Art Last night, Liverpool hosted Light Night, the art festival designed to frustrate those of us who can't decide on anything by hosting some exciting sounding events simultaneously. As ever I decided to focus on just a couple of events, filling in the gaps between with whatever was on route. My evening began with a RIBA tour of the waterfront, followed by a glance at the morris dancers outside Tate, to the International Slavery Museum for their Afro Supa Hero exhibition focus on Black role models in popular culture (mainly a display of action figures), the Everyman to have my brainwaves tested by the Neu Collective Consciousness (after concentrating on a giant rotating shape I was told that my reaction meant I have a unique mind) (no, really) then to LIPA to investigate the Liver Bird breeding programme (large and placid... and stupid) and ending at Liverpool Cathedral to see No Worst, There Is None.
No Worst, There Is None was a special Light Night commission, as per the booklet "a large-scale immersive performance" inspired by the Gerard Manley Hopkins poem of the same name, which to the visitor amounts to numerous giant screens throughout the cathedral projecting a series of computer generated shapes accompanied by a minimalist score (composed by Bill Ryder-Jones) performed by the cathedral choir accompanied by a Salvation Army brass band.
Arriving about half way through the nine o'clock performance, to a packed cathedral, I decided to go buy a coffee and then grab a seat for the second run-through an hour later, heading up to the front as soon as the first show had ended. Sure enough my strategy worked and after some misunderstandings about reserved seats managed to sit right at the front on the isle seat in the optimal position. The seats filled up around me and twenty-minutes later, after some announcements it began.
Screens projecting, music begins, a slow abstract thrum which -
... is supposed to engender a sense of meditation and -
... concentra -
- tion in the viewer.
Within moments of the show starting, I noticed a photographer was sitting on the floor in the middle of the aisle at the front parallel with me, presumably positioned so he could take shots from a similarly great vantage point I'd scoped. Now that the show had begun, he was taking photographs. Loudly. Distractingly.
He clearly thought he was being discrete, and I don't blame the photographer, he was just being hired to do a job and follow the rules he'd been given by the client, but with a piece which was so clearly designed to beg the concentration of the viewer, this is incredibly difficult when you all you can hear, every fifteen seconds is ...
Click. Click. Click.
At one point he changed the lense. Clatter.
He wasn't the only photographer. Another was just below the front of the pews on the floor out of the way and although I could see her screen out the corner of my eye she was silent.
Do digital DSLR cameras still have shutters? Or is this an electronic audio affection ala the smart phone?
Eventually the aisle photographer moved, but due to the way acoustics work in the cathedral, the sound of the clicking of his camera continued right through the first five minutes, all the while the band's playing, the choir's singing.
Then the clicks stopped as the photographer headed elsewhere.
At which point I just about relaxed. Apart from when the stranger sitting next to me decided to use his smartphone and take his own images. Will he ever look at them again? What are they for?
As we've discussed before, photography at events is an ongoing issue for me. I appreciate the need to officially record shows for posterity and future publicity purposes. But as I found at TEDx Liverpool the other year during the musical performances and various festivals, this should not ever be to the detriment of the thing which people have actually turned up for.
Was it just me who was distracted by this? Not sure. I did see a few eyes darting in his direction. The cathedral was busy anyway so there was noise elsewhere, but a background hum is less likely to impair your enjoyment of a performance than something at close quarters. Some people across the aisle began talking when boredom set in but they had the good graces to leave.
The performances ended, applause, and I sped to the door so as not to get caught behind the crowds leaving. On reflection, I don't know what I made of the show or what it was trying to achieve. Perhaps this wasn't the right venue for it anyway, too public, much more suited to a place where the sounds and images can wash over the viewer.
But: please event organisers, in future, try to consider the extent to which you're disrupting an event for the audience when organising photography and other ways of recording it.