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Visitors gather before a projection at the LUMA Projection Arts Festival
Visitors gather before a projection at the LUMA Projection Arts Festival | © Van Zandbergen Photography
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The LUMA Projection Arts Festival Returns to Binghamton, NY

Picture of Rachel Gould
Art & Design Editor
Updated: 22 August 2018
The LUMA Projection Arts Festival returns to Binghamton, NY, in September, with three days of mind-bending light projections, 3D animations and immersive experiences.

Street photographer, film editor, event planner and 15-year Binghamton resident Joshua Bernard Ludzki was in search of an unconventional contribution to the city’s roster of cultural events when he noted the rising popularity of projection arts festivals in Europe – a heavily visual, high-tech art form that had yet to gain traction in the US.

A rendering of 'The Machine' by Favorite Color
A rendering of ‘The Machine’ by Favorite Color | Courtesy of LUMA Projection Arts

Binghamton’s thriving art scene, tight-knit community and accessibility from its Upstate New York neighbors Ithaca and Syracuse made it the perfect site for a new arts event of this magnitude. With a fleet of artists, engineers and high-powered machines, Ludzki presented the first-ever LUMA Projection Arts Festival in 2015 with an eye towards promoting local culture and boosting tourism.

Now billed as “America’s premiere projection arts festival,” LUMA transforms Binghamton buildings with kaleidoscopic light projections and 3D animations. Powered by an arsenal of 20,000-lumen projectors – compare that to an office projector, which uses around 3,000 lumens – the 2018 LUMA festival is slated to be the most ambitious edition yet with a compelling and visually stunning roster, from fiber optic fashion events to elaborate multidisciplinary performances utilizing avant garde digital technologies.

LUMA kicks off on September 7 with Reflection by the projection art collective Hypnotica, which simulates participants’ faces in 3D through a “frenetic digital particle field” and projects them across six stories of a building. The festival ends two days later with renowned composer Eric Ross’s Music From the Future, a music and dance performance featuring the theremin – a revolutionary electronic instrument played via antennae and without physical touch.

Transfiguracio, a ticketed performance featuring the 44-piece Binghamton Philharmonic, is central to this year’s festival. Presented inside the centuries-old United Presbyterian Church in downtown Binghamton, this emotive four-movement concert unites music, light and architecture.

Onionlab's 'Transfiguracio'
Onionlab’s ‘Transfiguracio’ | Courtesy of LUMA Projection Arts

“It’s a gorgeous, meditative piece of music,” Ludzki tells Culture Trip. A performance of this kind has been done just once before in Girona, Spain with a 10-piece chamber orchestra, but Ludzki is bringing it to “a more intimate space” and expanding it to a full symphonic experience that produces a huge, enveloping sound. “It’s totally organic, and the acoustics of the church capture the design,” Ludzki says.

Ludzki and his team are also rolling out the “LUMA Storytellers Conference” on September 9. Guest speakers include writers, animators and directors who work in music, film, theater and AR/VR technology to discuss the future of storytelling – a communal experience that Ludzki aims to revive by providing magnificent, immersive attractions for large audiences to share.

'The Truth Shall Set You Free' by Light Harvest
‘The Truth Shall Set You Free’ by Light Harvest | Courtesy of LUMA Projection Arts

“A lot of people treat projection mapping as spectacle, like fireworks,” Ludzki says. “The first LUMA festival was great, but we wondered, ‘Ten years down the road, is anyone going to care about what is essentially hi-tech fireworks?’ We wanted to make this sustainable, so we advanced [the festival] to a narrative artform. We’re looking to storytellers and encouraging our artists not to just do the fanciest, craziest special effects they can do, but to do something that will engage people emotionally.”

Since its launch three years ago, LUMA has attracted visitors from all over the world, but it remains a small-town venture at its core. “Everyone in the community [has got] involved and we wouldn’t have been able to pull it off otherwise,” says Ludzki, citing the artist who opened his loft to house three colossal projectors ahead of the first LUMA festival, and the city’s cooperation with street closures and building takeovers.

MAXIN10SITY's 'The Neon Unconscious'
MAXIN10SITY’s ‘The Neon Unconscious’ | Courtesy of LUMA Projection Arts

“Today, from artists to engineers to city workers and designers, LUMA represents the work of hundreds,” explains the LUMA website. “We believe when we give artists the freedom to play, the results are incomparable.”

The 2018 LUMA Projection Arts Festival takes place across Binghamton, NY, from September 7-9 2018. LUMA events are free to the public unless otherwise stated. Tickets for Transfiguracio can be purchased here. Find the full list of 2018 features here.