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Hang the chandelier higher
von Richter Claus | 4/22/2010

Trade fairs are always especially great when you are directly involved. It is terribly tiring when you have to spend days on end at a stand, always smile casually at the right moment, collect ugly visiting cards probably from all the wrong people, and in-between all this, if you are lucky, do good business. However, for an unfamiliar visitor trade fairs are completely insane. For me at least. Endless lines of people from all over the world, all sorts of gruesome or wonderful suits, ludicrously narrow off-the-shelf glasses on every second nose and of course masses of unbelievably exciting products. With so many exciting new products around, you eventually either develop a certain tunnel vision from overexertion or you simply collapse.

At this year's Light+Building, not only was there a lot of lighting design, but also a number of strange and magical corners which might have escaped the professional tunnel vision and which visitors who had already collapsed in a heap would also have missed. The free and easy flaneur, however, can experience such trade fairs as a giant Disneyland. And in this case the free and easy flaneur was myself. It was wonderful!

At the beginning, I was less attracted to the elegant products than I was to a young, extremely friendly woman at the General Electrics stand. In a huge, milling mass of people, there she stood calm and optimistic like a happy rock in the breaking surf, talking non-stop. Even an hour later her enthusiasm had not dimmed, she literally glowed from within - which on closer inspection was hardly surprising considering she was actually a projection on a cardboard cutout. An image of a person loop-projected onto the two-dimensional silhouette of a trade fair hostess; not an especially new technique but a strange moving object all the same. How lovely it would be for everyone, I thought, if there were such a happy figure at every stand, "real" people could relax there for a while and have more time for meaningful conversations, and could even perhaps make the odd joke with their virtual colleagues. Moreover, many people love artificial humans, somehow they are easier to understand and always fascinating. Back at the 1964 World Expo, General Electrics engaged Walt Disney to equip whole stands with electro-mechanic figures. I wish the tradition would be reinstated!

The second lovely moment at the Light+Building was a robot. A small yellow industrial robot at the BJB stand, relentlessly assembling lightbox wiring. In wonderful, elegant movements the little machine threaded wires into the boxes with unbelievable precision, fixed them and looked like an ingenious contemporary toy clock while doing so. Are there already lamps attached to the end of a small industrial robot's arm which silently buzz their light cones into the desired corner on demand or via remote control. How would that be? Who would build them?

In Hall 5, to my great delight, Ghidini Light Systems presented a street lantern with a color-changing function. Wouldn't it be great to wander through a sea of slowly pulsating colors on your way home at night. I suspect that this idea would not be able to be implemented so quickly - but at least it could be attempted in one street. Or you could hang giant chandeliers in the street; this would of course be extremely expensive, but in a completely different way to the color-changing streetlights would undoubtedly look magical and calming, and thus eventually even lower the crime rate. Who knows? In Hall 6, incidentally, were the most unbelievably pretentious and gigantic chandeliers I have seen in a long time. Whole stands were hung full of the magnificent crystals, some chandeliers almost touched the ground like landing UFOs, others gathered in twinkling swarms under the ceilings of stands. In these quantities chandeliers are completely over the top and this is precisely what I find so wonderful about trade fairs. Of course it is not the primary aim of a trade fair to create these strangely rapturous moments, however, I believe a visit to the chandelier hall could not fail to leave an impact on the unsuspecting visitor. And often there is an even bigger surprise around the next corner, and believe me there were enough of them at the Light+Building:

Personally, my favorite stand lurked well-hidden in quite unexpected surroundings. The Greek company "Fotodiastasis" had a small stand painted black in the middle of a hall full of elegantly designed lighting systems. The stand was completely filled by two Christmas trees reaching almost to the ceiling - one of them a lush green with exquisite bows and heavy balls, the second in crystalline white, set slightly back with its numerous twinkling lights. Taken so completely out of their context these two towering trees looked like a surreal dream. To the left and right of them were rows of linear switching systems and industrial lighting systems in all their controlled precision. And anyway, I happen to love Christmas decorations. I hope that "Fotodiastasis" will be swamped with orders once the trade fair is over, I have seldom seen more beautiful trees!

And on this note, place your orders and see you at the next trade fair - namely where it's particularly twinkly!

Impressions at the Light+Building 2010 in Frankfurt, photo: Claus Richter
Stand by General Electrics, photo: Claus Richter
Impressions at the Light+Building 2010 in Frankfurt, photo: Claus Richter
Stand by Fotodiastasis
Claus on its favorite stand by Fotodiastasis
Claus Richter (in the middle) during his Light+Building Tour, Foto: Kai Rosenstein