Skip Channel4 main Navigation
The Big Art Project

 
The artists

The following artists and arts groups were selected:

 

greyworld

'For centuries public art has meant monuments of bronzed warriors or controversial sculptures that were more often reviled than admired. Greyworld is trying to change all that, using its imaginative installations to transform the world's dreary urban areas. You've been warned: expect the unexpected. If an elevator starts playing show tunes or a water fountain compliments you on your outfit, don't freak out – it's only art.' Tara Pepper, Newsweek, 2004

'Monument to the Unknown Artist', Bankside, London (2007). The property developer Land Securities commissioned greyworld for their Bankside 123 development. Using animatronics, the apparently traditionally sculpted figure mischievously changes its pose in response to the viewer's own position

Monument to the Unknown Artist, Bankside, London (2007). The property developer Land Securities commissioned greyworld for their Bankside 123 development. Using animatronics, the apparently traditionally sculpted figure mischievously changes its pose in response to the viewer's own position

The arts group greyworld, which won the Big Art Project commission for Burnley, is the creation of Andrew Shoben. Founded in Paris in 1993, the group describes its goal as 'to create works that articulate public spaces, allowing some form of self-expression in areas of the city that people see every day but normally exclude and ignore'.

'Bins and Benches', installation view, outside the Junction Theatre, Cambridge (2005)

Bins and Benches, installation view, outside the Junction Theatre, Cambridge (2005)

Shoben, who has recently become Professor of Public Art and Computation at Goldsmiths University, London, describes himself as the group's 'enlightened dictator'. He first became involved in the arts world when he made the move from composing contemporary dance music to developing aural installations for public spaces.

One of Shoben's first projects, in 1995, involved the use of recordings of platform announcements and the noises of train arrivals and departures to recreate the atmosphere of the golden age of the railways at Fontenay station, in France, which had not seen a real passenger train for 25 years. The sounds were broadcast in response to members of the public buying tickets to imaginary destinations on a utopian railway service.

'Bins and Benches', 'interviewed' outside the Junction Theatre, Cambridge
(2005)

Bins and Benches, 'interviewed' outside the Junction Theatre, Cambridge (2005)

Subsequent works have ranged from railings tuned to play The Girl From Ipanema to public benches that generate a sound environment evoking an imaginary life lived out on them. In Cambridge, in 2005, five bins and four benches were 'injected with a magic serum of life so that they can break free from their staid and fixed positions to roam free in a public square'. Each bin or bench was given its own personality and impulses: 'If it's raining, a bench may decide to park up under a tree waiting for someone to sit on it; whilst on a Wednesday the bins will line up waiting to be emptied. Occasionally, they will all burst into song with the bins forming a baritone barbershop quintet and the benches a high soprano choir.'

'Bridge', Millennium Bridge, Dublin (2000). Sensors in the carpet responded to footsteps, generating unexpected sounds and melodies

Bridge, Millennium Bridge, Dublin (2000). Sensors in the carpet responded to footsteps, generating unexpected sounds and melodies

The Layer, an installation on Dublin's Millennium Bridge, involved covering the bridge with a blue carpet. Sensors underneath reacted to people's footsteps, detecting movement and producing sounds such as splashing through water or crunching through snow. 'It's very simple,' said Andrew Shoben in an interview with Landscape Journal. 'They are interfaces to creation which are very direct and they are very cause-and-effect. My mum would understand that: she puts her foot down and it causes a sound.'

Underlying all of greyworld's work is the desire to put the public at the centre of public art – to make work that requires participation. Not for them is the 'keep off', 'do not touch' mentality of the traditional bronze statue or public space. The works are playful and humorous, with a constant eye for the unexpected, making people think about the environment in which they live, work and play in ways that challenge assumptions.

'Railings', installed in Paris and London (Paris, 1997)

Railings, installed in Paris and London (Paris, 1997)

Talking of the work Railings, Andrew Shoben told Landscape Journal: 'As a definition of greyworld's work, I think it is pretty close to what I want it to be. It's still a set of railings and you can still chain your bike to it.'

greyworld's website is at www.greyworld.org.

For more about greyworld's work for the Big Art Project, see Latest news.

