The Phoenix des Lumières exhibition , Source: City of Dortmund

Lights turn old industrial site in Dortmund into an immersive art piece

Lights turn old industrial site in Dortmund into an immersive art piece

Phoenix des Lumières will be an ongoing exhibition until 31 December 2023

Last week, authorities in Dortmund announced the opening of a new exhibition called Phoenix des Lumières (Phoenix of Lights). The exhibition reimagines Phoenix West, an old factory-turned concert hall, into an immersive visual piece with projectors and sound effects. It also provides one answer to the brewing question – what should cities do with desolate industrial sites?

The exhibition opened on 28 January and will run the entire year (31 December), with local authorities expecting upwards of 500,000 visitors from Germany and abroad. In fact, they go as far as describing Phoenix des Lumières as the highlight of the cultural scene in Dortmund for 2023.

Let there be light!

The breathtaking art piece has been made by the French company Culturespaces, which has several similar projects: in New York, Paris, Amsterdam and more. The Phoenix des Lumières took an impressive 110 video projectors, 28 loudspeakers and 10 subwoofers to create.

The projectors showcase a combination of art pieces by Viennese artists Gustav Klimpt and Friedensreich Hundertwasser. Klimt famously painted with gold leaf and other decorative elements making light and shimmering an essential part of his work. In turn, this lends itself perfectly to the light and dark design of the Phoenix des Lumières.

Hundertwasser, on the other hand, is much more popular for his playful and curvy architectural designs where colour and abstract shapes come to the foreground.  These two styles blend together and create a visual pastiche within the historic space.

Post-industrial sites 

Phoenix West was built in 1905 and functioned as a gas blower for the blast furnaces of the local steelworks. However, with the death of the coal and steel industry in Europe near the end of the 20th century it fell into irrelevance, along with many industrial sites along the Rhine river and the infamous Ruhr Valley -  formerly an industrial powerhouse on a global scale.

In 2002, the site gained heritage status for Dortmund and has been used as a cultural space ever since. The Phoenix des Lumière is the first exhibition of this scope, however. Other cities have also opted to convert their leftover industrial infrastructure into cultural spaces, a big example being Esch-sur-Alzette in nearby Luxembourg.



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