Heritage funding allowed Newcastle City Council to commission this responsive and site-specific sound and light installation for the Victoria Tunnel, a former coal transport tunnel used as an air raid shelter in World War 2 and listed as a nuclear shelter in the Cold War. For this artwork, Adinda van ‘t Klooster focused on the universal theme of war, by referring to the Rainbow Codes, a series of code words used by the Ministry of Supply (MoS) in the post-World War II period to refer to British military research projects. Poetic word combinations like purple granite, red beard and yellow sun are bent into neon signs that hang from the ceiling at the end of the tunnel. Each light is synced up with a short sound sequence. At the end of a ten-minute show the lights stay lit and the words form a neon rainbow across the curve of the tunnel.
Using these code words for nuclear warheads, the artist aimed to generate questions and discussion about the role of nuclear weapons in international warfare. Formally, the artist explored how light and sound can be combined in a responsive artwork so they strengthen each other. She achieved this by avoiding using one to illustrate the other but by giving sound and image a different function in an immersive environment. The soundtrack is emotive and provokes feelings of unease and suspense whilst the visuals provide a conceptual layer that adds ambiguity to the work. The viewer doesn’t know what the word combinations mean until the show’s ending.
About seven thousand people experienced this site-specific and immersive experience between April 2009 when it opened and September 2010. Visitors directly trigger the sound and light sequences and described the work as ‘eerie’, ‘impressive’ and 'very relevant to the site'.
© Adinda van 't Klooster, 2008