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The freedom of using light – an interview with the light artist Aleksandra Stratimirovic

September 28, 2016
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Aleksandra by Elisabeth Toll

Aleksandra Stratimirovic works in the world of art and light. She is the author of a wide range of temporary and permanent light-art installations for various types of public places (hospitals, school campuses, railway stations, residential areas, etc.) in Sweden and abroad. In recent years, her artworks have been included in exhibitions at the Konstnärshuset in Stockholm, Jardin du Palais Royal in Paris, Guggenheim Museum, New York, and varied institutions in Amsterdam, Ljubljana, Belgrade, Tokyo, Osaka, Verona, Tallinn, and Singapore. Over the years, Aleksandra has received numerous national and international awards. She is a co-founder of the “Lighting Guerrilla” festival in Ljubljana, Slovenia, a founding member of the Transnational Lighting Detectives, and the founder and artistic director of the Belgrade of Light festival in Serbia. Her studio is based in Stockholm.

Aleksandra Stratimirovic is one of the speakers at the LIGHT EDU symposium that will take place between the 3rd and 5th of October in Timisoara, Romania

Hello, Aleksandra! You have a wonderful career in lighting. Can you tell us about how it all started? 

 

I don’t really know how it began. I studied visual arts in Belgrade and even back then I was interested in light, but it was so different from what I knew, so connected to engineering studies. I was studying sculpture, ceramics, and I was working with totally different materials. But then I started experimenting with light sources by myself, and when I got to Sweden, in Stockholm, I found out about Lighting Design Education at KTH, a Lighting Laboratory that had just been established. So I attended that course to learn about light and see if it was something I could continue to work with. I think there was a good mix of people, students from different fields, from architects to engineers, designers, industrial designers, product designers, and artists as well. We learned some of the basics of light and lighting design, but the most important thing for me was that I felt encouraged to continue experimenting. So I was not afraid afterwards to work with light – I told myself: “Why should’t I do it?”. So this is how it started, and I am still learning.

What is the difference between lighting designer and light artist?

The two cover different areas, different needs. I suppose architectural lighting designers have an aim to create good functional lighting all while respecting the architecture, space and people. Theatre lighting designers – they work with the magic of theatre, the purpose of the theatre play. As a light artist, you have the freedom to use light as a medium, but you still work with space and in relation to people, and with senses. There are many light art pieces that are very close to lighting design and there are lighting designers who have more of an artistic approach. As a light artist, I like to think that I have the freedom to use light as a medium and to add something to the space, instead of simply pursuing the thought that the space requires a certain function, I add something extra, a different kind of function.

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”You say light, I think shadow” is one of the best publications at the moment in this domain. Did it take a lot of research or it is just the result of many years of practice?

It started mostly from my own curiosity, searching for an answer on the question “what is light?”, a question that I often ask myself. I noticed that I always had a different answer. So together with my friend, Sandra Praun, a graphic designer, we decided to do a project together. It started from our pure curiosity and eagerness to get opinions and thoughts from people who inspire us and whose work we highly respect. What is also interesting is that we only sent this one question, what is light, to all these people, asking them to answer using their own words, not with images, sketches or photos. We asked 109 people and we got 109 totally different answers. The result became a collection of surprising and beautiful contributions, poetic and personal thoughts, visions, stories, memories, statements… all assembled in specially designed expressive study in the form of a book. And what Sandra and I did was to carefully process each of these contributions so that, together, they flow smoothly from the very beginning, and result in a story about light, shadow and darkness.

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What projects are you working on right now?

I have a few different projects that I am working on, art pieces for various institutions here in Sweden and a couple of exhibitions. Also I am organizing the Belgrade of Light event in Serbia, which starts in a few weeks. Belgrade of Light is a non-profit event dedicated to the development and promotion of the culture of light. Ever sincer its founding in 2008, the goal of the event has been to assemble in Belgrade and in Serbia prominent international and local individuals and groups and to open an inspiring new chapter in approaching light – whether it concerns an artistic expression and design, energy saving of simply identity of a city and visions of a brighter future. In 2016 we will have an opportunity to present the multifaceted scientific exhibition Spectrum, which will display wavelengths of light from its visible to invisible nature, followed by the lectures and debates of eminent national and international speakers on the symposium Complementary Contrasts.

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I love your work, but I have never seen such beautiful light installations in hospitals. They usually have a static cold light that glows everywhere. Is this a way to make the people inside smile?

I am very excited about these projects, as hospitals and schools are particularly important places that should be given special attention. As are many other institutions. You don’t go to such places to enjoy art, but art has a unique contribution. I was involved in doing light installations in radiation therapy rooms in Karolinska University Hospital in Stockholm and Skåne University Hospital in Lund. My intention was to create a light story in calm meditative pace, created to offer a playful, relaxing and hopeful element. It is a successful integration of light art in a hospital environment and it is very appreciated by the people who are getting treatment and by the people who work there, who are actually spending most of their life in those underground rooms. This is a specific environment. There is no daylight. There are certain limitations on what you can design and what you can use in those rooms. So, to me it was a great challenge how to make a good piece of art that gives an optimistic feeling and inspires people in those difficult moments.

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www.belgradeoflight.com

 

You are the founder of two important festivals, ”Lighting Guerrilla” in Ljubljana, Slovenia and ”Belgrade of Light” in Serbia. How many editions have there been, and how do you think they influenced the way that people see light?

Lighting Guerrilla Festival is in Ljubljana, Slovenia, and is founded by Katerina Mirovič from Stripcore, Ljubljana and me. Katerina is the main person behind the Lighting Guerilla Festival. We had the first edition in 2008. This festival is focused on light art in urban spaces. It started in 2008 as a small alternative activity, but it is getting bigger and bigger through the years, gathering really great and enthusiastic audience. With these events we put the attention on the city, on the pulse of the city, integrating light art in very different ways. It is a lot of hard work, many wonderful moments and that is what Katerina Mirovič is doing so amazingly.  Belgrade of Light also started in 2008, with the idea to establish a platform to discuss the importance of light and lighting in a cityscape. After a period of troubles in the Balkans, when the whole region was somehow in the darkness, it felt as a perfect situation to start a discussion about lighting and how to treat specific characteristics of Belgrade with good lighting. We are doing hard work to keep on with the Belgrade of Light.

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I don’t know if you know this but Timisoara just won the competition to be the European Capital of Culture in 2021 with the project titled Light up your city. LIGHT EDU will start in a few days. What is your opinion about this?

That is very positive and inspiring. Lighting is an important part of our everyday life that needs attention. All these lighting events that pop up around the world attract people’s attention and it is a good opportunity to introduce the use of light in a nice way. I am sure you will do it in a good way and get people more involved in observing light and understaning the importance of respectful lighting.


You can contact Aleksandra at http://www.strati.se

More info about LIGHT EDU  at http://lightedu.eu


 

Portrait credits: Elisabeth Toll
photo credits Robin Hayes, Athanassios Danilof, Contemporist

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