Top


Jaume Plensa

'Crown Fountain', Millennium Park, Chicago, USA (2000). Commissioned by Public Art Program, Department of Cultural Affairs, City of Chicago with support of Henry Crown and Company

Crown Fountain, Millennium Park, Chicago, USA (2000). Commissioned by Public Art Program, Department of Cultural Affairs, City of Chicago with support of Henry Crown and Company

Born in Barcelona in 1955, the Catalan artist Jaume Plensa, who has been chosen by the local community for the Big Art Project at the St.Helens site, has an international reputation for major public art projects. His outdoor work can be seen in locations including the US, Canada, France, Japan, Germany, Switzerland, Italy, Korea and the UK, as well as in his home country.

'Crown Fountain', Millennium Park, Chicago, USA (2000). Commissioned by Public Art Program, Department of Cultural Affairs, City of Chicago with support of Henry Crown and Company

Crown Fountain, Millennium Park, Chicago, USA (2000). Commissioned by Public Art Program, Department of Cultural Affairs, City of Chicago with support of Henry Crown and Company

Plensa is perhaps best known for Crown Fountain, a monumental and very popular public sculpture in Millennium Park, Chicago. The work comprises twin 15-metre towers facing each other across a thin sheet of water that forms a 70-metre 'pool' level with the adjacent walkways. Children and adults can splash across the water, while video portraits made from the faces of more than 1,000 Chicago residents are projected on LED displays behind the glass blocks of which the towers are built. Every 12 minutes a spout of water emerges from the mouth of a projected face before the image disappears in a shower of water.

'Blake in Gateshead', Baltic Center of Contemporary Art, Gateshead, UK (1996). Commissioned by the Metropolitan Borough Council Libraries and Arts, Gateshead, for the project Temporary Contemporary, Visual Arts Year, UK

Blake in Gateshead, Baltic Center of Contemporary Art, Gateshead, UK (1996). Commissioned by the Metropolitan Borough Council Libraries and Arts, Gateshead, for the project Temporary Contemporary, Visual Arts Year, UK

This engagement with more than one of a spectator's senses, and the encouragement of active, tactile exploration of an artwork, is typical of Plensa's work, as is the combination of technological sophistication and a lively urban exuberance. Blake in Gateshead, a laser installation which for the past decade has illuminated the night sky over Gateshead's Baltic Centre for Contemporary Art, provides another example of this approach.

'Blake in Gateshead', Baltic Center of Contemporary Art, Gateshead, UK (1996). Commissioned by the Metropolitan Borough Council Libraries and Arts, Gateshead, for the project Temporary Contemporary, Visual Arts Year, UK

Blake in Gateshead, Baltic Center of Contemporary Art, Gateshead, UK (1996). Commissioned by the Metropolitan Borough Council Libraries and Arts, Gateshead, for the project Temporary Contemporary, Visual Arts Year, UK

While Barcelona remains his home and base, Plensa has lived and worked in a number of other countries, including England, at the invitation of the Henry Moore Foundation, and France, at the invitation of the Atelier Alexander Calder. He is the winner of various national and international awards, including the Medaille des Chevaliers des Arts et Lettres from France's Minister of Culture in 1993, and he has had numerous solo exhibitions throughout Europe, north America and Japan.

'Breathing' (2004-2008). Memorial to news journalists around the world who have lost their lives. The sculpture will project a light-beam 900 metres into night sky form the new BBC Broadcasting House complex, London, UK. Commissioned by BBC Broadcasting House

Breathing (2004-2008). Memorial to news journalists around the world who have lost their lives. The sculpture will project a light-beam 900 metres into night sky form the new BBC Broadcasting House complex, London, UK. Commissioned by BBC Broadcasting House

Over the past decade Plensa has also worked on stage and costume design for major opera productions. These include Falla's Atlantida in Granada; The Damnation of Faust by Berlioz in Salzburg's Festspiele; and, Mozart's The Magic Flute for the Ruhr Triennale. His most recent public work in the UK is a spectacular illuminated sculpture for the BBC's Broadcasting House in London.

Jaume Plensa's website is at www.jaumeplensa.com

For more about Jaume Plensa's work for the Big Art Project, see Latest news.

