This weekend the Beech Street near the Barbican Centre was closed off for a light show, part of Barbican’s Open Fest event. Tunnel Vision: Array is a collaborative venture where 59 Productions have created digital projections to Esa-Pekka Salonen’s music Karawane as recorded by BBC Symphony Orchestra and Chorus.
We walk into the closed off section of the Beech Street tunnel. The popular event has been sold out but the large tunnel still lets us have space enough to move around. Along the wall are the projectors but there is nothing to indicate the display of light, colours and patterns that will soon play over our heads on the ceiling and walls.
There are lines, checker patterns that move and change colours. Lines chasing each other, criss-crossing over the ceiling. Bright red sequins or chain-mail that shift into the appearance of sun light through leaves. Green mesh and the pattern of African cloth fill out vision. A single line of light snakes over the ceiling like a living thing. Later changing into lightning that flashes at intervals. Flowers appear in the tight lines. They circle and vanishes. Smoke flutters over the ceiling and rain drops splash on the surface of water that doesn’t exist.
The modern classical music is complicated. It rises and falls. Obviously written with the full potential of an orchestra and chorus in mind, to show off their range. The light patterns are amazing, running over the ceiling, changing, shifting, playing games with the music. It’s easy to get mesmerized.
59 Productions are not new to this game, having done the video design for the opening ceremony of the London 2012 Olympic Games, for War Horse theatre production and for David Bowie is exhibition, to name a few. Array is the latest of installations within Culture Mile, which lets public spaces be seen in unusual, new ways.
The light show is amazing. It’s hard to imagine that we are still standing in what is normally a busy road in central London. The music is fantastic as well, on an intellectual level. I must confess that I tire of it after a while. There is another problem as well. The music is so complicated that at time the light show doesn’t seem to keep up. There are moments when so much is happening musically that the colours and light fail to highlight anything in particular. At other times the light show is perfectly timed with what’s happening in the music and the ceiling becomes a fluid screen of impressions that beautifully follow the music in atmosphere, colour change and patterns.
We walk out into the grey day. It’s snowing again but in our minds the vibrant colours still lingers.