Festival review: Spectra, various venues, Aberdeen

Mixing light installations with music, poetry and storytelling, this year’s Spectra festival is well-suited to these anxious, post-pandemic times, with many things happening outdoors, writes Susan Mansfield

Trumpet Flowers by amigo and amigo is also located on Broad Street and is one of this year’s only interactive installations at Spectra. Visitors can make their own tune among the blooms by jumping between foot pad beneath the giant, illuminated stems. PIC: Ian Georgeson
Trumpet Flowers by amigo and amigo is also located on Broad Street and is one of this year’s only interactive installations at Spectra. Visitors can make their own tune among the blooms by jumping between foot pad beneath the giant, illuminated stems. PIC: Ian Georgeson

Spectra Festival, various venues, Aberdeen ****

Billed as Scotland’s Festival of Light, Spectra aims to brighten the February nights in Aberdeen with light-based installations, and draw people back into the city centre post-covid. It’s well suited to the anxious post-pandemic world, with many things happening outdoors.

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Together, by studio Lucid Creates, installed in the city’s Castlegate, is a product of the pandemic, a spacious circular installation on which words and poems are projected, bringing people together outdoors in a safe way. The artists work with local people to create the words, and the results are unexpectedly profound, about place, landscape and memory, delving into the Castlegate’s past, from public executions to the Blitz, trams to the oil industry.

There’s a blast of Doric round the corner where local poet Sheena Blackhall reads her poem “On the Bus: nummer 1 route”, while video projection artists Illuminos bring images from the poem to life on the neo-gothic frontage of Marischal College. While it’s sometimes hard to catch all of Blackhall’s words, the clever visuals (like animated illustrations from a children’s book) and pulsing music help to make Six Frames highly engaging.

That music becomes the backdrop for Trumpet Flowers, an interactive installation on which the audience can make their own brassy soundtrack by hopping around on touch-sensitive panels, and Pendulum Wave Circus, which looks like the world’s biggest Newton’s Cradle, but creates alternating patterns of order and chaos with spinning silver balls.

Poetry and storytelling are very much part of this year’s Spectra, which includes Writ Large, a collaboration with writers’ collective Neu! Reekie!, which has produced neon text installations and portable lightshows projected by cyclists.

There are also a few indoor works: Gaia by artist Luke Jerram, fills the Sculpture Court at Aberdeen Art Gallery, a floating globe seven metres across created with images from NASA. Conjuring associations with the earth as seen from space, its scale is truly impressive. His Museum of the Moon is in the city’s Music Hall, and there are other events and performances throughout the weekend.

Until 13 February, see www.spectrafestival.co.uk

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