If proof is needed of the Brighton Festival’s scope to leave a lasting impression, one city centre exterior bears literal evidence of it: a painting of Aung San Suu Kyi, the Burmese democracy leader who was last year’s Guest Director despite being unable to leave her own country, covers half of the side of the building.
On the other, she implores visitors to “use your liberty to promote ours”, and her subsequent instatement as an Honorary Freewoman of the city is recognised. Known for taking a chance in pursuit of keeping things fresh and invigorating, one of this year’s reasons to be inspired at the Festival is currently being concocted on the same street.
Invisible Flock – three installation artists with a knack for working in unusual locations – have got three vintage heavyweight telescopes in the hallway of Lighthouse (an arts centre which has become a home for innovative, cutting-edge art), painted in black, blue and white and mounted on plinths. One of them carries a sea shanty decoration of light blue coral petals, and they look like something you’d try and see France from at the end of the Pier.
Soon, the Flock will plant them at various points along the promenade, and then lead daily tours between Fabrica – a gallery in an ancient church in the centre of Brighton – and the Marina.
The very fact that this West Yorkshire trio are planning to take on the mythology of Brighton seafront (currently drenched in relentless rain, reported as a month’s worth in three days) suggests a certain indefatigable spirit of adventure. For those who take part in Sea of Voices, the telescopes will, among other things, offer “augmented realities” and glimpses of Venus, finishing with an opportunity to send a message to the sea, transmitted in Morse Code via a nautical buoy anchored near the breakwater at the Marina.
It ties in to a Festival programme with a number of distinctly oceanic, collaborative, Arts Council and Cultural Olympiad-backed strands. Principally, The Boat Project – a 30-foot boat made of donated wood and filled with items relating to people’s personal memories – will dock at the Marina for a week of activities, featuring show-and-tell sessions with Lone Twin, the nomadic performance-art pair behind the odyssey.
Former Turner Prize winners The Otolith Group have a specially-commissioned film at Fabrica, perfectly positioned as an atmospheric aperitif to the tour. There are six mini-theatres docked in Victorian bathing machines around the city. And, in Marcia Farquhar’s Split Guitars and Other Tales, there’s the chance to be cast adrift for tales and travails aboard a treasure vessel.
From the naff to the magical, the Sussex shore always becomes a landscape of site-specific art during May. The beauty lies in audiences relating each reality to their own, but it’s not too presumptuous to suspect the Flock and their accomplices will create journeys which will linger long in the memory.
- Sea of Voices runs May 5-27. Visit the project online for more.