichtfaktor's work.
Bildunterschrift: Stills are sequenced to create animation
Author: Ulrike Hummel / Kristen McMillen
Editor: Kate Bowen