SPECTRA, Scotland’s festival of light, has opened in Aberdeen kicking off four nights of spectacular projections, interactive sculptures, and magical installations across the city centre until Sunday 12th February.
This year has seen Spectra make a long-awaited return to Union Terrace Gardens, becoming the first major event to take place in the historic public space since its three-year, multi-million pound regeneration.
Now as part of a festival programme inspired by ‘Home’, the gardens and city centre have been transformed with light, sound, and eye-catching visual art, bringing work from some of the world’s leading visual artists, studios, and companies to Aberdeen.
Aberdeen audiences are the first to enjoy world premieres of newly-commissioned works that draw inspiration from the city in different ways, including two multi-faceted projected works from Illuminos.
On His Majesty’s Theatre visitors can take in The Waxwing Wanes, a striking fusion of light and musicthat celebrates one of Aberdeen’s most unique claims to fame. The city is considered the ‘Waxwing Capital’ of the UK for its consistent year-on-year sightings of the visiting Scandinavian bird; the work, developed in response to a new composition by Ailie Robertson, one of Scotland’s leading traditional musicians and Celtic harpists, offers a visually spectacular musing on our changing climate.
Meanwhile the façade at Marischal College plays host to Nøkken. Drawing inspiration from the shared folklore of Scotland and the Nordic countries, Nøkken summons up a gargantuan, shape-shifting monster from the inky depths for a massive, mischievous, musical projection.
Other world premieres includelive performance from local favourites Fusion Youth Dance Company who unveil a new piece of outdoor performance in Marischal College Quad.
Meanwhile at the archways at Union Terrace Gardens audiences can find Home Fronts, a new animated work created by artist Vincent James working alongside local young people.
Further highlights for the city include the first Scottish appearance of Parer Studio’s Fantastic Planet, in which towering humanoid figures descend upon different city centre locations, including Union Terrace Gardens, Aberdeen Art Gallery, and Marischal College, having travelled from afar to gently explore this part of our fantastic planet right here in Aberdeen. At a time where the world’s resources are being used up and its very existence feels threatened, these gargantuan visitors playfully encourage people to envisage what the future of their own home planet might be.
Illumaphonium promises to bring people together with a fun and spontaneous outdoor music-making experience. Consisting of more than two hundred illuminated chime bars, each of which respond to touch with ever changing patterns of light and sound, the giant instrument will be a delight for eyes and ears.
Limbic Cinema’s spectacular Circa is a three-dimensional light sculpture soundtracked by Joe Acheson of Hidden Orchestra. It explores our circadian rhythms and is built around seasonal light levels, with each of the twelve light fixtures representing the average lightfall over one month of the year in Aberdeen.
The gardens are also transformed by two spectacular nature-inspired installations. Nature Nocturnal, from the Lantern Company, sees incredible illuminated plants, insects and wildlife transform the slopes of the beautifully renovated gardens, allowing visitors to experience the nocturnal natural world in a luminous lantern walk in a gently dazzling kaleidoscope of colour.
Meanwhile Sound Intervention’s towering otherworldly Luminosi Trees create an absorbing, calming space in the centre of the Gardens. These giant jellyfish-like structures, six metres high, are built with thousands of sound responsive LEDs that respond in vibrant colours and mesmerising patterns to a Fibonacci-inspired soundscape, meaning it never repeats and will be different each time it is visited.
Elsewhere in the city, Sound Intervention will also be popping up around the town with their amazing Projector Bikes: electric trikes which have been transformed into unique mobile cinemas, ready to travel the streets improvising and interacting with audiences. These off-grid audio/visual machines will project delightful digital animations inspired by Aberdeen and the spirit of home.
Broad Street is taken over by Pulse from Bristol-based creative team This Is Loop. A large-scale, mirrored light sculpture which plays with scale and perception, offering audiences an alternative way of seeing a familiar and iconic space. Twelve giant hoops covered in mirrors stretch out into a winding tunnel, becoming a contemplative place for visitors of all ages, both day and night.
Also in Union Terrace Gardens Spectra’s resident storyteller Pauline Cordiner, alongside Lindsey Gibb, are hosting Storytelling in a warm and welcoming space – with tales for all ages in English, Scots, and Doric.
Councillor Martin Greig, culture spokesperson for Aberdeen City Council, said
“It’s wonderful to see this year’s Spectra festival begin with audiences of all ages arriving to enjoy the beautiful, illuminating programme of artworks and events over the coming days. Spectra has grown to become a world-class event that helps to showcase the very best of Aberdeen, from heritage to hospitality, for thousands of residents and visitors alike, and we’re grateful to the many artists, support staff, and volunteers whose hard work helps to make the festival possible. I’m very much looking forward to seeing people come together into the city centre to take joy in this spectacular programme over the coming days.”
Spectra is owned and commissioned by Aberdeen City Council and produced by Curated Place.