Tuesday, 24 January 2012

Olympics art commissions - meh

NVA's Speed of Light

Will the Cultural Olympiad create any genuinely exciting and innovative creative projects or will they all be as equally worthy and inclusive as each other? Discuss.

Other than Martin Creed's brilliantly simple and insouciant bells project, there seem to be quite a lot of projects happening for 2012 which do generate an inward groan on my part. And a bit of a rant on this blog.

Why does everyone have to be able to get involved and take part? Is it because participation in art projects justifies their expense, because at least everyone had a good time even if the project itself was actually a load of crap? Why can't we just commission an artist to deliver a great creative project?

NVA's Speed of Light in Scotland is a case in point - and I used to think some of their work looked really interesting. Speed of Light might even turn out to be quite good, but the whole concept smacks of being dreamt up to tick inclusion boxes and keep funders happy, most gratingly by linking sport and art (never the most comfortable of partnerships). Reading their website is immediately off-putting. It is so incredibly full of puff...the project is 'a tremendous fusion of sport and innovative culture.....Edinburgh’s iconic mountain [Arthur's Seat] will be brought to life through sporting endeavour and performative visual art.' 

Just tell us what the project is in straightforward terms and let us decide whether it is 'tremendous' and 'breathtaking' or not. It might chuck it down with rain the whole time and be a total washout.

The project consists of a group of runners wearing 'specially designed light suits' running up Arthur's Seat. Audience members will 'generate light through the movement of bespoke walking staffs'. So basically it's a load of glorified and wearable giant glowsticks? And people have to buy tickets to this project that features 250 volunteers and is still costing £500,000?! (I normally hate it when journalists mention how much projects cost, but £500,000 for Speed of Light - is it really worth it?)

I will reserve my judgement fully until the project actually happens in August as it could be spectacular, but NVA's Director does himself no favours by making comments like this: 

“The beautiful exteriority of Speed of Light seen from afar, versus the sweaty reality of the runner, gives the work a tension.”

The 'beautiful exteriority'? And people think artists talk a load of cobblers?

Other more solid projects include this by Clare Woods: 
With thanks to Hepworth Wakefield for the photo

And this by Monica Bonvicini:
Photo by Darren Lewis

Both on the Olympic site, at least there will be something left at the end apart from a few bedraggled light suits. 

To read an entertainling article about the Speed of Light project, visit:

There's another interesting article, this one about the South West's £500k Cultural Olympiad project, Nowhere Island, here: http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/blog/2011/sep/22/olympic-arctic-art 

Friday, 13 January 2012

Neville Gabie Orchard project in Nottingham for Sneinton Market

Neville Gabie's Orchard project for Sneinton Market Square, which has recently been redeveloped by Patel Taylor Architects, has been commissioned by Nottingham City Council.  

The project has included the planting of a series of apple trees in the square, intended for communal use. The artist will also donate apple trees of 100 different varieties to local residents, schools and community organisations in the Sneinton and St Anns areas of Nottingham, to create a diverse urban orchard spanning the east side of the city. The project is an expression of the City Council's commitment to the production of urban food and community engagement, and the artist has worked closely with the market traders' association.

The new market square design by Patel Taylor

Orchard has been managed by the Contemporary Art Society with local curator Jennie Syson.
The project is both an art project and a programme of events, which included an exhibition, a symposium and a feast alongside night time projections in December 2011. Apple Day was also celebrated back in October.

To find out more about the project, visit the project website at www.orchardsneinton.co.uk 

Tuesday, 10 January 2012

Tonkin Liu unveil second artwork in Burnley

Architects Tonkin Liu have completed Rainbowgate, their second artwork for Burnley after the Singing Ringing Tree. Located near the entrance to the shared Burnley College and University of Central Lancashire campus, the artwork acts as a shelter from the rain, creating a meeting place and resting point. The artwork is part of a redesign of the public realm in this crucial area which acts as an entry point to the town from the motorway, and will also form part of the new 'knowledge quarter'. The public realm work is intended to be a catalyst for attracting businesses, interest and pride in the area.

The local paper website article has a comment after it that the artwork 'looks like a lemon squeezer' - I usually like the nicknames that artworks get locally as it starts to feel as if they are owned....a perforated footbridge where I live in Bristol near Temple Meads station gets called 'the cheese grater'.