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What is art anyway (and can anyone appreciate it?) #Aurora

A few months ago I received an email from the lovely people at FACT Liverpool asking me whether I’d like to be a part of an advisory group to help discuss and develop ideas to engage a broader audience as they move forwards. I was thrilled to be asked of course but, as I composed my reply I felt it necessary to fess up to the fact (excuse the pun) that I am absolutely hopeless at art and in fact, Art in its most traditional form is something that in the past I have been a little intimidated by.

I’ve always felt that my brain doesn’t really ‘get it’. As if the artist is trying to express something way beyond my comprehension and, as a result I’ve probably tried too hard to understand it instead of just seeing what I see and enjoying it from my own perspective. Second guessing people isn’t fun at the best of times and second guessing an unmade bed or a cow in formaldehyde wasn’t really a priority for me in the early noughties so it’s fair to say that I’ve sort of shied away from it a bit and haven’t got much knowledge of the traditional art world at all. I’ve never spent a huge amount of time in galleries. Libraries yes; Mr L and I spent hours in the ‘main branch’ of New York Central Library many years ago- and I could happily reside in Liverpool library with its poetry and glass domes. May be I just naturally focused my attention on the stuff that I understood more readily. The Peoples Palace in Glasgow for example held my attention for the best part of a day and I see something new and absorbing every time we go to the Liverpool museum. But, traditional picture on wall writing in a box underneath galleries haven’t often been on the must visit list. As I grow older though, I really would like the time to amble around a gallery and ponder the why’s and the wherefores of the pictures before me but, with two young children there isn’t a huge amount of time for that at the moment!

Anyway, back to FACT. Fact actually stands for Foundation for art and creative technology and they are the UK’s leading media arts centre offering a unique programme of exhibitions, film and participant-led art projects. Based in the town centre of Liverpool FACT is just one of the many organisations in the area that helps keep Liverpool at the absolute top of its game in respect of the quality and variety of exhibitions and artists of all disaplines it attracts. There is always something to see. This evening that something was the preview event for FACT’s latest installation; AURORA; an “epic immersive experience” based within the bowels of the old Toxteth Reservoir and I was invited along.

Honestly, I very, very nearly didn’t go. It was cold, pouring with rain, I didn’t know anyone else that would be there and a large part of me had that old nigle… you won’t get it and everyone else will be proper arty types that know what they’re taking about… gulp.

In the end, I went along mainly because I had asked my mum to babysit and I didn’t want to mess her around but I am so very glad I did;

It reminded me of the beauty of people power.

This installation is a collaboration between artists from the UK, India and Indonisia. It has been 2 years in the making! It’s involved schools from across Toxteth as well as the wider community. There has been multiple sponsors and funding applications to bring the artists vision to reality. The people on the doors, giving out tickets and wrist bands and holding the torches are FACT volunteers. Absolutely everyone involved is so proud of what they’ve achieved together and it really felt like a community effort as we gathered in the church hall for out briefing this evening.

It consumed me

For 40 minutes I was removed from the chaos and mundanity of modern life. To begin with I was still that anxious non artist trying to second guess what the real artists wanted me to think or see or feel at particular points but, the longer I stood, the less that mattered to me. I was just totally absorbed by the lighting and the hauntingly stirring music; it filled my ears and reverberated in my bone and when it was over I felt like I wanted to cry!

It was just for me.

I am so pleased I was able to attend and experience it completely by going alone. I didn’t hear anyone else’s take on it. I didn’t have to articulate what I thought of it and I didn’t have to rush or linger. I was there viewing it in my own time on my own terms.

As we exited the experience we were handed postcards asking

“what did the installation mean to you?”

At the time I couldn’t find a way to articulately express my thoughts so here they are a few hours late.

Water is life. It is constant but it is ever changing. It has the power to soothe and to scare. To calm and to kill. It will outlast us all and it is beautiful.

Thank you FACT. Thank you to the artists; Invisible Flock, thank you to everyone that played a part in getting this art installation to completion. I found it mood altering, mind opening, utterly absorbing and completely consuming. In short, brilliant.

Thanks for reminding me that art comes in various forms and it is for all. Thanks for bringing it to a new space and a new audience. I can’t wait for the next meeting (if you’ll have me back?!)

The installation is open between 21st Sept and 7th October and is well worth a visit. Book online and take your wellies…unless you want to get wet feet! Find out more online at the FACT website and, if you do go, don’t forget to tell me what you think!

Until next time!

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