Top


Jeppe Hein

Casual visitors to the George Pompidou Centre in Paris in the autumn of 2005 could have been forgiven for thinking that Espace 315 was just an empty room – or perhaps one of those exhibitions without exhibits that appear in the conceptual art world from time to time. If they looked at other visitors for a moment or two, however, something else became apparent. Each was wearing a small black helmet and navigating the space with short, jerky, seemingly random movements, as if encountering invisible obstacles.

'Invisible Labyrinth' (2005)

Invisible Labyrinth (2005). An imaginary labyrinth directing the movement of visitors. The maze's structure is organized by infrared signals. Courtesy: Johann König, Berlin and 303 Gallery, New York. Photo: Anders Sune Berg

This was the Danish artist Jeppe Hein's Invisible Labyrinth, a maze created by infra-red beams that triggered tiny electrical pulses in the helmets. The idea was to negotiate the virtual obstacles by moving around until the vibrations ceased and the way ahead was clear.

Invisible Labyrinth brought together three aspects common to Hein's work: the use of technology to achieve artistic objectives; interactivity with the viewer; and the discreet merging of art and exhibition space so that a work is often barely identifiable until that interaction takes place.

Other examples include Hein's contribution to the group show 'Ecstasy: In and about altered states' at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles in 2005. Moving Bench consisted of two ordinary-looking benches in the centre of the exhibition, which began to move when visitors sat down. Moving Wall echoed the solo exhibition in Hein's home city of Copenhagen in 2003 (Presenting/Representing), when visitors to Nicolai Wallner's gallery were greeted by what appeared to be an empty space, until it gradually became apparent that one of the walls was slowly moving inwards.

'Distance' (2004)

Distance (2004). A site-specific installation that relates directly to the presence of the viewer and the architecture of the exhibition space. Courtesy: Johann König, Berlin and 303 Gallery, New York. Photo: Simon Ladefoged

In a similar vein, 360° Presence (2002), comprised an ordinary steel sphere about 12 inches in diameter. Stationary until someone entered the gallery, the sphere then began to roll around, gathering momentum and eventually crashing into objects. In the six weeks it was on display in Johann König's new Berlin gallery, it famously wrecked everything at ground level. A more restrained variation on the theme, Continuity Reflecting Space (2003), saw seven spheres trundling around the foyer of La Caixa in Barcelona. In Distance (2007), for the Barbican's Curve Gallery, a series of balls moved on tracks like a rollercoaster ride, again triggered by the visitor.

'Space in Action/Action in Space' (2002)

Space in Action/Action in Space (2002). A circular pavilion of water, exhibited at 50th Venice Biennale, IT, 2003. The 'wall' of water jets has sensor-activated entry points for visitors. Courtesy: Johann König, Berlin and 303 Gallery, New York. Photo: Jeppe Hein

Hein's public art incorporates the same trademark elements of interactivity and technological inventiveness. Space in Action/Action in Space (2002), for example, is a circular fountain of water, one section of which shuts off when you approach, enabling you to enter the circle. Once inside, the fountain starts up again, enclosing you in a circular wall of water.

Born in 1974, Hein studied at the Royal Danish Academy of Arts in Copenhagen and the Hochschule für Bildende Künste in Frankfurt, and now divides his time between Copenhagen and Berlin. Isle of Mull residents hope that his ideas of 'social sculpture' can help to unite their dispersed island community.

'Modified Social Benches' 1-10 (2005)

Modified Social Benches 1-10 (2005). A series of bench designs was born out of the artist's investigations into urban architecture and social behaviour. The modified benches' identity 'sits' somewhere between artwork and functional object, becoming active sites of social exchange between users. Courtesy: Johann König, Berlin and 303 Gallery, New York. Photo: Florian Ludde

Jeppe Hein's website is at www.jeppehein.net

For more about Jeppe Hein's work for the Big Art Project, see Latest news.

