Speed of Light

International Touring Artwork

  • Description
  • Further Info
  • Commissioning
  • Creative Team

Speed of Light is a stunning public art performance fusing sport and culture that raises endurance running to the realm of the extraordinary through the mass choreography of hundreds of runners in wireless controlled light-suits.

“It is beautiful and it is breathtaking”

– The Arts Journal

As a site responsive work Speed of Light is a physical articulation of space and location as well as a more detailed exploration of collective action, intentional movement and a unique application of digital lighting technologies involving minimum production infrastructure. All the equipment is worn by the participants and controlled using a remote wireless system.

Since 2012, when the work was first premiered as part of the Edinburgh International Festival and London Cultural Olympiad, Speed of Light has been commissioned and staged in Japan, Germany and the UK in Salford. More recently it was the unanimous highlight of the 2014 Yorkshire Festival staged as part of the Grand Depart celebrations for the Tour de France.

NVA's Speed of Light Ruhr. Photo: Alan McAteer

This latest work Ghost Peloton explores a new application of light, movement and landscape on racing bikes. Inspired by the wheel in motion, Ghost Peloton engages amateur cyclists and flatland BMX riders into a choreographed live performances set in an open-air velodrome. You can see the first results in a stunning short film [link] directed by Mark Huskisson which has been seen by 120,000 people since its recent global release.

“If human-powered transportation were always this beautiful, maybe a lot more of us would be pedalling around”

– Huffington Post

For an audience Speed of Light can been seen as a piece of abstract public art, operating at the grandest scale, where the physical landscape is an open canvas. It stimulates and provokes changes in attitude to sustainability, health and well-being and public arts practice through the wholly innovative integration of sport and culture.


In 2010 NVA established a Creative Team led by head designer James Johnson and lighting designer Phil Supple, to find out if runners could ‘harvest’ their own energy through self-generating dynamo systems as well as carry their own power to illuminate their passage. We designed flickering light sources that could be powered by hand movement alone. These were incorporated into bespoke LED light suits containing portable battery packs and remote wireless technologies.

The suits worn by participants are individually controlled from a central system which can instantaneously change colour, flash-rate and luminosity producing stunning light patterns made by the choreographed actions of lines of runners. With Ghost Peloton along with the cyclists in light suits, each bike wheel has separate lighting control, adding another rich layer to the design.

Speed of Light Edinburgh image Toby Williams

Commissioning Speed of Light

Speed of Light offers a sustainable production model making unforgettable and impactful public art in public spaces through environmental animation and collective action. With minimal infrastructure and on- site requirements and all light sources worn by participants, the performance is transferable between outdoor spaces, buildings and structures.

We have presented the work in sensitive rural environments to the extremes of post-industrial landscapes, but in each location it allows us to look again at familiar or previously unseen space, and recognise their beauty and significance. The work uses light as a medium to communicate both the energy and commitment of each individual and the beauty of people working together bound by as strange symmetry and a common purpose.

NVA's Speed of Light Yokohama. Photo: Amano Studio

Angus Farquhar
Creative Director, NVA
Angus Farquhar, Creative Director of NVA was born in Aberdeenshire in 1961 and grew up in Edinburgh. A degree in English and Drama at Goldsmith’s College, University of London, led to 10 years as a core member of Test Dept, a radical music collective based in New Cross, South London. Returning to Scotland in 1989, Angus re-initiated the Beltane Fire Festival and has produced and directed NVA’s temporary and permanent public art works and events since its inception in 1992. Angus is the Creative Director for Speed of Light and Ghost Peloton, working in collaboration with James Johnson, Phil Supple and new choreographers, composers, new media, filmmakers and photographers for each new location.

Phil Supple
Associate Director and Lighting Designer
Phil grew up in Croydon, South London and studied Archaeology at Newcastle University. Two decades later, Phil is a Lighting Designer specialising in outdoor, site specific and landscape projects. Recent work includes Aisling’s Children for Homecoming 2009, Northumberland Lights and The Electric Forest with Culture Creative and The Mill Project , highly commended at The Lighting Design Awards 2011. Phil has collaborated with NVA on various projects since 2007 and has been Lighting Designer on Speed of Light since its inception in 2012. youtube.com/philsupple

James Johnson
Head Designer
Born in Aberdeen James went on to study at the Royal College of Art and Imperial College London, gaining a Masters in Industrial Design Engineering. He has since worked around the world with renowned designer Jasper Morrison, film director and exhibition designer Murray Grigor, architect Norman Foster and architect, artist and engineer Santiago Calatrava.

Since moving back to Scotland and setting up getmade design, he has worked with NVA on numerous projects, most recently creating the light sticks and suits for Speed of Light, and the bike light technology for Ghost Peloton. He specialises in the design of bespoke installations, lighting, furniture and visualisation. Recent projects include designer for Cryptic’s Sound to the Sea’ Glasgow’ and a range of furniture installed in the newly refurbished National Theatre, London. James is also a tutor at the Royal College of Art in London and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts. getmade.co.uk

Past Collaborators:
Sharon Watson, Choreographer
Charis Osbourne, Associate Choreographer
Mark Huskisson/Reset Films, Filmmaker & Director
Ant Davey (Frame Missing), Composer
NOVAK Collective, Live Event Visual Design
Ivana Kisic, Associate Choreographer
Wiebke Rompel, Visual Designer
Pipo Tafel, Choreographer
Makiko Izu, Choreographer
Ed Baxter & Chris Weaver, Resonance Radio Orchestra
Litza Bixler, Choreographer


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