After two enchantments and a luminous London we continued what Heather has decided to call the Winter of Lights with an after work trip to some Canary Wharf Winter Lights.
Arriving out of Canary Wharf underground we were greeted by the twinkling lights in the trees, and also by quite a lot of wind. The wind in fact meant the first thing we saw wasn’t there, Sonic Light Bubble not being able to handle the conditions. Undeterred we carried on, following our map around to the park above the station. There we found an old friend, a low hunkered member of Intrude quietly sitting among the trees. I suspect there should have been further giant rabbits, but they too were hiding from the wind.
At the top end of the park we found a large array of lights, moving up and down individual poles. This was Abstract by Collectif COIN (who had been at Lumiere London with Child Hood in Trafalgar Square). We watched the blue lamps going up and down, and occasionally changing to white or going out, for a while before starting to wander away. As we turned our back though they suddenly became red, so we watched a bit more before finding our way to a respite from the cold.
In a shopping centre beneath the ground we found a tent like box with a queue, apparently holding Sunlight Graffiti. We couldn’t really be bothered with standing in line for the estimated forty-five minutes for that though so, after acquiring a proper brochure and map, we headed for the other piece down there, the marvellously fun Colour Me Beautiful. Coloured walkways led towards an equally colourful video wall. Walking to the end of the runway triggered a photograph, which moments later would colourfully appear on the wall. We struck a pose apart, and then together, waiting to see ourselves overlaid in red or green or pink.
Back out in the cold (once we’d managed to find the briefly miss-placed exit) we realised we’d missed going past Abstract to Coup de Foudre II, a neon swirl weaving in and out of a building, apparently one of Canary Wharf’s permanent art pieces. We walked from there through the cold, past the ice rink which made us feel even colder. We took refuge in the strangely sterile lobby of One Canada Square, which was flanked by two Robert Montgomery poems. I didn’t much like the sound of being an enemy of icebergs and stars, for I like both those things.
Downstairs a giant and anonymous shopping centre runs the length of the road and it was here we avoided another queue for Playful Shadows. There were supposedly another couple of pieces down beneath the earth but after a quick look we couldn’t find them and so escaped the oppressive and depressing space for the night air. The blue lit Adams Plaza Bridge took us across to the much cheerier new building of Crossrail Place.
Up on the impressive roof garden (probably very nice in daylight/summer) there were a couple more installations. Lichfaktor’s Light Graffiti seemed more interesting for its technology than anything else, clever use of camera and light and screen allowing people and objects to appear in a bright “graffiti” painting. More artistic was Helios at the other end of the garden. A bright sideways dome of lines representing the Sun in various stages. We had a rest watching it go through its sequence before heading back down to ground level.
There, playing on the wall of a water channel, bright lines swirled in patterns. Sometimes geometric, sometimes akin to person-like doodles, Flora was entrancing and strangely calming, the changing shapes offering an organic relaxing hypnosis. We couldn’t stand around in the cold forever though and so we passed onwards, and down into the bowels of the crossrail building. It was a strange thing to find ourselves several levels down in the yet to be opened station, surrounded by the bare blockwork walls of what I presume will become retail space or something. There quite a few art pieces had been gathered together. We started with On Your Wavelength, which purported to involve some form of brainwave control from a “lucky” participant but might have worked better as a simple installation of moving glowing squares.
Future Fashion seemed like another chance to show off some clever tech than anything else. Much better were the pretty reflecting and refracting pieces by Amberlights, there multicoloured patterns emerging from geometrically shaped “crystals” to shimmer in a corner or up a wall. The clocks of Tempus, meanwhile, would be familiar to anyone who’s ever designed a clock widget, simply writ large.
Next to the clocks were a sequence of circles—Clones, which with their wild, perhaps garish, colours sent the eyes to feeling a little funny. Next to those, Fracture shifted as it was looked at, reminding me of the lenticular night tube map we’d seen at the London Transport Museum a couple of years ago. We moved on from those though, to what can only be alien birthing pods.
In a large, echoing space things spun, slowly bobbing, occasionally suddenly collapsing down only to elongate again. These were Reflecting Holons, which seemed to have been left like eggs by passing aliens. We circled the surreal, ever bobbing and revolving, shining blobs, ever mindful of the staff’s repeated instructions not to touch however compelling it became. The stalk emptiness of the space other than the tightly packed Holons only serving to enhance the other-worldly feel of the installation. Finally the room had been circled and we could break the spell, escaping the lustrous pods and out of the subterranean space back to the water pools around the building.
At the end of the pool something resembling control rods from a nuclear reactor sat, the slowly changing colours of We Can Meet The event info lists it as We Can Meet, though the artists website says We Could Meet. They were rather calming after our adventure underground. Just around the corner were a load of fun, glowing cubes. Pixels which could be picked up and rearranged to from seats, benches and anything else that came to mind.
We made our way back round to the other side of Canada Square and round the corner to find Bit.fall, a remarkable water feature which spells out words with falling water. The words are taken from a live news feed from the Times website—it’s not clear if the algorithm is picking things at random but there must be at least some intelligence to not keep displaying “the” and “and”; it’s a further question how likely it was to pick words such as “storm” randomly. It was compelling to watch each word fleetingly form in the air before breaking apart as the water fell into the pool below.
Onwards we went, leaving the intermittent splish of the falling words behind, to a bridge over the water, on which rested an exploded, bright Cube. We walked through and around, the stark white lines burning the night. Off up some steps and across one of the eerily quite roads was something much calmer. A giant Halo hung with quiet watchfulness over a large, reflecting pool. It all looked very crisp in the cold still darkness. Just down from there another Amberlights piece shone, a large Dazzling Dodecahedron
A brief respite from the cold came with another below ground mall (or perhaps they’re all the same; who knows). There we found a little tent box actually without the associated queue, whether because it was out the way or because it was getting later. In the tent was Polaris, a swirly wash of colour playing on the walls and ceiling in memory of northern lights.
Back in the cold there was a bit of a walk until we were able to rest on some benches which were lit from within in the dark, slowly changing colour from pinks, to blues, to white. They sat in a little square, around the garden of which were strung the colourful strings of Urban Patterns.
There was one work left to see, down in a quite garden in the centre of a roundabout. Colourful strings hanging between trees with gentle sounds, Apparatus Florius was quite relaxing. Indeed, it would have been nice to sit in the quiet gardens enjoying it but it really was too cold. So we went for food instead, finding the busy but good (once the service picked up) Franco Manca for pizza before home.
There were inevitably many more photos
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