diamond geezer

 Saturday, April 17, 2010

London excursion: River Sounding
Before the Embankment was built, the Thames used to lap right up against the walls of Somerset House. Now there's a new artwork here which aims to bring to life the sights and sounds (especially sounds) of London's river. Artist Bill Fontana has devised an acoustic journey by installing a series of loudspeakers and projectors with a river-y theme. They're housed within a chunk of the building not usually open to the public, down at almost-river level behind the eastern balustrade. Enter down the steps from the far end of the courtyard, or else step through from the Embankment (where there's an additional sloshy water soundtrack to enjoy). The experience is designed to be immersive, in a dry way. Sounds of running river wash over everything, often with added bells for additional haunting atmosphere. Peer off the passage into the stone alcoves and there are moving images projected onto the wall. Some are abstract, others readily identifiable such as the Tower Bridge engine room or "that buoy somewhere off Tilbury". There's even the opportunity to walk through a long passage directly underneath the courtyard... to the Deadhouse. The intention here is that you watch two large bridge-related videos, but keep an eye out too for plaques marking the burial vaults of various 17th century courtiers. The whole walking route takes less than 10 minutes to follow, maybe longer if you stop and breathe in the artwork at regular intervals, but it's an atmospheric and original tour nonetheless. Open until the end of May, down in Somerset, admission free.
by tube: Temple

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