|Lumiere: The Peninsula
||[Nov. 25th, 2017|08:11 pm]
On the first day of Lumiere - Thursday ten days ago, but who's counting? - we reckoned that things were just going to get busier as the weekend progressed, and that today was therefore our best option for visiting what were likely to be the most popular items, in the centre of town. This was the area which was entrance by ticket only in the early evening, so we ate first and then headed in to town just after the gates opened. The first thing we saw - and we stepped into St Margaret's churchyard for a distant preview - was the moon:
This is the closer view, as it looked down over entrance point and railings of Framwelgate Bridge. Hannah Fox's 'Our Moon' is a digitally generated face projected onto the Castle wall: four faces in all, a different one for each night of the festival, and each one composed from the scanned faces of a number of local people, whose moving expressions drove the movements of the moon face. All of which seems over elaborate - and why create an incentive to revisit that part of the festival which you know will be oversubscribed, instead of encourage visitors to explore more widely? But I liked the way I caught sight of the face from different points in the city, and came to respond to it as a friendly presence.
Up Silver Street, where a series of arches, like a rather superior version of the Christmas lights which will soon replace them, prepared us for the illuminated big top which had been erected in the Market Place. These were Dome and Arches, pretty enough, but a sparkling canopy for nothing in particular, unrelated to its setting, fitted into the space between Lord Londonderry, the war memorial and a fast food 'hog roast' van set up for the occasion:
The same arches led up Saddler Street towards the cathedral. But first, a detour onto Elvet Bridge:
where Ralf Westerhof's Drawn in Light dangled above the river from a giant crane (because if there's one thing Durham needs more of right now, it's giant cranes): a house, a car, a lamp post or two, a cyclist, all the elements of an Amsterdam street scene. I snark, but actually I liked this a lot: it was simple and witty and made me smile, and the photograph doesn't do it justice.
Time to visit the cathedral. Whatever happens there is going to be held to a high standard. It's central to Durham, so it's central to Lumiere, and the son et lumiere shows have been immensely popular, especially the first one. This year would be something completely different: how would it compare? The advance publicity was interesting:
I feel kindly towards change ringing: something peculiarly English, curiously mathematical, and which makes me think of friends who ring bells. It's also loud, and persistent. I warned durham_rambler that if Methods meant that the bells would be ringing solidly through the evening, I reserved the right to retreat at any point. But although the chiming had been audible throughout our walk, it wasn't overpowering, even when we reached Palace Green. The lights which came and went across the outside of the Cathedral - and which we had already seen from Framwelgate Bridge, above the multicoloured floodlighting of the river banks - didn't detain us long; as I had suspected when I read the advance publicity, the process was more interesting than the resultant artwork. We had plenty of time to consider this as we queued to enter the building, snaking through the maze of barriers, back and forth in front of the old library. I assumed that once inside the queue would break up, but no, it continued to progress around the interior, and now the bells were loud, painfully loud (surely beyond what is normally audible when the bells are ringing? I think there must have been some amplification) and bright lights flashed at us from near floor level, and isn't this an established interrogation technique? I cracked immediately, and demanded to be let out, and rushed for the nearest door where I had to talk my way past an attendant, who opened the gate to let us into the cloister. So that was definitely a response to the piece, but probably not the one the artist was aiming for.
The cloister was full of white plastic lollipops, shifting between shades of blue and pink as the light changed. I liked the blue better, but the pictures all seem to be pink:
This was Entre les Rangs, a tribute by a Canadian artist (or artists) to fields of wheat that shimmer in the wind as the seasons pass - evidently Canadian wheat is very different to the sort we have here. Much of the advance publicity for this piece showed people walking, as the title suggests, between the plants, and the rest emphasises the pathways inviting you to do just that. But the invitation is unambiguous: "[e]xperience a sensory stroll around the edge of this unusual field..." It's possible that my stroll was not as sensory as the artist intended, but I don't think that's my fault.
Out in the College, someone had wrapped multicoloured ribbons round the trees:
Of all the pieces we saw, I think Horizontal Interference was most blatantly a photo opportunity: it was what you made of it. I've seen lots of good photos of people silhouetted by the light - and for that matter, my own very abstract takes on it is the most viewed of the photos I've posted to Flickr.
We'd already checked that we would be able to leave the Peninsula over Prebends Bridge. Finding out wasn't entirely straightforward: the maps didn't show any one way stretches, but we had been caught out in the past. So we asked the friendly volunteer helpers, who were charming and helpful, but tried to explain the layout of the City to us, and it took us three goes to find someone who knew that yes, we could do that, the bridge was open. Now we were on our way home.
Coloured floodlighting in the Bailey was part of Frequencies, which also explained the lighting we'd seen earlier on the banks below the Cathedral. Allegedly this also involved 'bespoke soundscape', but I wasn't sorry to miss that, and I didn't feel that what we saw was diminished by it. One last detour before Prebends, to visit the Count's House:
Again, not a great photo, but it does explain my reaction: They've turned it into a night club!, complete with a low persistent heartbeat and, as durham_rambler pointed out, bouncers (the ubiquitous marshals in his-vis jackets). Drawing on 17th century imagery and the ancient proverb ‘Know Thyself’, this installation questions where our sense of self lies. In our hearts, our heads, or not in the body at all? I can't add anything to that.
There was more going on: sound and light on the bridge itself, a white line along the river, but I was tired and not taking it in. At durham_rambler's insistence, we doubled back along South Street in search of the mapped viewpoints - dar enough, at leasr, to confirm that we'd seen all we were going to see tonight.
But as we walked home past the allotments, there was one last glimpse of Our Moon.
This entry cross-posted from Dreamwidth: comments always welcome, at either location.