By day visual artist Marcus Lyall brings to life the imaginations of The Rolling Stones and The Chemical Brothers to create spectacular stage shows. But this January he will be delving into the minds of Canary Wharf workers to help illuminate their dark evenings.
The Homerton resident is creating a piece for this year’s Winter Lights festival which will see the estate bathed in the glow of 30 artworks, installations and experiences from January 16 to 27.
They include Cathedral Of Mirrors by Mads Christensen, which includes 12 towering columns of light that will respond to visitors’ movements via high-tech sensors. Nonotak’s Shiro will be a series of performance pieces that create ethereal, immersive and dreamlike environments.
Marcus’ On Your Wavelength is a 50m mind-powered laser and sound installation created from 30,000 LEDs housed in an empty retail unit in Crossrail Place. Participants will put on a headset and their brain activity will be harnessed to create a spontaneously choreographed digital artwork.
“It is a bit like doing karaoke with your mind,” explained the 45-year-old in a break from working for Metallica.
“It will look like a Stargate, quite sci-fi. The EEG (electroencephalography) headset will monitor your brain activity and you will be able to control the light sculpture with your mind. The idea is to focus on a single thought and the more you do the more intense the experience will become.”
Marcus often brings his DLR-loving son to Canary Wharf and is keen to see how some of the capital’s brightest brains react to the medium.
He said: “Using light in art is becoming much more popular, with events like this and Leo Villareal being chosen to light up the London bridges. It is coming into its own.
“The idea is to take something small and inside your mind and convert it into something exterior and big so you get this feeling of control. I’m expecting quite an emotional response.
“I’m really interested in the idea of how data is being used. When you are on social media you are exposing a lot of data, and I will be getting people to do that in front of a live audience.”
Marcus was quick to reassure people that he would not be stealing any secrets or sensitive information.
“The data itself is fairly useless and we are a long way from reading people’s minds. But just the fact we can record it is amazing.”
He has been creating visual media for live shows for 25 years, starting out doing raves in the 90s.
“I’ve have just finished The Chemical Brothers shows. Tom and Ed are very hands on. And I’ve worked with U2 and The Stones. I met Mick Jagger. He’s a nice bloke. He was in a room reclining on a sofa and everybody was hanging off his every word.
“For the last 10 years I’ve worked with Metallica, I’m doing stuff for them now.”
So is it all glamour and excitement and demanding divas?
“What people forget is that it’s nerve-racking being up there in front of crowd so they put a lot of trust in me to make sure the images are working for them and not against them.
and I have to start all over again but sometimes a bit of magic will happen.
“I don’t always have the budget to do things that are really big and silly, whereas with rock ‘n’ roll that’s all they want.
“For The Chemical Brothers show we have two five foot high tin robots that move their arms and legs and have lasers coming out of their eyes.
“And for Metallica I did four metre long coffins with LED screens and footage of people pretending to be buried alive. They love a coffin or two.”
Winter Lights is free to attend and will run from January 16 to 27 across the estate with installations best viewed after 4pm and switched off at around 9pm each day.
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