Top


muf

Dale Community Primary School, Derby (2006-8). Client: Creative Partnerships

Dale Community Primary School, Derby (2006-8). Client: Creative Partnerships

'Access is understood not as a concession but as the gorgeous norm. Creating spaces that have an equivalence of experience for all who navigate them, both physically and conceptually, muf delivers quality and strategical durable projects that inspire a sense of ownership through occupation.'
muf

'The Beach at the End of the Line', Portpatrick (2001). Client: Dumfries and Galloway Council

The Beach at the End of the Line, Portpatrick (2001). Client: Dumfries and Galloway Council

Founded in 1996, muf is a cutting-edge arts and architecture collective that has established a reputation for the pioneering and innovative use of public space. It aims to 'allow multiple views and fantasies to coexist and inform the potential of shared places'. Projects include permanent and temporary art works and landscapes, buildings and strategies.

Museum Pavilion, St Albans Hypocaust, Verulamium Museum (2004). Client: St Albans City and District Council. Photo ©Jason Lowe

Museum Pavilion, St Albans Hypocaust, Verulamium Museum (2004). Client: St Albans City and District Council. Photo ©Jason Lowe

Muf works with existing communities, negotiating both public and private interests, and dealing with everything from access issues and community safety to planning constraints. In Derby, for example, muf worked with Dale community school to make the most of its learning space, clearing clutter, renovating the reception play-space and opening up the 'moat' separating the school from the street. At Portpatrick, in Dumfries and Galloway, a 2001 scheme to renovate the derelict edge of the harbour created a space for rest and play in which 'the intrinsic order of the cliffs, rocks and sea are intersected by the scheme geometry, laid out in grass, paving and play equipment, to reveal the give-and-take between natural forces and an ambition for an imposed control by the human inhabitants'. In St Albans, the collective designed a new pavilion to house a Roman mosaic in a municipal park, a reminder of the ancient city buried beneath. The materials included aggregate made out of crushed oyster shells, to create a continuity with original Roman materials.

'Talking Heads' (2005 – ongoing). Client: Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery

Talking Heads (2005 – ongoing). Client: Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery

Muf's art projects include the 2005 (and continuing) Talking Heads installation at the Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery. Six busts from the museum's collection, including those of Albert Einstein, Joseph Conrad and the Duke of Wellington, are placed around a table laid with other objects from the museum and on which there is a half-eaten meal. Visitors can join the famous heads at the table and eavesdrop on their conversations, which are recorded by actors in local accents.

'Secret Garden' (2007), Barking Town Square, London. A 'ruin' constructed from reclaimed bricks and architectural salvage, developed with the master bricklayers of Barking College as part of one of the mayor's 100 Public Spaces. Winner of the fifth European Prize for Urban Public Space, selected from 176 projects from 26 countries. Client: London Borough of Barking and Dagenham

Secret Garden (2007), Barking Town Square, London. A 'ruin' constructed from reclaimed bricks and architectural salvage, developed with the master bricklayers of Barking College as part of one of the mayor's 100 Public Spaces. Winner of the fifth European Prize for Urban Public Space, selected from 176 projects from 26 countries. Client: London Borough of Barking and Dagenham

Muf was familiar with the area of the Beckton Alps in Newham, east London, where the collective had already been chosen to provide a piece of public art for the Big Art Project. The group had also been given the commission to redesign the public realm for nearby Barking town centre as part of the Mayor of London's '100 public spaces' programme. And on the Northern Outfall Sewer, which runs for several miles above ground in east London, it has developed step-free access across the sewer to connect neighbourhoods, incorporating pedestrian and cycling routes, seating, lighting and planting. The sewer has already been the focus for various public art projects and will provide an access route for pedestrians and cyclists to the Beckton Alps site.

Muf's website is at www.muf.co.uk.

For more about muf's work for the Big Art Project, see Latest news.

Top


Rafael Lozano-Hemmer

'The political or corporate takeover of the city takes place in such insidious ways. Everywhere we look there is advertising, an inescapable commercial monologue. Left outside of this system is we, the consumers. Short of graffiti or skateboarding, how else do we form part of the city?'
Rafael Lozano-Hemmer

'Vectorial Elevation' (1999). Robotic searchlights controlled by remote website commands. Premiered at the Zócalo Square, Mexico City.  Photo Martin Vargas

Vectorial Elevation (1999). Robotic searchlights controlled by remote website commands. Premiered at the Zócalo Square, Mexico City. Photo Martin Vargas

Rafael Lozano-Hemmer, who has won the Big Art Project commission to develop a new public artwork for Prince Charles Quay in Cardigan, is a Mexican-Canadian multimedia artist who works with ideas from architecture, performance art and technology. Born in Mexico City in 1967, he has a bachelor of science degree in physical chemistry from Concordia University in Montreal. He currently lives and works in Montreal and Madrid.

