18th July, 1992. Where Were You?

By Chris Moore

16 July 2015

Do you recall Saturday the 18th of July 1992? Were you even born by the 18th of July 1992? 

If you don’t, or you weren’t, then you won’t know that it was a pleasant, mild sunny day interspersed with patches of white, fluffy clouds and warm breezes in central London. Just the kind of day for being outdoors. The kind of day that lifts your spirits and makes you feel good about the world.

It’s also the day that environmental engineers at Max Fordham used as the basis for their S.A.D. SKY art installation featured on a wintery February night at Protein Gallery in Shoreditch. The lighting display, created from iridescent film, aluminium foil, coloured lights and a computer control system, took data from the 18th of July 1992 to inform the art work in the main gallery space.

 The gently undulating lux levels of daylight on Saturday 18th July, 1992 in London

A bumper crowd gathered at the gallery and witnessed sixteen hours of summer sunshine pass over their heads in just three hours. From a rosy red sunrise through a cool blue day, into a warm sunny afternoon with passing clouds and a long dusk, art lovers marked the oncoming summer with a reminder of what it looks like.

A brilliant sunrise greeted guests on Opening Night

S.A.D. SKY was the focal point at Protein Gallery

The clouds cleared to a bright blue sky’

The project was conceived as a response to Seasonal Affective Disorder, or S.A.D., an affliction that blights many Brits over the long winter months. S.A.D. is a type of depression related to the change in seasons. Symptoms of sufferers include less energy and more mood swings. Sunlight is a natural aid to the condition – enhancing our circadian rhythms, increasing alertness and lifting our mood.

Sunlight aids our circadian rhythms

The Max Fordham engineers experimented with light qualities of a number of different materials for the installation. They settled on an iridescent plastic film that, when lit from below, gave them the quality of luminescence and dynamic sense of movement they were looking for. A board placed on the ceiling and wrapped in old-fashioned tin foil reflected back onto the film, reducing light loss and increasing the ‘feel-good’ factor.

Development drawing of the art work’

Before the crowds arrived

In the days leading up to Opening Night at Protein Gallery, the team from Max Fordham constructed the installation, from the structural frame that housed the lights and computer to the suspended plastic film and reflective ceiling board. Saturday the 18th of July 1992 may not live large in the memory, but it served as a compelling focal point of oscillating sunshine and passing cloud for London art lovers willing the impending summer towards them.

Rapid daylight fluctuations data generates a control signal for the lights’

The Max Fordham team testing the set-up before the launch

A full house at Protein Gallery for opening night


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