Into Orbit

I went to the Paralympics last night to watch the amazing Superhumans in the Aquatic Centre.

I spent the afternoon at the park and booked to go up the Orbit as the swimming finished. It was an amazing afternoon, which felt like it was much longer than it actually was because it was an incredible experience. The weather was fabulous and made it all the better. I have been saying (to anyone who would listen) that the Olympics and Paralympics were something that was always held somewhere ‘exotic’. Never at home. And if it were to be at home it would rain right? Well, yesterday just felt like you were in one of those amazing, exotic places.

The park is an incredible place. A great feat of engineering and ingenuity (half of the stadium and aquatic centre are due to be removed so the venues ‘return’ to a manageable size to allow them to be used regularly post-games). It is so vast it takes well over half an hour (or proper, no messing) walking to get to the venues on the other side of the park. Consequently, I didn’t really get there in enough time to investigate it properly yesterday – but I’m going back on Saturday so plan to be able to explore the park and it’s art much more fully.

But to the Orbit…. I had seen the BBC documentary about the making/creation of the Orbit (along with Anish Kapoor’s fabulous hissy fits) and I knew that there was one of his amazing funnel/horns in the bottom of the structure under which you queue for the lifts – but there is no lighting under there and it is (therefore) barely visible, so I can’t tell you what it looked like!

The lift up was fast and because it was sold out, once you got up there, you couldn’t hang around too long as they move you around and along a bit to make way for the next lift coming up. Mind you the views (particularly in the dark) were spectacular. There were still events going on in the stadium (a women’s even where Brazil won 1, 2, 3 – because I could see them on the podiums and on the big screens and a wheelchair race about to go off. The Olympic Park was all lit up beautifully and you could see across the London skyline to Canary Wharf and the Shard. I have never seen an elevated view of London at night before and it was great. My new camera performed brilliantly and I got some great shots (see below).

Inside the viewing gallery of the orbit (the bits that aren’t outside – which are well contained with fencing) there are some large windows in areas and in others there are massive mirrors (which are cordoned off like an artwork – apparently these cost £2m each and you aren’t allowed to touch them as they take 2 days to clean…). These mirrors just seem t distort you and seem a bit pointless. But after the Gamesmakers explain to you that you need to stand in a certain position, it all starts to make sense – the London skyline flips and you see it inverted in the mirrors.

There is a square ‘hole’ in the centre of the platform and you can look down to the ground (oddly I never seemed to think I was as high up as I was – about 350 ft). Of course, this became apparent as I walked down ALL the stairs… which spiral around the outside of the structure. These are very strange as they are encased in slitted metal – which looks very transparent from a distance – but when you are in it obscures much of your view. It’s very odd. I quite liked it in terms of changing your perspective and view of reality.

Not sure what I think of it as apiece of art. Is it really one? What it feels like is a bit of a smorgasborg of art/architecture/monument/tourist attraction. The mirrors I understand to be part of Kapoor’s repertoire of interactive perspectives – but not sure many other people would engage with it on that level. Most people were not that interested in the mirrors. Me neither. The skyline was the story here and in many respects the Orbit is just a means to view it – albeit one that looks great in its environment. Loved being up it and it never got boring to look at as the structure looks different from whatever viewpoint you were at because of its asymmetric form.

See what you think.

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I’ve recently been reminded that I took part in Martin Creed’s ‘All the Bells

I got an app for my iphone that turned it into a hand bell, which I rang and took a short video too.


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