In the first of a series of posts dedicated to artists working with light, published in association with Aurea by Philips, Gavin Lucas speaks to the “lightwriting” collective, Lichtfaktor, about their work.
Lichtfaktor – a collective of like-minded VJs and graffiti artists based in Cologne, Germany – comprises the talents of $ehvermögen, JIAR and 10X (real names Marcel Panne, David Lüpschen and Tim Fehske). The trio collaborated and developed the artform they refer to as “lightwriting” when Panne, a photographer and resident VJ of Drum & Bass label Basswerk, was commissioned to create a video projection for the Deutscher Ärzte Verlag that visualised the theme Energy In Motion.
We caught up with Lichtfaktor’s $ehvermögen to find out more about the collective and about lightwriting.
Short film, Starwars v Startrek
CR: Tell us a bit more about yourselves and your backgrounds.
LICHTFAKTOR: I’m a phtographer and VJ, David Lüpschen (JIAR) is a communication designer, illustrator and graffiti-artist and Tim Fehske (10X) is a VJ and musician studying theatre, film and television science at Cologne University. We sometimes work with (Mrs. Ducktank) and we always work with the same musician, The Green Man, real name Heiner Kruse, who has been DJing since 1984 and is the founder of label Basswerks – a Drum & Bass label for which I am the resident VJ.
CR: Who or what are your influences?
LICHTFAKTOR: We are influenced by Picasso, marko-93 and PIKAPIKA, graffiti, street art and visual music. Some of our all-time heroes include Wolf Vostell, Chargesheimer, Stanley Kubrick, David Lynch, George Lucas, Oskar Fischinger, Laurie Anderson.
CR: Do you see yourselves as artists or film-makers – or both?
LICHTFAKTOR: Our work to date has been heavily influenced by streetart/graffiti but you also find elements of early abstract films (by the likes of Oskar Fischinger) and VJing. There is always a dialogue between the world of graffiti and that of music visuals and it is interesting for both sides because graffiti artists mostly don’t think in animations, time and movement – and for VJs it is interesting to produce footage in a graffiti manner and it is also the style and way of life that graffiti stands for.
CR: You use the phrase “lightwriting”…
LICHTFAKTOR: With “lightwriting” we are able to get the best from photography, painting/graffiti and stop-motion film-making techniques and by combining all these elements together in our work we can go new ways and realise ideas in a fresh way.
CR: How did this form of art occur? Were you the first to do it?
LICHTFAKTOR: No, we were not the first to use the photographic technique of light painting; Picasso, for example, had already made some pictures this way! But we think we are the first group that does animations with in-camera light paintings and has this graffiti background. Actually, there are many lightwriters with different skills and backgrounds and for more information do check our webpage www.lichtfaktor.eu
CR: Do you prefer to work with certain equipment or in certain places?
LICHTFAKTOR: We like the contrast in effect between different light sources. For example, Xenon gives a nice golden look, while with LEDs you can create thin, precise lines, and cold cathode light sources allow you to create a fat-nibbed marker pen style.
We put glasses and other different things on our various light sources to get different shapes and colours or we use multi LED lights and colour filters… We like green, pink, magenta. And we like it when the environment in which we’re creating our work is integrated well into the picture. Like the trashcans in our Starwars vs. Startrek film.
CR: Do you plan your shots, and then go on the field to take them, or is improvising a big factor of your work?
LICHTFAKTOR: Most of the time we know what we want to draw before we go out, but we are always inspired by the places and situations we shoot in. And because it’s a live process it’s always somehow improvised because you can’t plan everything before you actually take the pictures.
CR: In practice, how similar is the thing that you imagine you are drawing to the final outcome?
LICHTFAKTOR: We have practiced so much that we are quite precise now. We know our skills (lightwriting), what the different types of lights will look like and we’ve got the camera skills to get the results we’re after.
CR: Do you think of light-painting as an evolution of graffiti?
LICHTFAKTOR: For us it is an evolution and a chance to animate graffiti characters in urban landscapes. But in general we would say that graffiti is graffiti and lightgraffiti is lightgraffiti.
CR: For any budding lightwriters out there – do you have any tips?
LICHTFAKTOR: To get the best results you need a tripod. The exposure should be around 10-30 seconds or longer if needed. Stay in front of the camera and do your writing. Do not overexpose! Set the camera to about iso100, and close your aperture as much as possible. If there is still too much light you might have to use an nd-filter. It is always nice to integrate the surrounding into your picture.
We have a collection of flashlights, biking-lights and flashing LED lights which all work with batteries so that we are mobile – and you also get nice results with fireworks and torches .
There are 3 different type of lights we use:
1. Xenon: makes a warm golden light.
2. LED: makes a thin precise line.
3. Cold cathode: thick line.
But the best results experiment using filters and things which reflect light.
See Lichtfaktor’s website for more info and to view more of their work.
As part of our series on artists working with light, published in association with Aurea by Philips, CR commissioned Lichtfaktor to create a new film which will debut exclusively on the CR Blog on 8 October. Here are some stills from the project:
UPDATE: Here’s the film.