The Indian tricolor projected on Matterhorn by Swiss light artist Gerry Hofstetter | Photo Credit: SPECIAL ARRANGEMENT
Heritage buildings and natural landscapes whisper stories of valour, delight and heroism, says Swiss light artist Gerry Hofstetter, who transforms iconic spaces into works of art with a mesmerizing use of light.
This week. he is in Delhi on the invitation of the Swiss Embassy to create light art on the façade of the Embassy building and garden, as part of the grand finale of the ‘Swiss It!’ initiative. The three-year Initiative organised 35 events across 30 Indian cities to share experiences about innovations from Switzerland for a sustainable future.
Hofstetter, who has had a chequered career in the Swiss Armed Forces and banking, creates all the images for projections and prepares the equipment himself, using high-tech cameras, state-of-the-art drones and 6,000-watt specially designed projectors. It helps that he is also a helicopter pilot, film producer, author, photographer and national pentathlon athlete, as the job requires multiple skills and a high level of fitness.
After two decades of creating world premieres at iconic locations, the 60-year-old says he is finally “India-ready”. Since 2003, when he projected the Taj Mahal onto a giant iceberg at the South Pole, he says he has wanted to visit the country of vibrant colours and spiritual light.  
Stating that Hofstetter’s art is a  unique combination of technological expertise and universal symbolism, Ralf Heckner, Ambassador of Switzerland to India and Bhutan, says the event will “celebrate 75 years of India’s independence and the diplomatic relations between India and Switzerland by showcasing the art culture of both countries.”
For the past week, Hofstetter has been preparing for his first dazzling feast of light in India. He travelled around Rajasthan and Delhi to absorb the vibe. “It has been exhilarating.” He takes his team of nine members through the project step by step because he wants to ensure his shows leave perfect memories in the minds of his spectators.
Though, he states it is art that has always attracted him, he says “My interest in different jobs helped me to combine my varied experiences.” For someone who started off selling his oil portraits of horses for USD 5,000 each as a teenager, now he effectively uses his talent to paint the slides he projects onto monuments and mountains.
The shift happened when he lit up the Swiss National Museum during an exhibition on Leonardo da Vinci in 2000. Ever since, he has been globetrotting with his light shows. “I use my art to convey socially relevant messages,” he says, citing the Matterhorn experience when he used several heavy lift helicopters with hanging generators to illuminate the pyramidal peak and draw attention to the issue of melting glaciers in the Alps.
He has also illuminated icebergs from a Russian expedition boat and done projections on Mount Kilimanjaro to highlight global warming. For a climate change project of the UN, he projected an image of the polar bear which lives in the Arctic in the North onto the Antarctic at the South Pole, where penguins have their habitat. The dramatic photos were his way to convey to audiences his concern about the receding ice masses. “If the polar bear meets the penguin, it will be a tragedy for the world,” says Hofstetter, who has travelled to 87 countries and is overwhelmed by the impact of pollution and garbage on the environment.
After surviving avalanches and sandstorms, he says every experience with nature, weather, animals and people is different. In 2012, while projecting the Titanic in its original size onto a 500 m-long iceberg off Greenland — to mark the 100 th anniversary of its maiden voyage — his boat crashed due to heavy fog and he was trapped for hours before he found a narrow escape.
He also describes how he was caught in a sandstorm in Egypt where he had gone to light up the White Desert, the pyramids of Gizeh, the Sphinx and the Egyptian National Museum. “I and my team risk our lives to create impactful messages against the beauty and calm of our chosen backdrop; all sobering reminders of how small humans are in the ultimate scheme of things,” he says and adds, “Our works reflect depth, flavour, theme and involvement.”
It is the cocktail of adventure and challenges, tough treks and travels that keep driving Hofstetter to re-invent monumnets and landscapes with his powerful imagery. “My idea is to motivate people and usher in them a sense of belonging to things,” says Hofstetter, as he plans to begin work on his next shows at the National Parks in the US, Save the Tiger project in 13 countries and a conservation project on the Himalayas. 
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Printable version | Oct 28, 2022 2:02:38 pm | https://www.thehindu.com/entertainment/world-renowned-gerry-hofstetter-in-delhi-to-create-stories-with-light/article66056428.ece
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