Brighton is much-touted as being a hotbed of four things: gay culture, nightlife, independent thinking and art. I can’t speak for the first or second much–I’m guessing I don’t know where the action is, no pun intended. And the third I can only infer from the number of “Vote Green” signs I saw in windows in the month leading up to last week’s disappointing election. But the fourth is indisputable. Anyone in town in May can’t help but notice there’s a very, very big festival going on. The Brighton Festival is an annual arts event that, along with its black-sheep step-brother the Brighton Fringe, practically take over the city. Whereas the Brighton Festival hosts more mainstream presentations like A Midsummer Night’s Dream and various classical trios, the Brighton Fringe (which seems to actually be much larger) has The Lady Boys of Bangkok and stand-up comedy. The Lady Boys are very popular and I hear it’s a really good show, but I am too broke to bear the £26 price tag. Honestly, looking at the Brighton Festival line-up (known around these parts as “what’s on”) it seems like a bore. An overpriced bore at that. The only thing they really have going for them is the fact that this year’s guest artistic director is Brian Eno, the man who practically invented the genre of ambient music. Which is a great thing to listen to if you’ve perhaps imbibed a bit too much and are feeling antsy, not that I would know. Last night Ben and I went to one of Brian Eno’s big installations, a remix of a show from 2007 called 77 MIllion Paintings. It’s set up in what used to the be main chapel of a church-cum-gallery. Six couches and several bean bag chairs are scattered in the room and up in front in place of an altar are 13 large monitors(?) arranged in a pinwheel formation, which display a dizzying electronic array of colors and patterns. Think 11 year old makes collage with technicolor magazine clippings. And so you go and sit down and stare at these huge screens, and listen to the spacey music softly droning away in the background, and stare and try to discern if anything is actually changing. For the first full minute I couldn’t even really tell if anything was happening, and then all of a sudden I realized that what had been pink was now purple, that empty space was now filled with a lacy pattern. My eyes which had nearly glazed over snapped into focus, like when you stare at a Magic Eye poster forever and finally get it. I’m sure the drink I had at Northern Lights Pub didn’t hurt. Let’s just say between the music and the bean bags I was pretty convinced Brian Eno must have been smoking something when he made this. I almost hesitate to give you this link to a previous show in another city because it just doesn’t do it justice, but hopefully it will give you an idea of the scope of the installation. Intoxicated or not, this show was AWESOME and Ben and I sat there nearly a half hour-until they closed-and just stared, ooohing and ahhing and critiquing the patterns and color combinations. I don’t know how long the whole series actually is but I’m sure you could sit there for hours, and I just might.
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