Spectra – a beam of light.

Wednesday 6 August 2014 – London.

When I was researching information about the wonderful World War 1 memorial art installation at the Tower of London I discovered that there was an equally amazing installation in Victoria Tower Gardens that is a must see.

I arranged to meet El at Tower Hill Station when she had finished work and to pass some time and get some exercise in I walked there from Stratford, via my new favourite pathway along the Lea Navigation to Limehouse Quay, and then along the Thames Path to Tower Bridge.

As El had yet to see it, our first stop was the stunning Tower of London installation, “Blood Swept Lands And Seas Of Red”, which I briefly mentioned in a previous post.

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We walked to Victoria Tower Gardens via Somerset House and one of our favourite cafes where we stopped for a glass of rose and a light meal before heading over to the gardens just before sunset.

The installation, named Spectra, was created by Japanese artist Ryoji Ikeda and produced by the art collective ArtAngel. It is made up of a grid of 49 individual search lights that combine to create a beam that shoots fifteen miles up into the sky. There was not a lot happening when we arrived, and I was surprised at how few people were there, especially given that this work is only around for one week and finishes on 11 August.

The art work commemorates the start of WW1 and the famous quote from Viscount Edward Grey “The lamps are going out all over Europe – we shall not see them lit again in our lifetime”

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Not long after we arrived the sun officially set and soon after that the lights were turned on, one by one and technicians walked around and adjusted the louvres on top of the lights. As the sunlight slowly faded the powerful beams could be seen against the dark back drop of the trees that bank the River Thames.

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Once all was working, I was really surprised to see that the tape surrounding the installation was removed and the public were allowed to walk in-between the lights. More and more people started to show up.

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Once the sun had fully disappeared over the horizon the moon became visible. I tried to get the moon and the entire beam into one shot, but without the big camera and its uber wide-angle lens, this was not going to happen unfortunately. However, the sight of the moon rising through the beam was just fabulous. As El said to me at the time, sometimes you just have to stop taking photos and just enjoy what you are experiencing as you are experiencing it.

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As the evening wore on the number of people arriving to view the work grew, like the moths that were drawn to lights. It was interesting watching people pouring through the park gates and moving in and out of the light tubes. I was wondering if they were created to be high enough that only heads poked above the bases and were then lit by the ambient glow. It was fun watching people wave their hands and arms through the light, looking up to see if there was a shadow in the beam, taking photos from different angles. Just experiencing something different in different ways. A great people watch.

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Just before heading off home we stepped back from the installation and I took a few photos looking back over the Houses of Parliament.

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Before one final shot of the base, surrounded by onlookers with cameras and phones raised high.

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We walked over to Westminster Bridge to get a couple of shots from a different angle, before heading home. Though it does not have as wide an angle lens as I would like this new Canon G16 is a wonderful camera for hand held low light shooting.

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One of the many many reasons I love living in this wonderful city is access to beautiful works of art like this. What a fabulous night.

Spectra is a travelling work and has been seen in various forms in a few other countries, it is still travelling the world so if you get a chance to see it, do!

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