Immersive spaces for temporary events

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the main room at the Coronet for London Decompression 2017

Following last year’s foray into the Burning Man community of the UK, I was again offered the chance to take on a role with their big annual event ‘London Decompression’, this time with the scope to take a visual overview of the whole event.

First off I needed to decide on theme that would give plenty of scope for visual fun for the 2000 attendees of the event, especially for artist wishing to submit proposals for art pieces, and all those who love making crazy costumes. I had also been thinking about ideas that would allow us to play with the space, create interesting, stimulating and maybe even confusing affects, and work on a much larger, immersive scale. Starting to collect images for moodboards I found myself enjoying an amusing mix of references from Escher to the Surrealists and a bit of Op Art thrown in. Eschews impossible architectures had me wondering if we could build structures into the vast main space of the venue (old music hall called the Coronet) and his amazing pictures of shapes transforming into each other provided further inspiration for unexpected changes of form, scale and a bold black and white aesthetic.

Metamorphosis & Illusion seemed to be a simple way to capture these varied ideas, and work begin on building a team and sourcing materials. This time round, I was to step away from leading the day-to-day Decor making session and found 2 energetic, differently skilled people to work on that together. I would be overseeing and mentoring as necessary, and looking at some of the large scale stuff and leasing with the art team to bring some additional guidance to what art was given grants and where it would be placed to work within the whole concept. This was a new way of working for the Decompression team.

While the Decor volunteers produced everything from abstract patterned heads to bizarre montages of creature people, we also ended up laying floors, making a giant chessboard, filling the long problematic corridors with illusionary patterns, building structures and projecting light through architectural gobos and eyes onto draped fabric in a nod to Dalis’s backdrops for Hitchcock’s Spellbound. I even managed to sneak a lobster telephone in. The overall effect was on an entirely different level from the usual way that people often imagine ‘decor’ simply as some decorations – which I find a bit limiting in its scale and vision, and instead created a complete immersive environment.

It was great to see so many people embrace the theme with some amazing costumes, so that the Decor and they worked together to create some memorable visions.

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