Speed of Light Yokohama

Yokohama, Japan.

3 & 4 November 2012
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Building on the success of the Edinburgh International Festival world premiere, NVA’s Speed of Light made its international debut in Japan.

In partnership with the British Council in Japan, Speed of Light Yokohama was presented as part of Smart Illumination Yokohama, which took place from 31 October to 4 November 2012. The annual festival, themed on sustainability and energy-saving technology, commissioned NVA to create a moving nightscape throughout Yokohama’s concentrated urban environment over two nights of the festival.

Creative Director Angus Farquhar collaborated with Japanese choreographer Makiko Izu, Director of Tokyo-based performance company Grinder Man, and lighting designer Phil Supple to develop a response to the city. Titled 3 movements, 100 choreographed runners transcribed elevated walkways, streets and waterfront esplanades creating a carefully woven series of light patterns.

Sparkling lines of runners, each generating their own power and animated by remotely controlled wireless technologies, released a stunning new visual language across an 8km route culminating on the breathtaking Osanbashi International Ferry Terminal.

“A small creative team from Scotland and 50 light suits can demonstrate a large scale public artwork with minimum infrastructure, utilising energy efficient LED and control systems. The work is delivered with locally-recruited technicians and runners, who will be responding to the unique architecture surrounding Yokohama’s waterfront and harbour areas.”

– Angus Farquhar, Creative Director, NVA

Speed of Light Yokohama was presented in partnership with the British Council Japan and presented as part of the Smart Illumination Yokohama, an annual festival themed on sustainability and energy-saving technology.

Smart Illumination Yokohama was established following the Great East Japan Earthquake of 2011 and reflects the increasing need to utilize LED lights, solar panels and other alternative energy generation methods and energy storing systems. www.smart-illumination.jp

Speed of Light Yokohama image Amano Studio


“We are delighted that NVA has chosen Yokohama, one of the most internationally-minded cities in Japan, as the place for the first international collaboration for this fascinating art work. Its focus on innovative lighting technology as well as human movement and mass participation fits well in a Japan where new energy-saving technology and collective action, along with the recognition of the need for a creative response from the arts, are all features of the aftermath of the Great East Japan Earthquake in March 2011.

In the British Council in Japan we are fond of saying how creative the UK is and how many opportunities there are for the development of partnerships with the very special creativity of Japan. Well, here is a very exciting example of this. I’m sure that the blending of sport and art in this way will be very exciting for audiences here and I am very excited that so many people at the Smart Illumination Yokohama 2012 will be able to experience this wonderful and unique collaboration between the UK and Japan.”

– Manami Yuasa, Head of Arts British Council Japan

“Making Speed of Light in Japan was a wonderful challenge. Devised in a relatively short lead-in time rather than the years it took to conceive the work and develop the bespoke lighting technology, it was quite a leap into the dark for NVA. The public artwork was first shown on a dark and very old natural landscape, Arthur’s Seat – a small mountain in Scotland, as part of the London 2012 Olympic cultural programme in partnership with Edinburgh International Festival.

Speed of Light Yokohama image Amano Studio


Yokohama Docks therefore represented a vastly different arena where there would be competing with existing urban realm lighting and a confused tangle of architectural backgrounds. The city of Yokohama has grown to become Japan’s second-largest city since opening its port to the world over 150 years ago. With a population of 3.67 million – and a culture distinct from neighbouring Tokyo – Yokohama offers an enticing cityscape that includes historic port architecture, a scenic harbour and landscaped parks and gardens.

We were overwhelmed by the response of local runners, their patience, dedication and levels of concentration and the immense logistical efforts worked through collectively with the Smart Illumination festival and the British Council. It was, as a result, a genuine interaction between two cultures on a profound level and made a performance that reflected both its roots and core intentions as well as its new urban home. The subtle lines of LED runners complimented the modernist built environment, adding a new visual language across a series of landmark sites including the Foreign Office designed International Ferry Terminal, Zou-no-hana Terrace and Yamashita Park.”

– Angus Farquhar, Creative Director


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