Ah, Hastings. That sometimes-home with its small-town charms and harms. It draws you in with its old-world-old-town twitterns, then shocks you with an act of modernism so grandiose that on a clear day, it can be seen in France.
Of course, it is not a clear day. It is an utter deluge, and I am standing on the end of a pier in a tempestuous sea, bathed in strings of multicoloured light that catch raindrops in slow-motion and transform them into white-noise static.
My hair is plastered to my face, my skin drenched through optimistic summer clothes, and yet somehow it all feels like part of the show. The iy_project is artist Chris Levine’s spectacular work of disorientation, where Aurora Borealis meets an acid rave, and I am in its midst.
Vast sheets of laser-light meet in mid-air, beamed from the hillsides and from the pier itself, creating unreal cloudscapes in plumes of smoke, like a time-lapse African sunrise. In brief snatches of suspended disbelief, the lights take on a dimension of their own, negating the solidity of the pier beneath my feet.
The artwork is referred to as a study in “the nature of sound and light”, and indeed, but for a couple of technical glitches the interplay between the soundtrack and the dreamscape is filled with surprises, dark scars of red light and static noise marring innocent white-light piano.
Hours later, and we are still perched on the pier, shivering slightly, and guiltily wondering if the end is in sight. Even to a lover of abstraction, two hours of looped sound and light seems excessive. Were it a drier evening, perhaps we could have lost ourselves in the spirit of festivity enough not to note its extreme length.
However, without the brutal weather, our experience would not have had half the impact that it did. To visualise the wind a moment before it catches my hair, to glimpse raindrops seconds before they slide down my cheek, is a synaesthetic slice of the sublime that I’m not likely to forget.