LightNight 2017 artist profile: Friend or Foe

The theme for this year's LightNight festival is 'Time', so we asked some of the commissioned artists what (or who) they'd put in a time capsule. No prizes for guessing who multidisciplinary artists Friend or Foe nominated...

Feature by The Skinny North | 10 May 2017
  • Friend or Foe, Tinted Venus

Liverpool's annual late-night culture crawl, LightNight this year invites artists to respond to the word 'Time' in unlimited ways – covering everything from the city's past, present and future to the influence of time on art, science and philosophy.

Alongside the hundreds of free events across town on 19 May, with galleries, museums and art spaces throwing open their doors until late, LightNight also makes a number of commissions each year – and the eight new works for 2017 range from a light installation accompanied by music from Arvo Pärt to an audiovisual piece that the audience can control through data from their brainwaves and heartbeats. 

Artists Friend or Foe stage one-off performances that incorporate music, visuals and software. For LightNight 2017 they're making an audiovisual environment, Bloom, which creates a fluctuating sense of space and time. 

The Skinny: Please can you tell us a little bit about your practice, and how your project for LightNightcontinues/relates to it?

Friend or Foe: We've been developing our performances to be one-off experiences. We like to keep things interesting and push ourselves to try new ideas and collaborate with different people. We write and create new music and visuals, and develop our own custom interactive software each time, inspired by a theme or the event location.

Previously we've had audiences lying on the floor during the live performance, with film and visuals projected overhead. We've also experimented with binaural recording and interactive headphone-based installation.

Developing our own software programs has enabled us to experiment with new ways to link and create custom controls to manipulate the visuals live as we perform our music. It feels like we can play and improvise with imagery as an instrument, as we can with sound.

This commission and unique structure of the venue has pushed us to develop our ideas in a new direction, working with light and space, allowing the audience to explore the space and interact within a promenade journey.

How does your work for LightNight respond to the festival's theme, 'Time'?

The catacombs at St George’s Hall are part of the world’s oldest air-conditioning system. The way the system works is very different from when it was first developed but the function of the space is still the same. Spending time in the space made us feel like we were in the breathing lungs of the building, almost like a giant living organism.

Our ideas for this project consider our own individual perception of time, based on a lifetime of shifting, changing and reinventing. Nothing is permanent. In seemingly repetitive actions such as walking to work, washing the dishes or even taking a breath, nothing is ever really the same twice.

We will be staging our performance four times through LightNight. As the evening progresses, elements of each performance will transform, distort and decay, to evolve into something new. No performance will sound or look the same twice.

Given the ultimatum, would you travel backwards or forwards in time?

We’d risk going into the future to see how history has recorded the apparent mess we're in now.

To what time would you go, and why?

To Twin Peaks time, we’d quite like to live there.

What one item would you put in a time capsule?

Lock Trump in a time capsule.

What else are you working on at the moment?

We’re planning to have a mammoth recording session of all the music we’ve written for our projects, hopefully to release shortly after. We’re also thinking about developing a few of our ideas into a touring show for later in the year.

Bloom, St George's Hall, 5.30-9pm as part of LightNight Liverpool, 19 May