Aberdeen has welcomed back SPECTRA festival, where sound and light meet in a series of installations across the city and where landmarks are transformed by large-scale installations. Streets and spaces feel new, unfamiliar and exciting.
This is the seventh year SPECTRA has illuminated Aberdeen in the dead of winter, with the opening of the 2022 event warmly received by city leaders, not least given the past two years of pandemic life.
Councillor Jenny Laing, co-leader of Aberdeen City Council, said: “This is the seventh time SPECTRA has been in Aberdeen. I know it has been sorely missed and I am delighted we are able to have it back.
“I think we have been through an incredibly difficult time, not just in this city, but across the whole country, and that makes it even more important that we are coming together to celebrate the new SPECTRA.”
Cllr Laing was speaking at the launch of the festival at the newly refurbished Aberdeen Art Gallery, which opened in 2019 after a £35 million upgrade.
Suspended above her was Luke Jerram’s piece Gaia – a seven-foot wide model of Earth created using NASA data, which aims to to replicate the "overview effect” experienced by astronauts, who have reported a profound understanding of the interconnection of all life and a deep sense of responsibility for taking care of the environment.
In Aberdeen, Cllr Laing said art like that on show at SPECTRA had the power to unlock both economic and social opportunities.
She said: “We have always realised that culture is hugely important to the city, not just after Covid, but before it too.”
Cllr Laing highlighted investment in both the Art Gallery and the Music Hall.
She said: “More important than the shiny buildings is the investment in cultural organisations and events that truly make the difference to people’s lives, to those of all age groups.
"There is a new sense of life returning to the centre. It’s about shaping up Aberdeen or the future. We think SPECTRA shows that we are moving forward.”
Installations can be found at key locations across the city centre, including Marischal College – the impressive granite gothic revival masterpiece that is now bathed in sound and animation.
Nearby is the Trumpet Flowers installation by artistic duo amigo & amigo, where visitors can roam through the stems and, step-by-step, play a tune under the gorgeous illuminated blooms.
Castlegate has been taken over by the giant installation TOGETHER, by design and fabrication studio Lucid Creates. Artist Chris Carr worked with Aberdeen people to share stories and memories which are now beamed in huge rotating text round the structure, which is designed to bring people together in a shared post-lockdown experience.
Andy Brydon, director of Curated Place, an arts-led production company in Aberdeen, said: “Event are becoming more and more critical for people to get back into city centre and to experience why we come together, after two years of being locked up."
He said the festival, which runs until Sunday, had been adapted to take account of people’s safety, with works spread over a wider area of the city and installations traditionally activated by hands now using feet.