Films, travels and whirlwinds of fire: Circle of Light comes to six venues

Films, travels and whirlwinds of fire: Circle of Light comes to six venues
A show at the Rowing Canal will send its audience on a virtual trip across Russia. The Bolshoi Theatre will provide a setting to famous Russian and Soviet films. The National Exhibition of Economic Achievements, or VDNKh, will be set ablaze in a fiery whirlwind. Finally, on the facade of Moscow State University, performances about the building’s history and the protected natural areas of Russia will be shown.

Anyone flying to or from Moscow at night will agree that this is a city of light. Over 1,500 buildings, as well as streets and highways, including the Kashirskoye and Varshavskoye motorways, and the broad Leningradsky Prospekt, are brightly illuminated. Moscow outdoor lighting system is the largest in the world. The illuminated shape of the city, with its outbound rays of roads, can be clearly seen even in images taken from space.

Every autumn, Moscow gets even more brighter. When it is damp and cold outside, the Circle of Light festival comes to add colour and emotion to city life as it turns symbolic buildings into canvases for its vivid video projections.

Held for the sixth year in a row, the 2016 festival is coming to Lomonosov Moscow State University, the National Exhibition of Economic Achievements (VDNKh), the Bolshoi Theatre, the Rowing Canal, the Izvestia Hall concert hall and the Digital October centre, which will host lectures, workshops and presentations.

Jolly Fellows and Kin-dza-dza: the Bolshoi Theatre as a setting for motion pictures

A video story displayed on the facade of the Bolshoi Theatre will submerge the audience into the history of cinema in Russia. The story will send a young couple, its heroes, behind the screen to play the leading part in iconic films, including Vesyolye rebyata (aka the Jolly Fellows or Moscow Laughs), Beloye solntse pustiny (aka The White Sun of the Desert), Moskva slezam ne verit (aka Moscow Doesn’t Believe In Tears) and Kin-dza-dza. Projects of the Classical Arhictectural Projection Mapping Competition will be show at the Bolshoi Theatre on all days of the festival from 23 to 27 September. These video projections will explore world cinema.

The mysteries of the skyscraper and Russia’s protected areas: two video performances on the MSU facade

The two video stories to be shown on the facade of Moscow State University are likely to set a record. Two hundred video projectors will create an image of over 40,000 square metres on the walls of the famous skyscraper, surpassing last year’s projection on the facade of the Ministry of Defence building, which was included in the Guinness Book of Records.

The videos will run for a total of 50 minutes. "The Infinite MSU" is an exploration of the realm of knowledge, with the university’s founder, Mikhail Lomonosov, as a guide into the origins of the world, its evolution and the mysteries of the MSU high rise building. "The Keeper," an animated film, celebrates the 100th anniversary of Russia’s nature protected areas. Its heroes, Wolf Cub and Albatros, will travel across woods, Kalmykia steppes and the waters of Lake Baikal to save the world from a raging fire. Voice actors include prominent Russian film and television personalities Ivan Okhlobystin, Alexei Kortnev, Nikolai Drozdov, Lolita Milyavskaya and others.

A fireworks display will crown the videos every evening from 23 to 25 September with a total of 20,000 fireworks.

A resort town and a vibrant megacity on the Rowing Canal

On the Krylatsky Rowing Canal, an entire 52-metre high and 118-metre wide town has appeared out of nowhere for the festival, with 144 fountains weighing a total of 60 tonnes and 40 torches. During the three days of the presentation, more than 18,000 fireworks will shoot upwards into the sky. This massive effort is needed to take visitors on a virtual trip. In the morning they will find themselves in a quiet resort town that will become a noisy city in the afternoon and a megacity which never sleeps in the evening. In addition, a laser show will build a bridge across the canal.

The performances will be held on 24, 25 and 27 September.

A Fiery Tornado and Angels of Liberty at VDNKh

VDNKh’s pavilion No 1 will be lit up by installations from various countries. Incandescence, a project by French artist Severine Fontaine, shows the evolution of the role that light has played in human life. Enormous bulb-shaped structures will be involved in a breath-taking light performance.

A Dutch team has brought a Tornado of Fire to the festival. A set of blowers will send a whirlwind of fire 12 metres up in the air.

Berlin artists will stage the Angels of Liberty: five illuminated wings spanning over five metres will appear above the city’s main exhibition space.

The installations can be seen on all days of the festival.

Art Vision contest and lectures at the Red October

Finalists of the Art Vision competition in the VJing category will appear at Izvestia Hall. The winner will be the first to make a music video for a randomly chosen song using provided video clips. To watch the competition, register on the website.

The Digital October centre will host presentations, workshops and debates. Light and video projection experts from various countries will talk about night time urban design, rock opera 6D videomapping, abstract digital drawings and other topics. Registration is required. Izvestia Hall concert hall will open its door for contestants on 24 September, and the Digital October programme will run for two days, on 24 and 25 September.

Circle of Light in awards and figures

The Circle of Light has received a number of awards and achievements, becoming a distinguished event. They include:

Brend Goda (Brand of the Year)/EFFIE in the Entertainment category (2011,2012);

Marka Nomer Odin (Russia’s No 1 Brand) in the Festival category (2013, 2014);

Putevodnaya Zvezda (Polestar) in the Best Event Project category (2014);

Lutshiye v Rossii (Best in Russia)/ in the Best Cultural Even of the Year category (2014);

The Moscow Times Awards in the Culture Event of the Year category (2014);

Sobytiye Goda (Event of the Year) in the Urban Event of the Year category (2015);

Vremya Innovatsy (Time of Innovation) in the Event Project of the Year category (2015);

Guinness World Records in the Largest Video Projection category (2015).

Every year, more and more people want to see light shows. In 2011, the festival was attended by 250,000 people. The audience grew to 1 million in 2012, 2.3 million in 2013 and six million in 2014. Last year, 7.5 million people, of which 100,000 were tourists, enjoyed the projections.

Light festivals abroad

The two-week light festival in Berlin is held annually in the second half of October. Unlike in Moscow, it does not feature large scale high-tech light shows, emphasising the illumination of the city’s major sights. A special bus will be running during the festival to show you each light installation. Also available are river cruise vessels, bike taxis and even a balloon, all illuminated in different colours. The festival has a cultural and entertainment programme with guided tours, concerts, laser shows and fireworks. The event concluded with a 10-kilometre night marathon in central Berlin.

The Signal festival in Paris is not held yearly. Only the third festival will take place this year, with light installations and a videomapping show in the city centre. 

The Lyon festival is centuries old. It was held for the first time in 1643, during a Europe-wide plague. The city councillors decided to ask the Virgin for protection and pledged to honour her in return. On 8 September the plague ended, leaving Lyon the only city in France nearly completely untouched. The residents made good on their promise and honoured the Blessed Virgin with a statue of gilded bronze. The consecration ceremony, however, had to be postponed to 8 December due to flooding. The winter feast, too, was interrupted by a thunderstorm. When the rain stopped, the residents lit all the fires back up. In that manner, the light festival became a traditional event, turning secular over time. Today, it features performances, concerts and fireworks. 

The Rhein in Flammen (Rhine in Flames) festival takes place not in one city, but in several along the river Rhine. It begins in May in Bonn, and ends in September in Bingen. Here fireworks are the main event. A river vessel parade also takes place, and one-night river trips abound every weekend. Ancient castles and churches are beautifully illuminated.