Syzygy: The Public Reacts

Katie Paterson’s tongue twistingly titled exhibit Syzygy, which explores our place within the vast and ever expanding universe, was today drawing in the public who had come to Week 53 to see first hand one of Paterson’s more thought-provoking installations and pieces of art.

I went to the gallery to find out their reactions as to what they were seeing, and asked them which of the pieces was their favourite – if they could choose between them, that is!

There was a whole mix of people walking through the gallery; some children too young to walk yet being carried around the room by their parents, some elderly couples who told me that they’d been to as many of the exhibitions at The Lowry as they possibly could in their time. No matter who I saw or spoke to though, everyone was drawn towards the sound of music which echoed hauntingly throughout the rooms.

Beethoven’s “Moonlight Sonata“; a familiar song you’ll no doubt have heard but would be doing well to name on the spot. It’s one of those pieces of music that will run through your head from time to time, if your eyes ever become fixated on nothing in particular in the middle distance of your vision, or you become trancelike staring into a still body of water on a clear evening. It’s a relaxing melody and one that was luring the public to it like a moth to a flame.

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Paterson’s idea in this exhibition is to bounce the music off the surface of the moon, and play it back via an automatic piano which hits the notes that reach its transmitter back here on earth. The effect is that some of the notes never return, giving the music we all recognise a unique re-scoring.

“I love the music”, one woman told me, “although I haven’t read what it says about it all yet, but I’m enjoying it”.

This was the reaction of many of the people I spoke to; they loved the work, even without having to know exactly what was going on, it connected with them. Most popular of all was the eclipse room, in which Paterson uses a disco ball to chart every eclipse on record and shine their images in a spiralling vortex inside a dark room. People seemed really to like this piece the most.

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“I thought it was a really engaging piece of work. Not only the initial phenomenon when you walk into the room, but the whole experience around it!”

The exhibit continues until Sunday the 17th of July, and is free admittance. I’ll certainly be heading back for more because, like the Moonlight Sonata, once you experience the work, it’s damn near impossible to get it out of your head.

Written by Adam Brabbin