With not much for students to do after the ‘rule-of-six’ took much-anticipated events away, the UEA Wonderglow festival gave a thought-provoking and other-worldly alternative to staying indoors with housemates. Walking through the UEA campus, a place that is so familiar, the lights and neon glows distorted this familiarity and transformed it into an ethereal place I found hard to recognise, but had been to countless times before.

Cast onto the Music Building, a projection that could only be described as a contorting Rorschach test danced along the wall, accompanied by ambient boding whispers that nothing organic could make. I sat there, trying to understand it for what felt like hours, to make patterns in the randomness of the shapes, but I couldn’t. What I did understand, however, was that the spontaneous chaos of the world’s effect on our perceptions changes so rapidly that trying to comprehend it in its entirety is futile. Instead, I sat back and enjoyed it.

Feeling satisfied, I decided to make my way to the lake, where I was greeted by neon octopuses and glow worms held in motion by the transparent frame in which they existed. I felt light years away, transported to an extra-terrestrial UEA where glowing sea creatures gliding languidly through the air were as commonplace as rabbits.

Moving on, I encountered a wooden shack with a lit-up sign saying ‘Does Capitalism work for you?’ and a button for no and a button for yes recording students’ answers. Shocking or not, the noes outweighed the yeses. My housemate, an economics student, was with me, sparking us into a debate about how capitalism has personally benefitted our relatively privileged backgrounds and whether the question should include the disadvantages other people experience that are caused by rigid capitalism. In the end, I concluded that because I have never lived in a non-capitalist country, it is impossible to assess any impact that non-capitalist systems have had or could have had on my life; capitalism is the only system I truly know. I hit both the yes and the no buttons.

Finally, I arrived at the end of the journey. A giant, lit-up, revolving planet (Wonderglobe?) in the Sainsbury’s Centre held suspended behind the glass. Like a window-shopper, I tried to see what I could recognize. The lack of borders that I was used to on maps made it difficult to distinguish countries, and I soon thought about how strange and unnatural borders are when met with these undivided and unlabeled chunks of land. Other artworks in the trail concerned themselves with limited perspectives, but this one stood out as a raw look at everything that matters, spinning as if performing just for us.

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Jim Gell

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September 2021
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