As trance music plays, revelers move from colored room to colored room – lime green to screaming pink – watching as corners transform their shapes, and people turn into shadows.
For me, it conjures up an uncanny cross between A Clockwork Orange and Eyes Wide Shut. Designed by the UK’s Nottingham–based Architects of Air, the Luminarium – which makes an annual appearance at Budapest’s countercultural Sziget Festival – is equal parts chill-out lounge and modern art installation: a neon labyrinth of permeable plastic (the walls are as little as 0.5 mm thick) into which light kaleidoscopes are projected.
The Luminarium is the iconic heart of the Festival, but is only one of the phantasmagoric, hyper-cool installations enjoyed by the 70,000 daily visitors. Other attractions include a “party train” bringing in attendees from all over Europe and all-night DJs.
The seven-day festival started as a post-Soviet rock festival in the early 1990s but now features an eclectic range of music styles, from blues and jazz to reggae and hip hop. Around 50 stages are dotted around the island, hidden among the trees.
As well as the eclectic music, some 60 different nationalities attend and I can hear languages from all over the world, with a strong Dutch contingent. The island setting – and the reliable summer weather – gives the feel of a small world apart, one with its own rules. No wonder Budapest’s mayor has taken to the courts to try and close it down – or at least quieten it down.
As numbers grow, and noise regulations become stricter, the festival will undoubtedly change, but it remains one of the best in Europe. The Sziget (“Island”) Festival is held every August on Obuda (Old Buda) Island in the Danube.
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