- May 6, 2021
Thirty years of festival going here in Brighton and Hove means that I have seen a huge range of arts and events, from the sublime to the less so, hesitating to use the word ridiculous as we all know that all is in the eye of the beholder.
Perhaps the most memorable events have been those installations that became known as site specific, events in woods, in car parks, in empty theatres and in abandoned department stores. Events where you were voyeurs, events where you were participants… they all stay in the mind, and last night will no doubt live with me for many years to come.
Ray Lee’s Points of Departure occupies a working industrial site in Shoreham harbour and I choose ‘occupies’ with intention as the whole has an eerie sense of invasion.
At the start a large space is filled with towering metal structures set in a row that are gradually activated. The tops of the structures revolve and emit modulating electronic sounds that are haunting and in part distressing, before long as each pylon is activated the space is filled with shifting sounds and shifting people. It unnervingly feels like we are occupying a post invasion distopian landscape, a place where we the survivors are uncertain of what is happening and of what might happen next. All this of course is being heightened by the fact that we are masked, for COVID reasons, and therefore fairly anonymous.
The first section gradually slows and quietens and we are ushered forward through to experience further structures and soundscapes, finally arriving at a set of massive pylons which support huge counterbalanced metal cones, each held in place by white jacketed figures. Gradually the cones are activated and allowed to swing back and forth in ever increasing arcs, higher and higher they go, each one emitting different sounds. It’s mesmeric and strangely beautiful, like cathedral bells being played by alien campanologists. It’s also soothing, less distressing than the earlier sounds and for me it gave a sense of relief, relief that the disturbing and worrying first part of what I felt was like being dropped into a science fiction landscape had been resolved, the electronic bells heralding a new start.
So here is my experience and I have no doubt that others will have a different interpretation of what Points of Departure means or is meant to do. I enjoyed the engineering, I enjoyed the soundscapes and I enjoyed being made to feel uncomfortable too.
One further note though, the experience is not easy for those of us who might have mobility issues, the stewards throughout the site are kind and helpful however and this is a minor warning but be prepared for a long time on your feet and often on uneven terrain.
Brighton Festival 2021