This project involved creating two light installations for an experimental music performance at Bangor University in March 2015.
Sometimes working under the name Explorations In Sound, three talented ladies (Katherine Betteridge, Sioned Eleri Hughes and Twila Bakker), all at various stages in their practice-based music PhDs were putting together an intriguing musical interpretation of Dylan Thomas’s poetic piece ‘Lie Still, Sleep Becalmed’.
The concept was to create a cross-artform, partially promenade experience where the audience would roam through the atmospheric corridors of the old ‘Main Arts’ university building in Upper Bangor, and arrive through a side door into one of it’s showpiece performance spaces, Powis Hall. Along the way they would experience a series of performances with some interactive elements and certainly be up close as dancers, musicians and other performers passed by, bringing strange magic with them, and casting a unique spell over the audience before they entered the main part of the performance.
The central themes revolved around moonlight, madness and dream – the lead artists also provided us with samples of some of the music that would be performed. I was asked to come up with a light scheme or installation that would work in the main performance space, but was also given the option on devising an installation or performative intervention for the approach corridors.
The first part came to me very quickly as it was also incredibly simple. I would make many large illuminated ‘moons’ to sit amongst the audience and performers.
I had already acquired the use of some amazing nearly 1 metre diameter globes for a project some months before, where I had illuminated them with coils of bright blue LED inside, but now chose to use warm white light, long with completely changing their surface quality… I wrapped them in many layers of fine tissue paper, wrinkling and layering it as I pasted it on and ending up with a soft, tactile effect that recalled the surface of the moon as we stare up at it in the night sky. It was quite different from their first, sci-fi like incarnation, but retained the powerful presence that huge lamps creates. The globes were arranged in pairs across the polished wooden floor around the low lit performance space into which the audience entered silently and sat on the floor. They cast soft light on people’s faces sitting near them and contributed to some of the hypnotic quality of the concert.
I had a bit of fun with the other piece. I had identified a bay along one of the corridors that was an ideal small performance space, and would also give me room to set up lIghting behind me. I created a massive paper disk, again using layers of wrinkled tissue paper, and then also made a costume for myself from a series of draped and torn layers of grey fabric of different weights and hues. With a very bright lamp behind me, holding the paper disk up high and moving slowly around and in front of the paper moon, I became a ragged cloud.
Clusters of audience passed through the corridor, some performers moving with them, some ahead of them, some of us to be encountered along the way. A sea of faces, pausing – curious, thoughtful, watching, wondering where this strange journey would take them. They were whisked on their way again by a pair of dancing moths to encounter a man creating music by seeming to just wave his hands, masked animals dancing hectically on the stairs, a woman obsessively moving small stones between dishes of water…
In the main hall, this surreal, dreamlike space developed an intense quiet as masked musicians played a series of pieces some of which they had composed themselves. Another PhD student (Matthias Wurz) performed a notoriously difficult Schoenburg song where a Pierrot (tragic clown) is singing to the moon, and at other points, a dancer leapt and crumpled in a pool of light, and another enacted strange contortions behind a shadow screen (Maddy Towell, Nikki Hill). The audience were immersed in it, and gently led like sleepwalkers into becoming performers themselves, given wine glasses of water and shown how to pplay them like singling bowls.
It was strange, mesmerising and powerful.
Some more amazing pictures below from the performance, by Subash & Christian