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Luminox

March 15th, 2007 (11:55 pm)
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It's not for me to boast, but I have been a chivalrous parrot_knight today, I think; though admittedly a practitioner of modern chivalry. This afternoon I guarded a jewel of great price while the lady who was its rightful owner raised the money to pay its ransom. This evening another lady bid that my metaphorical interpretation of Luminox be the subject of a LiveJournal post; and as I am bid, so I choose this evening to write.

Luminox has been described as a transformation of Broad Street, Oxford, into a 'spectacular fire garden', thanks to French installation artists Carabosse. aster_dw also has some pictures up; my gallery is here, to help give some idea of how Broad Street looked tonight and how it will be on Friday and Saturday, though I imagine the street will be more crowded on both evenings than it was tonight. Despite having been out of e-mail contact for some hours and missed the change of meeting point, I did meet up with various SocT people, whose IDs I've removed in the light of the morning as this post was already full of hyperlinks, but they know they were there. There was also a crossover moment with TGW when ExPrimaryHead turned up (for an earlier appearance by her, see A Visit to a Printers) and gave the whole event her blessing.

I was trying to work out some meaning for Luminox in order to understand how it expressed the thousandth anniversary of Oxfordshire's first appearance in the historical record. It took me a while to work out a scheme. Fire obviously appeals to something primal in us; after all, humans and our ancestors have had an intimate relationship with the sun since the beginning of life. emily_shore had thought a fire festival would be appreciated by the Anglo-Saxon Oxonians of a thousand years ago, could they see it today, and I'd pointed out what appeared to be runes on one of a range of flame-casing cylinders situated between Blackwell's and the Sheldonian; only to see constellations on another, Chinese characters on a further, and various other patterns. Evidently modern Oxfordshire was being depicted as a vibrant entity made up of multiple identities and diverse ethnicities whose aspirations looked to the stars. In fact, the section of the street between Trinity and Exeter was studded with braziers garlanded with stencils revealing the names of modern Oxfordshire towns - I saw Kidlington and Woodstock represented, but also Didcot; presumably the organizers aren't afraid of Berkshire irredentists. Returning to the fire theme, and fire being the sun, each brazier representing a town became a sun by itself; Oxfordshire is thus interpreted as a constellation of stars rather than a sun (Oxford) and satellites (the other towns).

The 'chandelier' over Balliol, moved up and down slightly by a crane, came the nearest to the Martyrs' Memorial, and I wondered afterwards whether it represented the souls of the martyrs ascending to heaven, though that's probably too Christian and too protestant an interpretation for the feature. By the end of the evening I was used to Broad Street being ablaze and I had forgotten that terracotta plantpots were ever used for anything other than nurturing fires.

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

Worth visiting is the display on 'Fire' at the Museum of the History of Science, open late during Luminox. overconvergent explained to me how one nineteenth-century model was used to demonstrate how lightning could be conducted through metal paint to kill the occupants of a house; the model included the cardboard figures of three women which fell over when the charge - or 'electric fire' in the terminology of the period - struck. As the model replicated a real incident it had a particular taste of grand guignol about it.

More industrial were the variety of old matchboxes and matches on display, many of them from Bryant and May. It's only taken the space of a lifetime for the matchbox to move to the margins of popular culture, with changes in cooking and heating in the home, the decreasing popularity of smoking, and the rise of the cigarette lighter. Looking at the daintiness of the Bryant and May Ruby Matchsticks, I really appreciated the skill of the Victorian matchgirls. I took a picture of a matchbox commemorating the Victorian financier and philanthropist George Peabody for my father, who knows of the housing organization Peabody founded.

Comments

Posted by: Disparate Housewife (wryelle)
Posted at: March 17th, 2007 01:13 pm (UTC)

'snot the same though. I felt like Oxford was my home, in a way I don't with Bristol, even though it's a city I want to like. Perhaps that will change with time.

Posted by: parrot_knight (parrot_knight)
Posted at: March 17th, 2007 01:28 pm (UTC)

Oxford likes its residents to believe in its own reality. I'm very aware that I live outside it, because Woodstock is a distinct place with its own traditions and a different population mix, and, being me and prone to dwell on hindsight, wonder what my life would have been like if I'd managed to stay in Oxford. More cramped, certainly, but I'd possibly feel less retired than I have done since I lived here, and more youthful.

Posted by: Disparate Housewife (wryelle)
Posted at: March 17th, 2007 04:11 pm (UTC)

Funny - I've always thought of you as an Oxford resident. I didn't know that Woodstock felt 'outside'.