They Were Here

Glowing sculpture installation
Kymenlaakso museum, Kotka, Finland, and several other places

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“They were here” brings former residents of any historical place to life. I think people never truly disappear without a trace: we can still hear words, steps and even breaths taken from long ago. Persons from the past wander in the park, meet each other in the street and enjoy fresh air on the balcony.

In UV light, figures bent from wire and sprayed with fluorescent paint come to life like ghosts. These translucent characters blend in with their environment, and surroundings of old quarters or an old park become part of the work. The stylised figures remind on line drawings, but are three-dimensional. By daytime they are almost invisible or look like ink graphics.

The project started  in 2015 with 12 first sculptures (see, it is still growing and changing all the time. Now there are more than 60 natural-size figures to choose from – females and males, grown-ups and children, cats and dogs, rats and bats. They represent different times from the ancient ages till 1940s. The installation has been shown in different festivals and exhibitions, both in- and outdoors, under the name «They Were Here» (LUX Helsinki 2016, LUMO Oulu 2016, Helsinki city museum 2016, Bella Skyway Torun 2017, Fête de la Lumière, Chartres 2017, City of Light Jyväskylä 2017, Staro Riga 2017, Klaipeda Light Festival 2018 and 2019, Seinäjoki ValotON-festival 2019, Salo art museum 2109, Kouvola city museum 2019 and Kymenlaakso museum, Kotka, 2020). In some places it was named “Ghostly Guests” or “Mystical Guests” (Light of Jerusalem 2018, Festival of Lights Berlin 2019). For every new show I choose (and sometimes produce) sculptures fitting to the available environment and making the installation truly site-specific.

The magic atmosphere of the show is supported by a musical background, a collage from fragments of music from different ages.

Photos on this site represent different versions of the installation in different cities and museums.

Photos: Alexander Reichstein