Art Beat

12th February 1999 at 00:00
Things are bubbling in Bristol. They won't come to the boil until the spring of next year because at-Bristol is a millennium project, but early signs are promising. There is a real buzz of excitement among the staff, led by ex-chemistry teacher Gillian Thomas, as visitors negotiate building-site mud and spindly ladders.

at-Bristol will be a new component in what is becoming the riverside "culture quarter" of the city, not far from the cathedral, near the Watershed arts and media centre at Harbourside. Art, science and natural history will meet in spectacular ways here. There will be three developments, separate but linked, on the11-acre site.

Explore at-Bristol will house interactive experiments and installations, some of which are already in the making in the workshops. Here is a "tornado", which children will be able to run through, and a similar vortex in water. This provides the first inkling of the way in which science can be aesthetically satisfying and art can be technologically fascinating. In a darkened workshop "necklaces" of red light demonstrate optical theories with delicate symmetry.

Public art in the areas around the buildings, Open spaces at-Bristol, and on the glass walls themselves will use technology imaginatively to create water and light features. Even the under-ground car-park will have artworks. Concerts and other events will take place in the open square and there is talk of a resident, possibly youth, orchestra.

The third area, Wildscreen at-Bristol, will use up-to-date meth-ods, including a giant IMAX cinema screen, to investigate living creatures. Real will be mixed with virtual here: a heated botanic house will contain tropical plants and there will be small animals and insects to observe. Chris Parsons, the doyen of television nature films - he produced BBC's Life on Earth - promises that visitors will be able to "experience" the top of the rain forest canopy, an African watering hole or the press of a penguin colony.

Schoolchildren will benefit particularly from at-Bristol, and already a core panel of 40 teachers is involved in the planning of displays. Inside the nearby cathedral, there is an exhibition of high-quality GCSE and A-level art from Bristol secondary schools. Integration between schools and the community already seems well-established in the city. For information about at-Bristol: 01179 092000.

Art, technology and astronomy blend beautifully in the Galileo Project. In a converted Victorian warehouse in Waterloo, the headquarters of the London Festival Orchestra, a unique plan is taking shape.

On the day of my visit, eight GCSE students from Battersea Technology College under the guidance of composer Robert Jarvis were creating suitable sounds on percussion instruments to suggest cold for the icy planet Europa and heat for the fiery, volcanic Io. The sounds will be incorporated into a piece finished with the help of the professional technology available in the LFO's studio. This will become part of an imaginative programme, Lift Off, to be presented at the London Planetarium. There will be talks and displays explaining the astronomer's life and work, interspersed with music by other composers including a new symphonic vocalelectronic piece, also called Galileo, by Edwin Roxburgh. This composer, who is fascinated by space and who teaches at the Royal College of Music, has incorporated into his work ideas from pieces by primary school children devel-oped in an earlier part of the pro-ject. Lift Off events are on March 17, 18, 19 at 10.30am. Tick-ets: 0171 487 0229.

Old technology came to the fore at Templeton CP School in Pembrokeshire when bag-piper Ceri Rhys Matthews helped the juniors make a piece of music using old inner tubes, sewage pipe, nails and string. Tel: 01559 384 962.

Don't forget Schools Prom Wales on March 4 at St David's Hall, Cardiff. Programme items include a choir of 300 children popping paper bags as the cannons in Tchaikovsky's "1812 Overture". Details, Music for Youth: 0181 870 9624.

Good news for teachers near London. Tickets for the hit play Art, recommended for over 14-year-olds, are being offered at the special rate of pound;8 each for Wednesday matinees if schools buy a minimum of 10. The producer, David Pugh, an ex-teacher, has organised a teacher's pack. This can be found on the Internet: www.theatrenet.co.uk, or can be acquired free by post from 41 Beak Street, London W1. Tickets from Wyndhams Theatre: 0171 369 1736.

Heather Neill.

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