'City Gazing Dubai' builds an astronomical experience of the overview effect

The light art installation City Gazing Dubai by VOUW Studio, suspended over DIFC Gate, forges a relationship between human progress, connection and sustainability.

by Dilpreet BhullarPublished on : Feb 27, 2022

The light art installations by VOUW Studio are a reflection of the commitment of the Amsterdam-based design group to let the viewers see and experience their surroundings with a new perspective. The installation artist Mingus Vogel co-founded VOUW with Justus Bruns in 2017. With the aim to go beyond the obvious purpose of the technology, i.e. a means of efficiency and productivity, VOUW pioneered ‘slowtech’. Such designs allow the viewers to take a pause from the hustled life to draw attention towards the presence of real-world connections. 

City Gazing Dubai builds a network of human progress, connection and sustainability | City Gazing Dubai | STIRworld

City Gazing Dubai builds a network of human progress, connection and sustainability

Image: Nowfal Nawas, Courtesy of VOUW Studio

From the intersection of social cohesion, art and technology, the interactive installations produced by the studio have the viewers recognise their environment to build an organic relationship with humans. This was made evident with their unique installation art Bloomlight, one of the many light installations by VOUW, with a series of lanterns. The motion of grass in the wind and the issue of light pollution inspires it. When approached by the passers-by, the large scale art installation responds as if it is an organic creature. The dark lanterns bend toward the visitors and unfurl a soft light. When the visitors retreat from the immersive installation, it goes dark again. 

City Gazing Dubai, 2021, LED lights, VOUW Studio | City Gazing Dubai | STIRworld
City Gazing Dubai, 2021, LED lights, VOUW Studio Image: Nowfal Nawas, Courtesy of VOUW Studio

Once again, VOUW Studio with the latest lighting installation City Gazing Dubai brings viewers close to their city with an aim to raise their awareness on sustaining its healthy environment. The public installation, suspended over DIFC Gate, is a rendition of satellite images of Dubai made with 18m by 11m of LEDs set to music score composed by Darius Timmer. The visitors stand under the illuminated map of Dubai to see how it has transmuted from a few key arterial roads into the singular metropolis with a global outlook. As it highlights the development of the city against the backdrop of the desert sky, City Gazing Dubai aims to build a network of human progress, connection and sustainability. The installation offers people an opportunity to experience the ‘overview effect’ – experienced by the astronauts who see the planet from the vast and open space. The moment is recognition of the fragile state of the planet Earth and how everything is interconnected. This idea to translate the ‘overview effect’ onto an animated sound installation was also showcased in cities like Singapore, Beijing and Amsterdam. 

City Gazing Dubai suspended over DIFC Gate | City Gazing Dubai | STIRworld
City Gazing Dubai suspended over DIFC Gate Image: Daryll Borja, Courtesy of VOUW Studio

In an interview with STIR, Vogel and Bruns talk about their fascination with the built environment and lights, “What we are trying to do is to give people an idea of what it looks like to see the city from space and to make it seem like it is almost as a sort of a breathing organism that grows and sometimes even shrinks. Especially with Dubai, this is interesting because it is a city in the desert, so it is much more vulnerable than other cities.The idea is to give this interesting perspective from a whole different angle than you are used to and give you the idea that you are the astronaut floating above the city while you are still standing on the ground.”

VOUW studio, creator of City Gazing Dubai pioneered 'slowtech | City Gazing Dubai | STIRworld
VOUW studio, creator of City Gazing Dubai pioneered ‘slowtech’ Image: Daryll Borja, Courtesy of VOUW Studio

Furthermore, the artist-duo gives an explicit account of the making of the art installation starting from the astronauts' perspective, “We are looking at images from the space of Dubai, and we look at which places are lit up. You can see some spaces are not lit up, like the second Palm Island that is not lit up or the islands are not lit up, where we have the world shape map. It is interesting to see that human beings actively use those places that are lit up, and maybe in the future, these other places will be lit. The start of this project was how can we give people a sort of a space where people get together and meet but also marvel and think about the future of their city and how it has developed, but also to realise that they have to take care of it. In the way we should be careful, that we do not waste what we have and we need to treat that living organism well that is that blue dot we called planet Earth.”

City Gazing Dubai let the people experience city from a different perspective| City Gazing Dubai | STIRworld
City Gazing Dubai let people experience city from a different perspective Image: Daryll Borja, Courtesy of VOUW Studio

Since the large-scale sculptural installations are driven by the lights aimed to simulate the city it could pose a challenge at the stage of making. Aware of certain limitations, Vogel and Bruns expound, “What is interesting though is that you can really experiment with new techniques to get this done, so every map we create, in this case Dubai, is very unique and opposes also in some new ways to explore technologies, how you can maybe make the roads bend a little bit better than in some other cases.” 

01 min watch Live view of City Gazing Dubai| City Gazing Dubai| STIRworld
Live view of City Gazing Dubai Video: Courtesy of VOUW Studio

As an art and design studio, VOUW has continued to make large-scale installations to illuminate the urban cityscape and let the people see their city from a different perspective. Besides celebrating the city and its history, Vogel and Bruns maintain, "The goal is also to take care of it and to take care of the planet as a whole, but especially in this case about taking care of Dubai.”

  • City Gazing Dubai is a rendition of satellite images of Dubai made with 18m by 11m of LEDs| City Gazing Dubai | STIRworld
    City Gazing Dubai is a rendition of satellite images of Dubai made with 18m by 11m of LEDs Image: Daryll Borja, Courtesy of VOUW Studio
  • Justus Bruns and Mingus Vogel | VOUW Studio | STIRworld
    Justus Bruns and Mingus Vogel Image: Courtesy of VOUW Studio

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