Saturday 16 July 2011
London: pictures in place
Cities are waking up to how you can change the look of a favourite location by installing temporary artworks to grace, contradict or change it. In November Durham will come alive with a festival of light that includes a stunning projection of Lindisfarne Gospel images on to the cathedral, which they did a couple of years ago, and which will be repeated along with much that's new. I hope London will do the same at that darkest time of year: remember the sunflowers projected on to the big arch in the middle of Hyde Park Corner?
In the meantime, one of the happiest serendipities was to stumble across Swedish photographer Anders Ryman's UNESCO-backed Rites of Life exhibition on the embankment just outside City Hall.
Quite apart from the fact that these images of people of all ages ceremonially marked out for a big change are stunning, they make a startling foreground to monuments we know all too well - not least the Tower vs the young man and Ethopian rituals as pictured above and this young woman (a Berber ceremony, I think, but I need to go back and take a closer, less hurried look, and maybe buy the book).
Then there's the baby further softening the curve of Boris's City Hall.
No time, alas, to linger: I was on the way to meet the Suthren-Lanes to experience in a very different fashion from its first night Laurent Pelly's mostly wonderful Royal Opera production of Massenet's Cendrillon. I knew from the 2009 screening of Rossini's Barber of Seville that the image and the sound of the big screen experience, in Trafalgar Square at any rate, is first class, and, ma foi, how the craze for this sort of thing has grown.
I couldn't quite get over the predominance of the young, in all shapes and sizes, happy to sit through an entire opera, maybe to picnic and chatter a bit, but as I wrote in the Arts Desk Buzz piece, everyone around me was quickly hooked by the look of the thing, and the sound of it, too, not least in the shape of our fabulous Ewa Podles with chest notes to die for as the affected stepmother.
A sly shot of diverse neighbours near the fountain:
and a more professional panorama by Rob Moore of the crowd at the previous Butterfly screening, kindly supplied by the Royal Opera.
Well, there's opera for the people indeed - though at the slightly questionable price of BP's conscience-salving excursion into the arts (all this was cleverly and not aggressively raised by the White Swan campaign I quoted in the piece; shame I missed the 'guerrilla ballet' performance). And when it comes to concerts for the people, the fiver that will buy you the only place to be in the Albert Hall, albeit standing, has to be the best bargain in the world. I warmed by degrees, as I think did the performers, to the First Night of the Proms, as you can read in my Arts Desk review. But here's a shot of the first approach, 7.15 yesterday evening, with the building part-wrapped in what looks like a Christo art work and the strange man who wanders about with a book of photos sitting hopefully, or maybe resignedly, at the top of the steps.