Ryoji Ikeda’s has presented spectra in several cities across the world, but before 2014 it had not been seen in the UK. The proposal to stage a version in London developed from Artangel’s dialogue with 14-18 NOW World War I Centenary Art Commissions.
As Head of Production, Rob was brought in at an early stage of planning and development. The co-commisioning partners’ idea was to stage the work as part of ‘Lights Out’, a cluster of commissions marking the centenary of the onset of World War I and the start of a four-year period of commissioning. Initial challenges faced by Rob and the team included identification of an iconic central London site sympathetic to Ryoji’s ideas and the public’s experience of the work (involving high intensity spotlights visible from up to 10 miles away and a sound installation in the immediate vicinity), and resonant with the theme of ‘Lights Out’. Victoria Tower Gardens, a park adjacent to the Palace of Westminster, was shortlisted and despite site sensitivities, plans were developed and put in place that gave The Royal Parks full confidence that the project would be professionally realised and managed without detriment to the site.
Rob’s role as overall lead on production covered artist liaison and team management, site research, the development of proposals to the relevant authorities, scoping feasibility and costs, establishing a production plan, and identifying contractors to ensure the project could be effectively managed. He was accountable to stakeholders for the management of a budget of £400k within which he delivered the project. He oversaw the key relationships with the artist’s team, Skylight, and managed the work of Unusual Rigging and RNSS who were to provide project management support and the wet hires of equipment needed. As a member of the wider production management team he coordinated with the Greater London Authority’s city-wide planning for Lights Out, representing Artangel in relationships with The Mayor’s Office, Royal Parks, and relevant authorities including Metropolitan Police, local borough and council.
spectra’s presentation was not announced in advanced. Testing of sound and light had to be done covertly, but it was a testament to the success of planning that it was revealed and experienced as intended: without warning, gaining visibility and attention immediately, and growing to attract tens of thousands to Victoria Tower Gardens during the seven nights of its presentation. Through a high degree of professionalism, forethought and attention to detail, despite the obvious challenges involved in running a night-time only project, spectra became one of the most memorable, widely seen (from distance!) and best attended of Artangel’s projects.
A film about spectra by Sam Blair