Strange noises in a field

As part of the BOOM programme I’ve been spending a bit of time out and about recently, seeing artworks which take music and sound outdoors. At Bluedot festival last weekend I saw a piece called Colony by Mike Blow and Alison Ballard, which I’ve been interested to see for some time. Bluedot is an outdoor festival of music and science held in the fields surrounding the Jodrell Bank Observatory (home of the humongous radio telescope pictured).

Featuring lots of huge blue inflatable orbs which pulsate with sound as tactile, sonic sculptures, Colony completely lived up to my expectations. Seeing lots of (often inebriated) festival goers stumble across it in a quiet corner of the site and be surrounded by the music in an oasis of calm was wonderful. It was a lovely setting for the piece because it was in a fairly enclosed space away from the main bustle of the festival, which allowed you to fully absorb yourself in the experience, whether that was standing in the middle to take it all in or hugging the orbs to physically feel the sound coming through them. I did wonder whether it would be quite so effective in a noisy town centre festival in Cheltenham though.

Just around the corner from Colony, in a wooded area, was a late-night piece called Night Chorus by Kazimier from Liverpool. I had been looking for this earlier in the evening and them stumbled across it on the way home when I spotted lights among the trees. They had filled their little glade with smoke, lasers and a soundtrack of electronic music, marimba and bird calls which all emanated from the trees. A huge mirrored ball about 6 foot high with a projector ‘eye’ in the middle rotated like the head of an owl, causing the laser beams to bounce around the space. All in all, it was quite disorientating and magical. There’s a short video clip of it over on Twitter, but I found it virtually impossible to photograph. It was a well-crafted experience which combined a nightclub with nature, although personally I would have liked more from the soundtrack than the c.30 second loop. I wasn’t quite sure what I was supposed to do except stand in the middle of it and be dazzled by lasers. Maybe dance? Looking at Kazimier’s previous work online, it seems like they create light-hearted, entertaining experiences which are large scale, quirky, often illuminated, and very festival-friendly so this piece was true to form. It was a refreshingly fun approach compared to the ‘serious’ art I saw later in the week in Manchester. Part 2: ‘Strange noises in a city’, coming soon…



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