Enough light for 7 nights

A Dutch artist’s plans to install an enormous green pyramid composed of four laser beams crisscrossing celestial Jerusalem and meeting above the Old City are shelved.

Pyramid of Lights (photo credit: Rob Shrama and Judigor)
Pyramid of Lights
(photo credit: Rob Shrama and Judigor)
Festival of Light, the third annual free celebration of illumination special effects, slated to enlighten the Old City’s ramparts and alleys June 15 to 22, promises to be another brilliant crowd pleaser. But for something truly visionary – an enormous green pyramid composed of four laser beams crisscrossing celestial Jerusalem nightly for a week – you’ll have to wait for June 2012, and hope that Dutch artist Rob Schrama can raise the budget of 53,000 euros.
To date, Schrama has received a pledge of 8,000 euros from the Mondriaan Foundation, an Amsterdam-based cultural fund that encourages the appreciation of the Netherlands’ visual arts, design and cultural heritage.
Last year, the foundation provided 18 million euros in support for 673 projects. While the great majority of that funding went to arts projects in Holland, 2.7m. euros was allocated to 271 installations by Dutch artists in 49 countries outside the Netherlands.
“From far and wide the rays can be seen and will attract the observers towards it. Three of the Pyramid of Light’s laser beams represent the world religions that consider Jerusalem their holy capital; the fourth beam stands for all of the other religions in the world that regard Jerusalem as a holy spot on earth. The beams of light will connect Earth with Heaven, mortality with eternity, humanity with God,” said Schrama in an artist’s statement.
“The laser beams form a pyramid, creating a sacred place to gather underneath. Exactly below the top of this light sculpture, at the crossing of the Christian, Jewish, Muslim and Armenian Quarters, is located the Rooftop Promenade. These rooftops will be accessible during the whole night for everyone who wants to share his love and understanding for humankind with others.”
In October Schrama and Jerusalemite Dvora Perlman – since 2007 the two have been organizing the annual Big Hug around the Old City – met with Zion Turgeman, who was recently appointed director of the Ariel Municipal Company which produces the Festival of Light in collaboration with the Jerusalem Development Authority and the Tourism Ministry.
But in a terse e-mail dated January 11, Turgeman wrote: “We examined the proposal of Pyramid of Light. Unfortunately, we won’t be able to cooperate this year.” Turgeman could not be reached for further comment.
Nevertheless Schrama and Perlman are optimistic Ariel will provide funding for the huge laser pyramid next year. “We’re optimistic about the cooperation of the Jerusalem Municipality for next year, and its support for the long-standing vision of Jerusalem being the center of light for the world. We’re honored that Mr. Turgeman, on behalf of the municipality, has asked us to coordinate the Big Hug with this year’s Festival of Light,” Perlman said.
For the last five years Schrama and Perlman have organized the Big Hug on June 21. “The summer solstice is traditionally called ‘the day of the big light,’ and it connects very well with the Festival of Light and with Jerusalem,” she added.
Some 700 people participated in the 2010 Big Hug, forming a human chain stretching from the Damascus Gate to the Jaffa Gate. Perlman hopes the linking of the Big Hug with the Festival of Light will generate enough support to enable a ring of people encircling the Old City. As in past years, the Big Hug will be followed by an en masse drumming circle in Kikar Tzahal, she said.
Perlman noted applications have been made to a number of arts foundations to secure funding for the 2012 laser pyramid.
How viable is the green pyramid? Russell Abel of Showdesign Ltd., the laser light company that supplies laser equipment and programs shows for the Jerusalem Festival of Light as well as many other public events worldwide, cautioned that while Schrama’s Pyramid could be very dramatic when viewed from a predetermined position under the meeting point of the beams, it won’t be universally visible, due to the nature of the laser.
“The beam, although very powerful and bright, is a very narrow beam because of its single wavelength, and therefore is not always visible from a side view,” he explained. The most visually striking view is from in front of the laser beam, he added.
“It won’t look like the pyramid Mr. Schrama has created with PhotoShop. While there will be four beams, viewers will only appreciate the pyramid effect while standing on a rooftop at the center of the Old City at the crossroads of the four quarters beneath the spot where the beams intersect. From any other vantage, say the Jaffa Gate, you may only see two beams – or less.
Still, symbolically it’s a great idea,” said Abel, who first brought lasers to Israel 22 years ago.
Abel suggested that insofar as all four beams will be visible only from a fixed position, an alternative venue to achieve an even more dramatic visible effect would be the Haas Promenade south of the Old City. There the four beams could be focused from the four corners of the Old City towards a point above the promenade, creating a pyramid that could be seen from multiple perspectives.
“This will give the effect of Schrama’s Pyramid of Light that you see in the picture he created with Photoshop,” said Abel, even if the Festival of Light has always been located in the Old City.