Art goers can expect to see bigger and hopefully better immersive experiences in the world
Lightroom, the latest immersive art venue in London, UK is located in King’s Cross, adjacent to Coal Drops Yard. In preparation for an immersive art experience, what is unique to this venue is that there is a high degree of technical coordination through the integration of large-scale projections and directional sound system. The sound system was delivered by HOLOPLOT, an award-winning audio company from Berlin, Germany who designs and develops audio products and tools. The visual experiences were led by Disguise, a platform to imagine, create and deliver visual experiences. All of these components sit within a space designed by 59 Productions in collaboration with Haworth Tompkins, who delivered Lightroom’s sister venue the Bridge Theatre.
Upon arrival, the start of the journey into the exhibition was somewhat unusual. The main foyer on the ground floor is a full length bar creating a buzzing space. A small sign points towards the direction of the exhibition and someone checks your tickets, then one descends into the subterranean floor. On arrival to the basement floor, a seemingly misplaced gift shop appears. As you make eye contact with other confused visitors, a queue appears where tickets for the exhibition are scanned for checking. Passing the ticketing check point, one is then further directed into the deeper subterranean floor with parts that appear to be back-of-house corridors. After a few steps, ramps and extra steps to arrive into the art projection, one arrives into a large volume of space with 12 metres of ceiling height. The projecting room’s full dimensions listed on Haworth Tompkins’ website are 18.5m width x 26m length x 12m height. Apart from the impressive volume of space, the venue is supported by the art projection and sound system, so you hear the experience before arriving to see it. The space seemed like it would have been a highly disused space if it was not creatively turned into this immersive art venue.
Receiving an email just weeks prior to the opening, the event’s operator shared that the opening date for Lightroom is being pushed back. Like many construction programmes, this is not unexpected - I suspect that the handover date was delayed. On the day of my visit, finally, it was filled with families and kids. What is quite interesting is that all visitors naturally formed groups within the 18.5m width x 26m length floor space, occupying the dedicated seats but more prominently on the floor. The spaces between each group became a playground for kids; kids were freely running around, and with the clear boundaries of the volume of space, parents had a clear peace of mind and appeared to enjoy the exhibition.
Immersive experiences using art project systems and sound systems have become more common. How is Lightroom different? Lightroom opted to start its first exhibition ever by focusing on David Hockey’s work, titled David Hockney: Bigger & Closer (not smaller and further away). The choice of a living artist who has embraced new media, in my opinion, provided the winning ingredient that made this short 50 minute experience an enjoyable one. The 50 minute video loop was narrated by David Hockney himself, celebrating his use of another technological advancement - the iPad as his medium to create. On the iPad, the process of creating art can easily be recorded. And David Hockney successfully records his sketches. Coupled with insights from the artist himself, from his early career moments in LA to his recent time spent in Normandy, it was a pleasant hour spent on a Sunday.
A little inspiration from the Hockey exhibition:
The World is very very beautiful if you look at it, but most people don’t look very much. They scan the ground in front of them so they can walk, they don’t really look at things incredibly well, with an intensity. I do.
If Lightroom continues on the trajectory to deliver what it says on its website - ‘a new home for spectacular artist-led shows’, collaborating with artists such as David Hockey, as well as filmmakers, writers, musicians and other creatives, Lightroom appears to be a suitable venue to dig deep inside the minds of creatives, providing a different scale and relationship to viewers. With a ceiling height of 12 metres, the space’s naturally inward-looking perspective as it is a subterranean space, complemented with the technology invested, Lightroom’s next scheduled exhibition is one to anticipate.
In fact, a recent newsletter confirmed that over 75,000 people attended the Hockney exhibition at Lightroom already in within one month. With technology ripe for application to elevate multi-sensory experiences and the increasing demand from visitors, global investment into immersive tech reached a record level in 2022. According to research by London & Partners, the UK’s market for immersive tech is worth an estimated $2.2 billion. Art goers can expect to see bigger and hopefully better immersive experiences in the world. For now, Lightroom in London has also announced that bookings for the David Hockney exhibition have been extended until 1st October 2023.