We’re delighted that County Durham is now among the four locations shortlisted for UK City of Culture 2025! It’s an exciting time to highlight Lumiere and its longstanding relationship with Durham. In this blog post, we caught up with Tendayi and Bea to learn about their experience creating an artwork for the festival through the BRILLIANT scheme.
BRILLIANT is a commissioning scheme aimed at encouraging anyone (aged 18 or older) to suggest their brightest idea for an artwork as part of the Lumiere programme. Last year for the first time the invitation to apply was extended to the whole of the UK.
Each of the six winning artworks responded to the extraordinary time we have lived through during the pandemic, reflecting on how we have reconnected to, and found solace in, our homes, local communities and the natural world. Tendayi & Bea’s piece, Limina, invited visitors to immerse themselves in liquid light.
Tendayi is an artist and educator in London and Bea is a production designer based in Bristol.
Hi Bea and Tendayi. Could you describe your BRILLIANT artwork?
Limina was situated under the viaduct arch in Durham City during Lumiere. It’s a black monolith like the one in Stanley Kubrick’s film, 2001: A Space Odyssey.
It was inspired by the water patterns of the River Wear. When visitors approach, ephemeral patterns are activated, creating moving light paintings.
How was the piece created?
This idea came about when we were in the middle of lockdown. It was interesting forming an idea while working remotely. We would usually work together in a studio environment. We tested ideas by talking about them, visualising them and testing things out with material, drawings and sketches.
The materials that we ended up working with were driven by our interest in the River Wear and the idea of connecting to natural landscapes. We were interested in working with ephemeral materials like light and water and capturing or containing those elements to use as the basis of the installation.
We’re also interested in the idea of reflection, mirroring and liminal invisible material spaces that we can create. When we try to control water and light there’s a changeability, an organic movement that we can never quite contain. So, there’s always elements of surprise. The piece is always changing and that happens on its own.
Had you experimented with ephemeral elements like light and water before?
When we were studying illustration, we bonded because we both loved ephemeral installations.
We created a couple of artworks in site-specific spaces. For one of them, we took over a house and created installations using elemental materials like water and fire.
What or who inspires your work?
We love creating experiences and encouraging participation in our installations through immersive or interactive elements. We love the work of artists like Ann Veronica Janssens, Olafur Eliasson, Es Devlin, Nam June Paik, UVA.
What inspired Limina?
It was born out of the situation that we were all in: being forced to be inside. Suddenly, it became clear who had access to more natural landscapes. There was also a feeling that the outside space was something that you simultaneously craved and which was also dangerous.
It was a weird time and no one knew how to respond to it. So, Limina was us trying to use elemental materials as a way of re-engage with this restricted environment. We also both love working in the public realm. It’s quite important for both of us that our work is accessible to everyone. It’s a way to create an immaterial landscape that everyone can recognise – the movements of water and of light.
How did you want the Lumiere audience to experience the artwork?
We wanted our audience to have a meditative or playful moment. The whole idea is that as you walk past Limina or approach it, you absorb yourself into it, because the artwork is activated by movement. We wanted people to either move around with the water, or start to appreciate the beauty of these patterns as they look at the moving shapes.
What surprised you most about showing your piece at Lumiere?
The number of visitors to the festival was amazing! It was wonderful to see people engaging with our work – people were playing with the light patterns, taking photos of their shadows and pausing to watch. Each night seemed to be a new stream of visitors and it was lovely to speak to some people who had been attending for years.
What do you think is the legacy of Limina after Lumiere?
The legacy of the process is the relationships we formed, especially with the opportunity to work with ArtAV to produce and install our work as part of the such a popular light festival.
In terms of the audience, we’d love for people to have come away and remember the experience. We are keen to keep showing the artwork. Hopefully we can tour it.
It also led to us forming our studio. Even though we’ve worked together for years, BRILLIANT was a jumping off point to solidify plans. We realised how much we love working together. Our plan is to develop this collaborative practice and keep looking for opportunities.
Could you tell me a bit about your collaborative process?
Both of us have our own practices, which are quite different. Working collaboratively, means that we get to explore more ideas and push each other. It’s rare to find someone who you understand so well. As two women, it’s quite empowering.
Collaboration is an amazing thing. It makes our work stronger. When we come together our skills complement one another.
When there’s another person there to push you, you think more critically. You know when you’re not quite sure about something because you’ve got another person there to challenge you or hold you to account for certain things.
Something we’ve talked about going forward is that we’re both inspired by trying to make something good in the world. I think that’s what bonds us together. With the work that we do next, we want to develop that and create artwork that improves the world somehow.
We’d love to hear more about your experience of being BRILLIANT artists. Do you think that it has changed your practice in any significant way?
When we applied for the competition, we were in lockdown and both in a bit of a strange mental state. Having a project to aim towards which gave us reason to continue conversations. Having something solid to do together massively changed things.
Another benefit of being part BRILLIANT is how it helped us professionalise what we do.
We’ve always had ideas and the key concepts that we’re interested in, but through BRILLIANT we’ve worked on the actual process of translating that into a design which could be experienced by the public.
It’s developed our understanding of the logistics of creating and exhibiting an artwork. Things like the production practicalities, budget and materials and how to make sure what we’re doing is environmentally friendly and safe to install. All of these things and more, I don’t think we’d have done if we hadn’t been through this process.
It was an amazing opportunity to test our designs and learn how to create something to a more of a professional standard.
Do you have any advice for artists interested in using light or applying for the next BRILLIANT?
Do lots of experimenting! What makes working with light so interesting is that there is a degree of uncontrollability or spontaneity – playing with reflection and refraction can produce some beautiful results. Apply for BRILLIANT, it’s a wonderful opportunity!
Lastly – Do you have any upcoming projects, either individually or collaboratively, that you would like to share?
We are both very busy working on our individual projects and will continue to look for opportunities to make public artwork. You can keep up to date with us on Instagram at @10b_studio.
To keep up-to-date with Tendayi and Bea’s work: