Experiencing the Cathedral in a new light: introducing ‘Light Organ’

‘Light Organ’ is a new artwork created for the upcoming ‘Bradford is LiT’ festival, which takes place on Friday 5th and Saturday 6th November 2021 across the city.

This interactive, visual and sound experience transforms Bradford Cathedral’s organ space with 44 responsive light-organ ‘pipes’, visualising its sound in a vibrant array of colour.

‘Light Organ’ is a site-specific celebration of the Cathedrals unique history, invigorating its diverse architecture with a responsive light display.

Light Organ’ in Bradford Cathedral (photo: Adam Glatherine)

We spoke to artists Adam Glatherine and Akeelah Bertram as they put the finishing touches to ‘Light Organ’ – alongside work by technologist Simon Fletcher and carpenter John Hornsby – to find out more about how the piece came about and came into being.

Akeelah: “Adam and I, we’re artists who have similar interests in terms of light and how it moves, how it works, how it can refract, and do interesting things, and that’s where the collaboration originated from.

“We’ve developed ‘Light Organ’ together as our first substantial collaborative adventure.”

Adam: “’Light Organ’ is inspired by the space, and then also building on forms and optics we’ve previously worked with, be they the tube or the linear prismatic optics, or the wibbling plastic!

“I should have a better word for that! There was a lot of plastic wibbling involved, and the geometric bases, and just trying to resolve those aspect, plus the crisp geometries and the organic side of things.”

Akeelah: “When we first visited the Cathedral we were so struck by the arches, by the organ itself, but also about how it has this mixture of very intricate organic shapes, but very linear lines, that were all just traveling up.

“I think it would be fair to say the project was totally inspired by the Cathedral, and thinking what can we do here and what can we respond with.”

Adam: “This is such a stunning space so initially we were thinking about the organ itself, and the pipes of the organ, but then, also, we were quite inspired by the columns of the space, so the pipes of ‘Light Organ’ sit mainly halfway in scale between the columns of the cathedral and the pipes of the organ, although some of them do get actually bigger than the ‘Light Organ’ pipes, but on balance that was the aim.”

Artists Adam Glatherine and Akeelah Bertram

We asked Akeelah and Adam how they got involved with the Bradford is LiT project, which sees many other pieces debuting across the city, including Borealis in City Park, When the Clocks Go Back, Count Sheep in The Wool Exchange and Lotus Flower in The Broadway, alongside other installations on North Parade and Leeds Road, across the city, and further afield in places such as Tong, Haworth, Bingley and Keighley.

Akeelah: “We saw it online. Earlier in the year we’d come together to try and apply for other works and when we saw this we thought ‘let’s give it a go’ and it sealed the deal when we saw the Cathedral really.”

Adam: “It does build on our previous works. We’d worked on a project called the Digital/Physical Playground, and that was much more to do with people physically picking up light sculptures, and playing with them, and putting them together themselves. That was over at the Leeds Art Gallery, in the Henry Moore Institute.

Akeelah: “And then COVID hit, and it became very unsafe!”

Adam: “We had things we wanted people to hand around and share!

“So, we’d been looking out for a way we could work constructively together during the pandemic.”

Akeelah: “That was partly where the idea of it being audio reactive comes in and a safe way for people to still be participating and be a part of the work.”

We next asked them to describe ‘Light Organ’.

Adam: “There are these two-metre-high columns with a slightly holographic, ethereal feel to them, and sparkles of light playing across this whole irregular array, and it almost feels like a forest that you might walk through.

“They’re also sort of on the scale of people, or a little bit taller than people, so they feel maybe a little bit like congregants of the space.”

Akeelah: “We’re quite excited about how it’s going to interact with the organ, but also with voices of visitors and maybe more choral special events.

“We’re quite fascinated by the possibilities. Just before we started to talk to you, we were discussing how this idea of seeing sound in space is going to manifest for people.

“It’s such an acoustically-led building, that to be able to visualise some of those acoustics could be quite interesting, and it’s beginning to take shape for us as well.”

‘Light Organ’ in Bradford Cathedral (photo: Adam Glatherine)

We next asked about the creation process.

Akeelah: “Everything is entirely bespoke, and it’s been a lot of investigation. Adam has this particular proclivity for experimentation and really managed to develop some quite unique processes really, because we just felt like the building was so majestic, and impactful, that it needed something special to do the building justice.”

Adam: “Whilst our intention was to build everything ourselves, we ran out of time, and someone else – John Hornsby did the carpentry in places.”

Akeelah: “And we’re working with the technologist Simon Fletcher as well, who’s been busy programming away and mapping coordinates in 3D space during this part of the install.”

We also asked what the plans are for ‘Light Organ’ following ‘Bradford is LiT’.

Akeelah: “We would love to see it everywhere, but I think with ‘Bradford 2025’ coming up, we’d be very interested in seeing if we could do this all again, because it’s on for such a short time this time around, and I think it would be great to be able to develop it.”

Adam: “There’s so much scope, particularly for Simon Fletcher to get involved in the coding, because he needed the thing to be mostly built to really refine and develop the scenes that will play on it to their fullest potential, so he’s the one in a way that’s most squeezed for time and what he can develop.

“Although he’s obviously done as much as he can in advance. So, the potential there for us to develop the content together going forward is really great.”

We then asked them if they could spill some of the secrets of how it works.

Akeelah: “It is LEDs inside, with various plastic techniques and very specific sanding applications, which were developed with a huge amount of trial and error.”

Adam: “Soo much error!”

Finally, we wanted Adam and Akeelah to sum up what they hoped people would get from seeing ‘Light Organ’.

Akeelah: “I would say that sense of relief and joy, and a bit of escapism, and an opportunity to experience the Cathedral in a new way, literally in a new light, not to be too clichéd about it!”

Adam: “I think I’d like to support people to really feel very, very present in the space, to really see it clearly.”

You can see a preview of ‘Light Organ’ in Bradford Cathedral on Friday 29th October from 10am – 5pm before it opens as part of the ‘Bradford is LiT’ festival on Friday 5th and Saturday 6th October, open for visitors from 10am – 10pm.

To find out more about ‘Light Organ’ please visit the Bradford Cathedral website and for more on the overall festival head to Visit Bradford. You can also join the Facebook event and read the piece on the Telegraph and Argus website.

For more on the work of Akeelah Bertram, please visit their website or for Adam Glatherine head to ‘Lens&…’ online.

Bradford is #LiT was supported in 2020 by The City of Bradford Metropolitan District Council, Bradford 2025, The Leap Bradford, Ilkely BID and Bradford BID.

1 thought on “Experiencing the Cathedral in a new light: introducing ‘Light Organ’

  1. Stunning and beautiful! Will you go on tour? Please, please, please come to Rochester and/or Canterbury Cathedrals, we’d love to have you! 😊


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