PICT Visiting Lectures II: Enlightening the City of Light

On Thursday, June 20, 2019, the Paris Institute for Critical Thinking concluded its first year of programming with “Enlightening the City of Light,” the second installment of the PICT Visiting Lectures Series. The talk was delivered by Ara Kebapcioglu, owner and curator of Lumière de l’oeil, the Parisian boutique museum devoted to the history of lighting. The event was co-sponsored by AFUS, the Association of Former UNESCO Staff Members, and hosted at the UNESCO Headquarters.

The afternoon started with introductory remarks by Neda Ferrier, head of the AFUS Memory and Future Club, and UNESCO Programme Specialist Dr. Ahmed Fahmi, who spoke about the International Year of Light, a 2015 UNESCO initiative to highlight the vital role of light-based technologies in every aspect of human life. Following this, Ara Kebapcioglu began his talk by drawing a parallel between the Age of Enlightenment as understood in the intellectual sense and what he called the “other age of enlightenment,” a period of 150 years around the 19th century that witnessed momentous changes in lighting technology. It was during this time, Kebapcioglu maintained, that human societies moved from artificial lighting by means of vegetable oil, a method unchanged since the Neolithic Era, to gas-based and finally electrical lighting, revolutionizing the worlds of leisure and labor alike.

As a major hub of the lighting industry, Paris, nicknamed the “City of Light,” played a central role in the innovation, production, and dissemination of lighting technologies. For the remainder of his talk, Kebapcioglu focused on the ways in which Paris changed the history of lighting and vice versa, walking the audience through production centers, technical innovations, lamp designs, and the effect of the new technologies on the life of the city and its inhabitants. While emphasizing the rarity of vintage lighting artifacts from the period, Kebapcioglu also drew attention to venues where contemporary Parisians can still witness the history of lighting in Paris, perhaps most strikingly in the statues adorning the foyer of the Opéra Garnier.

“Enlightening the City of Light” capped the first year of PICT event programming with a well-attended and fascinating lecture. We would like to thank everyone who joined us and enriched the discussion with their valuable questions. The link to the full event video can be found below.

PICT organizes regular museum tours of Lumière de l’oeil, led by Ara Kebapcioglu himself and featuring live demonstrations of choice lighting fixtures from the museum’s collection. Please click here to find out more about the tours.