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On Saturday, I set out to experience Illuminus—a contemporary arts festival in Downtown Crossing that revolves around the theme of light. Since its inception in 2014, Illuminus has been an annual event, bringing together various artists who work with light and sound, lighting up the Boston community. This year’s festival included twenty-three projects and performances, each exploring some aspect or combination of the visual and aural.
Each project was unique: some exhibits were interactive, while others scaled entire buildings. As I first entered the area, I heard an arrangement of “I Want You Back” in the background, performed by a band with instruments covered in lights.
Certain projects, like “Antipode Tunnel” by Vanessa Hafenbrädl and Ellen Oliver, were crowd favorites, commanding long lines that I didn’t dare to wait in. The exhibit rewarded those patient enough to wait with a multi-sensory experience, featuring a tunnel made with projection video, fog, and a dancer in the center.
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Among my favorite projects were “me(n)w(o)me(n),” by Max Schaffer, and “HeartHug,” by Izobrulo Polylight, Ilya Sobol, and Ivan Kabalin. me(n)w(o)me(n) featured two bathroom signs, the typical two designated for men and for women. However, they were made up of various lights. As certain parts of each sign lit up or turned off, the gender-defining aspects of each sign changed or disappeared, and the old traditional boundaries of gender blurred. The project highlighted the ease at which such binary-enforcing signs could be modified to be more inclusive.
On the more heartwarming side, “HeartHug” featured a large heart-shaped installation that would light up as people hugged underneath it. The project attracted couples, friends, and family members alike, and made for a wholesome sight.
If you couldn’t make it to this year’s Illuminus, mark your calendars for next year! The projects were vibrant, thought-provoking, and awe-inspiring, and is certainly worth a visit, even if it’s just to spice up your Instagram feeds. I know I’ll be there!