Plenum’ light show illuminates King's College Chapel, but is too "artsy fartsy" for some

Anthie Karavaggelis -News Reporter 22 November 2012

A sound and light show, said by organisers to be an ‘artistic interpretation of how the universe was formed’, lit up King’s College as part of the Cambridge Music Festival last Friday.

The installation, called Plenum, was created by Simeon Nelson, with a soundtrack by Nick Rothwell and programming by Ron Godman. It was inspired by conversations with the astrophysicist Revd Professor Wilkinson and scientific and religious accounts of ‘how the world came into being and how the cosmos maintains life and consciousness’.

The show ran in 15-minute loops on King’s chapel throughout the evening. Plenum has previously been projected onto Durham cathedral as part of the Lumiere arts festival in 2011, where it received mostly positive reviews. Plenum starts as a grid of dots of light that slowly, but with increasing energy, merge together, decay and vanish in time with pulsating music and ‘alien sounds’ which made one King’s student comment: “it sounded like the world was ending”.

Many King’s students appeared to enjoy the show, despite not seeming to know what it was about. One third year medic described the show as, “impressive, weirdly hypnotic and seriously atmospheric in the fog” but said he was “not really sure what it was all about”. Another third year medic said she felt she “was going to be abducted if she stared at it too long,” and a third-year engineer commented that it, “looked quite cool, it was just a bit random”. However, some negative comments came from a King’s astrophysicist who claimed it was “too artsy fartsy” and from a Downing student who claimed it looked like the chapel was “drunk”.

Similar light shows have taken place in Cambridge before with the Senate house illuminated in 2009 for Cambridge University’s 800th anniversary with colourful projections of well-known alumni such as Charles Darwin, Isaac Newton and John Milton.

Anthie Karavaggelis -News Reporter