As Lumiere and Winter Lights return to London, we shed light on the glowing installations that are brightening up our gloomy city
1. The virtual flood (above)
What would happen if King’s Cross was totally flooded? ‘Waterlicht’, an immersive installation by artist Daan Roosegaarde, lets you experience just that. Don’t panic, unsuspecting commuters won’t be getting soaked to add to their misery.Instead, Granary Square will be engulfed by waves of ethereal blue light, as a kind of a ‘virtual flood’. Part of the third annual Lumiere London festival, its aim is to get people thinking about global warming and rising sea levels, as well as how we can use water in positive ways, such as generating electricity. There’s even an accompanying soundtrack you can listen to on your phone if you want to be fully immersed. Just keep your eyes peeled to avoid suitcase-wielding passengers rushing for their trains. Granary Square. King’s Cross Tube. Lumiere London is at various locations. Thu Jan 18-Sun Jan 21.
2. The one you control with your mind
Canary Wharf might be more associated with number-crunching than glowing beauty, but that’s set to change as Winter Lights returns for a fourth year, transforming the area with more than 30 incredible light installations. If just looking at art isn’t enough for you, get ready to have your mind properly blown by ‘On Your Wavelength’, an interactive sculpture controlled by your brain through a high-tech headset. As your thought patterns change, so does the sequence of the lights and music. It’s a square tunnel made from an impressive 30,000 LED lights, and you can walk through it feeling all-powerful, knowing that you’re the one calling the shots. Canary Wharf. Canary Wharf Tube. Tue Jan 16-Jan 27, 5pm-10pm.
3. The neon paradise
Tucked away in an unlikely spot on an industrial estate in Walthamstow, God’s Own Junkyard is a luminous wonderland and a mecca for neon fans. It was founded by artist and designer Chris Bracey, who honed his craft making neon signs for Soho’s bars and strip clubs in the ’70s and ’80s, becoming known as the ‘Neon Man’. He sadly passed away in 2014, but his work lives on at this museum, crammed full of hundreds of his artworks, including original signs from Soho’s more debauched days, plus pieces commissioned for films by the likes of Stanley Kubrick and Tim Burton. You could happily spend hours exploring, but be warned: your eyes might feel a bit funny when you return to the outside world. Unit 12, Ravenswood Industrial Estate. Walthamstow Central.
4. The eerie golden gallery
Want to look at the world through a different lens? Step inside Olafur Eliasson’s ‘Room for One Colour’ and you’ll see things with fresh eyes. Well, sort of. The work, currently on show at the National Gallery, totally messes with your vision. Flashy-sounding mono-frequency lamps emit pure yellow light in a completely white room, so the only colours you can see are different shades of yellow. Y’know, a bit like that Coldplay song. Part of ‘Monochrome: Painting in Black and White’, National Gallery. Charing Cross Tube. Until Feb 18. £14-£16.
5. The colourful chronometer
The Hayward Gallery is unveiling its swanky new look this month after a two-year refurbishment designed to let more natural light into the art space. But it’s not just the inside of the gallery that’s getting brightened up. Its iconic roof with 66 glass pyramids, has been restored and transformed into ‘Sixty Minute Spectrum’, a light installation by artist David Batchelor. Over the course of each hour, the roof is flooded with a cycle of vibrant colours, starting with red and moving through the chromatic spectrum – pink, orange, yellow, green, blue, purple and all the colours in between. It’s like a colourful clock, although it’s probably not that useful if you need to know the actual time. Hayward Gallery. Waterloo Tube. Until Mar 25.
6. The swinging birdcage
King’s Cross isn’t just a massive transport hub y’know. Back in 2011, as part of a plan to boost the area’s cultural credentials, a nine-metre rainbow-coloured birdcage dropped in to brighten up the area. Made from more than 7,000 LEDs, ‘Identified Flying Object’ by Jacques Rival lights up at night like a multicoloured beacon. As well as being easy on the eye, the structure features a swing in the middle that anyone can play on, giving you permission to regress and hang out like you did in the park as a teenager. There’s only one, though, so you still might have to compete with several small children to get a go on it. Battle Bridge Place. King’s Cross Tube.
7. The water meter
This glowing light display on the side of the South Bank’s Sea Containers House doesn’t just look pretty, it’s got a brain, too. ‘Thames Pulse’, designed by Jason Bruges and MEC, is keeping an eye on the health of the Thames’s water by taking data from the river and turning it into an aesthetically pleasing light installation. At more than 5,000 square metres it’s the biggest data visualisation project in the world according to its creators. It lights up every evening, using different colours depending on the water’s quality – green and static when it’s declining and flashing pink and blue when it’s improving. Who said science was all periodic tables and bunsen burners? Sea Containers at Mondrian London. Blackfriars Tube.