Monsters Of The Deep.

I know this looks like the world’s crappiest photo – and yes, I guess it nearly is – except that I took three more that were all worse than this. There is a reason for it though, honest…

I don’t often go off-topic and write about things other than Greenwich – and even if I do, they usually have a Greenwich theme or are great ‘days out.’ I have no real excuse for including this other than it’s fantastic, Thames-ish and there’s only a week left of it. And since our trains go there, and lots of people work around London Bridge, I’m sort-of counting it as a Lovely Thing to see on your way home…

Drift is the first annual art exhibition on the Thames – large-scale projects free for all to view. It’s been on a couple of weeks but I hadn’t been wildly impressed with most of the exhibits I’d seen up to Friday. They weren’t bad art (there is a lot of Bad Art about), just not exciting. There was a shiny wavery board floating by the Millennium Bridge, and some sounds played on the bridge (when I was there, the ‘seagulls’ meant to “disorientate passers-by” were drowned out by the real thing. Now if there had been cows mooing and pastural sounds of goatherds yodelling through the mountains – now then I’d have been disoriented..) a decorated buoy and a rather nice, but slightly promising-more-than-it-delivered laser ‘bridge’ reaching across those ghost piers by the modern Blackfriars one. I liked it all well enough but not enough to break Greenwich rank and write about it.

That was before I saw the monsters.

Walk to the north end of London Bridge and look over the western edge at dusk. I got there around 6.30pm and it was a bit early, the sun wasn’t quite down yet, but I like to think that part of the art is staring into the murk and thinking you can see sea monsters.

As it gets darker, a series of projectors start to show CGI mythical creatures of the deep swimming around ‘under’ the water, diving, coming to the surface, intertwining with each other, racing each other, then disappearing down again. Then the water goes black again before – yes – is that a fin? Oh – no. It went down again. But – hey – there’s another. Look – it’s got bug-eyes and a weird – no it’s gone again. Everything goes dark. You wait ages. It must have stopped. Almost a minute goes by. Shall we go? Yeah let’s – no, look – there’s two more . And a baby…

The artist, Craig Walsh, has managed to capture something very deep in our imaginations (well – in mine, anyway) about the Thames. Ok, I’ve usually had one or two when I normally look into the river and see weird creatures – but there’s something very primeval about Man and monsters. We love them and are terrified by them pretty much equally, and stories of them have been with us since – well, since forever.

I love this installation with a passion. What I love about it is that it’s really subtle – you have to wait – and watch. And the magic isn’t just in seeing projections of creatures swimming around – it’s in the time in between those creatures’ appearances, and the thoughts that envelope you as you wait.

I thoroughly recommend this work of art. If you’re at London Bridge it’s a short walk to the north west corner. I reckon from about 6.45 to about 7.15pm is probably best. I went a second time to see it, later in the evening and the combination of lights under the bridge and the fact that later on you can ever so slightly see the whole projected image instead of just the monsters, makes me think that magical crepuscular moment is the most enchanting.

I tried, a bit half-heartedly, admittedly, to get a pic – but this isn’t something to be captured – it’s something to experience. You can try clicking on the image to get it bigger, but it won’t really give you anything like what it’s really like.

I would love to see this as a permanent installation – or at least an annual thing. It’s just great.

There’s one other exhibit, at Canary Wharf, which I haven’t seen – a moving ‘sinking ship’ – anyone here seen it?


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