Lozano-Hemmer describes himself as an 'electronic artist' and is best known for developing large-scale interactive installations in public spaces. Using robotics, projections, sound, internet and cell-phone links, sensors and other devices, his installations aim to provide 'temporary anti-monuments for alien agency'.

He is responsible what may be the world's largest interactive installation, both in terms of its size and the number of participants. Vectorial Elevation was originally designed for the Millennium celebrations in Mexico City's Zócalo Square. The website www.alzado.net enabled people to design huge sculptures in light above the historic centre of the city, using an online 3D interface linked to robotic searchlights around the square. The light sculptures were visible for 15 kilometres, and 800,000 people from 89 countries participated. Subsequent installations in the Spanish city of Vitoria-Gasteiz in 2002, in Lyon in 2003 and in Dublin in 2004 involved a further 300,000, 600,000 and 520,000 participants respectively.

'Homographies' (2006). Motorised fluorescent light fixtures, computerised surveillance tracking system. Premiered at the Sydney Biennale, Art Gallery of NSW, Sydney. Variable dimensions. Photo: Antimodular

Homographies (2006). Motorised fluorescent light fixtures, computerised surveillance tracking system. Premiered at the Sydney Biennale, Art Gallery of NSW, Sydney. Variable dimensions. Photo: Antimodular

Recent work includes Homographies, which features 144 fluorescent lights controlled by computerised surveillance systems that react to people's movement underneath them. Subtitled Public is an empty exhibition space in which visitors are also tracked and 'subtitles' – thousands of verbs conjugated in the third person – are projected onto their bodies. In Under Scan, a large-scale public art project in Derby, Leicester, Lincoln, Northampton and Nottingham, thousands of video portraits were projected onto the ground of the main squares and pedestrian thoroughfares. At the same time, what was said to be the world's most powerful projector flooded the space with white light, so that the portraits were only visible in people's shadows. As an image appeared, the head turned to look directly at the person casting the shadow.

'Underscan' (2005-2006). Public art installation for the East Midlands region of the UK. Variable dimensions. Photo: Antimodular

Underscan (2005-2006). Public art installation for the East Midlands region of the UK. Variable dimensions. Photo: Antimodular

The interactive element is crucial to Lozano-Hemmer's work. He has said that 'If no one participates, then the piece does not exist.' In an interview for the Ars Electronica Festival of new-media art in Linz, Austria, in 2002, he said in relation to his interactive video-portrait installation Body Movies, Relational Architecture 6: 'I make use of spectacle technologies. But I want to turn them around. My emphasis aims to avoid a preconceived outcome.'

'Body Movies' (2001). Xenon 7kW projectors with robotic scrollers, 1,200 duraclear transparencies, computerised surveillance system, plasma screen, mirrors. Projection measures between 400 and 1800 square metres. Courtesy V2_Organisatie, Rotterdam. Photo Arie Kievit

Body Movies (2001). Xenon 7kW projectors with robotic scrollers, 1,200 duraclear transparencies, computerised surveillance system, plasma screen, mirrors. Projection measures between 400 and 1800 square metres. Courtesy V2_Organisatie, Rotterdam. Photo Arie Kievit

The winner of various awards for interactive art, including two Baftas, as well as Wired magazine's artist/performer of the year award in 2003, in 2007 Lozano-Hemmer represented Mexico with a solo show at the 52nd International Art Exhibition of the Venice Biennial. Recently acquired work includes 33 Questions Per Minute, by the Museum of Modern Art in New York, and Subtitled Public, by the Tate Modern in London. Among major projects in 2008 were the installations Under Scan in Trafalgar Square, London W1; Frequency and Volume at The Curve, Barbican Centre, London EC2; and Subtitled Public at the group show 'The Fifth Floor: Ideas Taking Space' at the Tate Liverpool.

