Monday, January 08, 2007

The High Tide Organ

click photo to enlarge
Public sculpture re- appeared on a grand scale in Britain's public and private spaces during the last quarter of the twentieth century. The earlier decades had seen pieces being installed in new shopping plazas, pedestrianised areas and the entrances to large buildings. But the sudden outpouring of the last thirty or so years has eclipsed what went before.

Moreover the tone of the sculpture has changed. On the whole it is less serious. I suppose those who commission and make the sculpture would describe it as more "democratic", more accessible, more "interactive". And that's not a bad thing. While there is certainly a place for sculpture that we stand and ponder, pieces that we can walk through, smile at, re-arrange, and even listen to, are to be welcomed as well.

The High Tide Organ on the South Promenade, Blackpool, Lancashire, by Liam Curtin and John Gooding, neatly summarises the new approach to public sculpture. The tall, tapering structure, pierced with holes, and with a curled top like the prow of a Viking ship, is made of Core-Ten steel, and is designed to oxidise (rust) in the sea air. It contains a number of organ pipes based on the harmonic series in B flat. These eight notes/chords are activated by tubes extending from the pipes, that go under the promenade, to the sea wall. The waves of the twice daily high tides compress the air in the tubes and make the organ "play", the sound and volume being determined by the force and height of the waves. So the sculpture is an interesting and impressive structure, with an aural dimension, and is a welcome addition to the promenade.

I took my photograph at the end of a windy, wet day, after the sun had appeared just in time to set! The damp promenade was deserted, and the Organ, the curved lights, the nearby fun fair, and the fish tail of the revolving wind-break seat made the scene a little odd looking. I used a short zoom at 28mm (35mm equivalent), with the camera set to Aperture Priority (f5 at 1/250 sec), with the ISO at 400, and 0EV.
photograph & text (c) T. Boughen