Lux Europae Edinburgh 1992
Lux Europae was an international arts festival and a celebration of light. The festival marked the occasion of the summit held in Edinburgh, December 1992, for European leaders from the twelve European member states that made up the EC at the time.
Aware that such a visible opportunity for cultural activity at government level was a rarity, even within the context of the European Community, Isabel relished the moment that she was appointed Exhibition Director for the festival in 1991. Her appointment immediately followed twelve-months cover at Arts Council of Great Britain as Senior Arts Officer.
The original idea for the festival being placed on an international footing was formed by the European Community Cultural Co-operation Committee, known as EC4, based in Edinburgh. Its aim was to encourage cultural representatives of EC member states to foster cultural initiatives with grass roots communities in Scotland.
The idea that the festival theme should be about light came from the desire to herald the summit using a universal metaphor of affirmation, to launch successful discussion among representatives of the twelve nations. The positive note light brings to any occasion is manifest in the tradition of winter festivals in northern Europe and Asia like St Martin’s Day (Armistice Day) and Diwali that occur in November to raise the spirits during the long dark winter nights.
It was also felt that Edinburgh was a suitable setting for widespread illumination. The city is topographically dramatic with different neighbourhoods built on levels that ensure their own identity, as well as ensuring an overall cinematic quality, with several strategic viewpoints across its axis. Many of the key buildings are particularly well-lit, providing a coherent and appropriately dark velvety backdrop for art installations using light.
The budget of 800,000 GBP was raised by Art Project Management (Art Office’s initial incarnation) to be devoted to commissioning 35 light-based art works and installations by European artists located throughout central Edinburgh. While the scope of the exhibition was international, it was decided at an early point, before the selection of artists began in earnest, that there should be a strong presentation of Scottish artists.
Through the portal of cultural exchange artists are among the most mobile people on the planet. Selection of the thirty-five artists was made based upon where each artist was located, as well as the strength of their individual proposals. Several of the artists selected were born in countries different from where they were resident, a few pursued aspects of their work through transgressing national borders.
‘Over thirty artists from the member countries of the Community have worked together within the city to create a common manifestation in which their separate identities will hardly be apparent. Presented thus, art is not something apart, but a way of articulating what is shared.’