Rafael Lozano-Hemmer's official website is at www.lozano-hemmer.com.

For more about Rafael Lozano-Hemmer's work for the Big Art Project, see Latest news.

Top


Claire Oboussier and Vong Phaophanit

Claire Oboussier and the 1993 Turner Prize nominee Vong Phaophanit, who were chosen to develop the Big Art Project commission for North Belfast, have been working collaboratively for more than two decades. Both Phaophanit, who was born in Savannakhet, Laos in 1961 and Oboussier, born in London in 1963, are based in the UK, though Phaophanit in particular has exhibited throughout the world.

'Ash and silk wall (1993)

Commissioned by Greenwich Borough Council Ash and silk wall (1993) uses glass, ash, silk and light to create a permanent sculpture/shelter

Phaophanit and Oboussier's collaborative ventures have spanned a wide range of media, including books, film, sculpture, large-scale installations and a variety of public-art projects. In addition to the Big Art Project, their work in 2009 includes major public commissions for the new Hull Truck Theatre building and for the Olympic Energy Centre Building, London, with the architects John McAslan & Partners. Their video installation, All That's Solid Melts into Air, first commissioned in 2006, has recently been added to the Tate collection, together with Phaophanit's 1991 work Tok Tem Dean Kep Kin Bo Dai (What Falls to the Ground but Can't Be Eaten).

Outhouse (2005)

Outhouse (2005) was commissioned by Liverpool Housing Action Trust, Woolton, Liverpool. Glass and steel structure with sand stone and clear red neon

The pair have produced a series of public artworks in collaboration with local communities. In 2004, they created Outhouse for the Liverpool Housing Trust. Conceived as both a sculpture and a useable social space, this two-thirds-scale representation of a typical terraced house is located in a small wooded area close to four 1960s tower blocks. Its reflective glass walls are underlit with red neon at night, creating a striking local landmark, and the structure has been transformed for a variety of other projects designed with local residents. These have included a walk-in lantern and a Remembrance Day poppy display. Rather than prescribing how the work should be used by the local community, Oboussier and Phaophanit envisaged it as a 'proposition' that would lend itself to various public uses.

Bay Windows (2005-2006)

Commissioned by Canterbury City Council's 'Make it Real' project, Herne Bay, Bay Windows (2005-2006) was a temporary neon light installation in various locations around the town.

In 2005, the artists contributed to InSite Arts' 'Sparks – Make it Real' project, which sought to 'animate three quite different townscapes [Whitstable, Herne Bay and Canterbury] during the winter nights'. Oboussier and Phaophanit's installation, called Bay Windows, involved neon signs scaled up from Herne Bay residents' handwritten 'dream destinations'. The artists' 2007 Topography of Dreams public installation, commissioned by the Birmingham Arts Festival, revived this work at the Grade 1 listed Curzon Street rail station, in the centre of Birmingham.

Life lines (2006)

Commissioned by Southend City Council, Life lines (2006) is made up of 6 lines of LED, in a 9m x 2m clear acrylic structure with 6 different sensors.

One of Oboussier and Phaophanit's biggest projects to date is Life Lines, a major public artwork commissioned as part of the redevelopment of Pier Hill in Southend and designed to provide a link between the seafront and the main shopping centre. Launched in 2006, Life Lines is a 54-metre-long sculpture that uses transparent materials and coloured LED lights to form a dynamic series of lines that vary according to sensors that respond to sound, movement, wind, air pressure, humidity and light. In Vong Phaophanit's words, it is intended as 'a direct translation of the living, breathing Southend', a locally rooted ambition that he and Oboussier bring to their public art wherever it is located.

Vong Phaophanit and Claire Oboussier's website is at www.atopia.org.uk.

For more about Vong Phaophanit and Claire Oboussier's work for the Big Art Project, see Latest news.

Top



Arts Council England

Join the Big Art Mob

Big 4

Forum

Share your thoughts about public art of all shapes and sizes


Channel 4 © 2013. We have updated our terms and conditions and privacy policy. Please ensure you read both documents before using our Digital Products and Services.