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 

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