Liteup supplied lighting, video server and control plus rigging equipment (136 points including Kinesys automation) for all technical departments on the recent UK and European leg of Björk’s Cornucopia tour.
The dramatic lighting was a co-design by Bruno Poet and Richard White. Poet is well known as a theatre and opera LD, and for his creative lighting for bands like avant-rockers Sigur Ros. White has worked for Björk as a programmer and lighting director on the road for the last six years.
Björk is renowned for her beautiful, esoteric and uncompromising live productions built on visual and sonic experimentalism, and for taking performance into new and sometimes unnerving contexts. The focus of the Cornucopia show – initially produced as a series of one-off shows at new arts venue The Shed in New York, mid-2019 – was nature and the environment, touching on some of its frontline issues.
The visual starting point for Poet and White’s lighting design was video content created by artist and designer Tobias Gremmler together with Chiara Stephenson’s intricate set designs.
Liteup’s Account manager was Marc Callaghan, supported by project manager Dan Bunn. Callaghan stated: “We were extremely proud to be part of a ground-breaking production like this. The show looked fantastic and absolutely blew me away when I saw it. The production was very detailed and precise with all the elements both physically and artistically linked.”
The stage floor was modelled on mushroom heads complete with their complex gill structures on the underside, and opening / closing string curtains stage left, right and upstage centre together with an LED screen at the back to add perspective and texturing. The lighting design was arranged in layers, offering the ability to change and shift the environment and to highlight and emphasise different areas separately or combined.
At some points the visuals took centre stage, and other times the video faded into the background while lighting and scenics took up the narrative, with the two medias working closely and complimentarily throughout.
Liteup provided 16 Martin MAC Viper Performance and 37 MAC Viper profiles for the main hard-edged moving lights, which were arranged on six over-stage and two FOH trusses, joined by 29 GLP X4s as the primary wash lights. Two Robe BMFL WashBeams running on a RoboSpot remote follow spotting system were positioned at FOH off to the sides which was to increase the subtlety of their impact on stage – the goal being that the artist should not even feel their presence.
The RoboSpots were a key element. “We always try and spot Björk from a very side-on angle which isn’t always possible when touring multiple venues,” stated White. Using this system allowed him to keep control of all the colour and intensity parameters from FOH making the artist’s key light much more ‘live’ and controllable, particularly for this show with layered projection surfaces and automated drapes.
Thirty-two GLP X4 Bar 10s and 20 X4 Bar 20 LED battens were positioned on the over stage trusses in upstage and downstage rows. The staging concept is based around a ”utopian planet” and Bruno and Richard wanted to be able to create multiple sunrise and sunsets with stage-wide shifts of colour.
Both GLP JDC1 and SGM Q2 strobes had been used throughout all the shows, offering a wealth of different effects from the same unit. On this leg, White spec’d Q2s for the floor strobes and JDC1s for the overheads as they had swapped to a festival-style rolling stage with the floor units completely visible. Twenty Astera AX3 ‘LightDrop’ battery-powered LED ‘pucks’ were dotted around the stage providing a neat wireless up-lighting solution to highlight the mushroom gills and other set elements.
“These were our footlights and sat on the stage set itself,” explained White. They wanted to achieve close angles and bring another dimension to the lighting but without cabling and fixing points. White had used them before and knew they’d be “perfect for this job”. They could be charged during the load-in and simply positioned and focused before doors each day. Two grandMA3 light consoles were supplied by Liteup for control with a disguise 4×4 pro media server for the playback video which was operated by Daniel Bond.
One of the biggest challenges for lighting was during the more ‘video-driven’ songs, where people and set had to be lit in complementary and subtle ways, and serious detail went into finding angles “to create our effect but avoid any of the projection surfaces”. This was the primary reason they needed so many fixtures with framing shutters, and at one point lights had to be rigged on the curtain trusses themselves in order to light performers whilst sandwiched between multiple curtains.
The rigging detail comprised 136 motors from Liteup – a mix of quarter-ton, half-ton, 1-ton and 2-ton and including the five Kinesys vari-speed hoists – which were shared between lighting, audio and video departments, together with 143 metres of Litec PR60 pre-rigged truss. Dan Bunn worked closely with head rigger Steve Belfield to work out multiple rigging solutions for a show that had to be millimetre accurate when it came to the positioning of all the elements each day. This included getting one of the truss structures re-engineered to achieve a result not possible with any off-the shelf-product.