Your Guide To The Best Art At The London Olympics This Summer
Tomorrow, a little event called the Olympic games is going to officially open in London. You may not have known that until I mentioned it, because coverage has been pretty low key. But don’t thank me yet, because to coincide with this sporting behemoth there’s an art festival too featuring, oh, about a trillion works of art or so—it’s everywhere you turn, taking place across a multitude of venues and artistic disciplines.
The conditions for this cultural mega-celebration seem to be designed to try set some kind of record for the amount of works exhibited over a single summer. And it’s cost about £90m—but can you really put a price on the sound of children laughing gaily as they immerse themselves in an inflatable Stonehenge? All the exhibitions are part of the Cultural Olympiad or the London 2012 Festival—it gets a bit confusing as to who led what initiative—but let’s just say there’s a fair bit of art to enjoy this summer in the British Isles. I could make a pun here about it being the Artlympics, but I won’t.
So, to help any visiting delegates or commoners, or Londoners and non-Londoners, or UKers, or virtual entities, algorithms, anyone really, here’s a guide to some of the best stuff taking place this summer, art-wise. If you want sport, try the BBC.
Mira Calix — Nothing Is Set in Stone
This piece is a modern version of the prehistoric land art that can be found across the UK, except this piece sings, too. Take that, Stonehenge! Calix built it as an ode to permanence, perception, and the relativity of change. It sits atop a hill in the Fairlop Waters Nature Reserve beckoning you to come touch it.
Jeremy Deller — Sacrilege
The Turner prize winner created an inflatable Stonehenge bouncy castle which started its life at the Glasgow International Festival of Visual Art earlier this year. I’ve included this interactive public sculpture in this list because, well, because IT’S AN INFLATABLE STONEHENGE BOUNCY CASTLE! Just thinking about it makes you feel giddy. It’s currently touring around the UK.
This has nothing to do with Parliament Square and hippies, but instead features 2,000 ghostly tents, which will appear at eight locations across the British coastline, glowing orange and pink and white between dawn and dusk. They’ll also emit a soundscape of love poetry, which will be sure to freak out any unsuspecting ramblers. It’s a collaboration between director Deborah Warner, Fiona Shaw, composer Mel Mercier, and sound designer John Del’ Nero.
Sosolimited — Twitter London Eye Light Show
Do you hate or heart the Olympics? It’s a big question, which is why at 9 PM BST every day throughout the Olympics and Paralympics the London Eye will glow, or half-glow, or maybe not glow at all, depending on what Twitter users are saying about the games. The negative or positive feedback will be translated into a light show on the Eye, making it a giant mood wheel.
What with all the official art going on, it’s nice to balance that out with some non-official work. And who better than Banksy, the graffiti artist who became accepted by the art establishment and now sells his work for top dollar. The two pieces below critique the Games in Bansky’s cunning way, one of them features an athlete throwing a missile instead of a javelin, commenting on the militarization of the Olympics.
YesYesNo – Connecting Light
Zachary Lieberman and his colleagues at YesYesNo have designed this installation for Hadrian’s Wall, which will feature around 300 to 400 tethered balloons lit by internal LEDs, to produce a line of shifting colors. The lights will change color by responding to messages sent across the wall by visitors using their smartphones and via a website. You’ll also be able to view the piece remotely. Below is a video of the balloons being tested by XBee.
Within the Olympic Park are Cecil Balmond and Anish Kapoor’s Olympic Tower Of Babel, the Orbit sculpture standing 115 meters high. Also, United Visual Artists are behind the night lights for the Basketball Arena, which will put on, no doubt, awesome nightly displays. And, Coca-Cola have modestly commissioned the beatbox building below, in their red and white branded colors. It’s designed by Pernilla & Asif and visitors can play 200 rectilinear air cushions, which will remix Mark Ronson‘s Olympic song. Also here will be Carsten Nicolai’s piece ifo spectrum which will be on the Olympic Park fence, promising “an alternative vision of the Olympic Rings”.
Kurt Hentschläger – CORE
Taking place at the Ironbridge Gorge Museum, this installation will feature weightless humanoids floating about in ethereal sound, interacting with each other and flocking about like birds, or swimming like shoals of fish. These interlinked generative projections aim to be like looking through a window into another world.
Herzog & de Meuron and Ai Weiwei – Serpentine Gallery Pavilion
The design team behind Beijing’s Olympic bird’s nest stadium took on the Serpentine Gallery Pavilion design as well. The project took the form of architectural archaeology. The team excavated to groundwater level, creating a well that collects rainwater. As they dug down, they revealed elements of past pavilions—11 in total. Telephone cables and physical fragments and cork lined the trenches they dug, with the roof of the piece covered in water.
Choi-Jeong Hwa – Time After Time and Life Life
This took place outside the Hayward Gallery on London’s Southbank—Hwa is known for recycling what other people consider junk and turning it into fine art. As part of the All Eyes on Korea festival he used 5,000 plastic baskets and put them around concrete bollards and tied 2,000 balloons to a tree outside the gallery.
Moritz Stefaner, Drew Hemment, Studio NAND – Emoto
Real-time worldwide audience response to the Games is given life through a website and a 3D sculpture. They’ll be monitoring social media sites for Olympic-related material which they’ll turn into a web-based visualization. Then after the games they’ll create a “data sculpture” which “will serve as an aggregate archive of the collective response to the games.”
Owl Project and Ed Carter – ~Flow
This tide mill, which floats on the River Tyne, has some electro-acoustic musical machinery and instruments on board, which will respond to the ever-changing environment of the river, generating sound and data in real-time. Visitors can also interact with the instruments.
Adrian Utley, Joanie Lemercier and special guest performers – Mail, Maps & Motion
Taking place in Bristol—among films about Bristol’s industrial heritage—will be an audiovisual performance from Joanie Lemercier of AntiVJ and Adrian Utley from the band Portishead. It will journey from Brunel’s original sketches to the arrival of the high speed train the 125, from “the echo of the steam train to the building’s electric future” as the two experiment with the city’s industrial history. Will also feature local, but now famous, musicians from Scott Hendy (Malachai/Boca45), Si John (Roni Size/Reprazent, SJ Eseau (Anticon Records), Andy Sutor, Inkie and Will Gregory (Goldfrapp).
John Gerrard – Exercise (Djibouti)
Taking place at the Old Power Station, Oxford, this cinematic piece takes its inspiration from found documentary images of US military exercises in Djibouti (Horn of Africa) and research into athletic achievement, exploring the relationship between competitive sport, military training, theatrical performance, and dance. As they explain: “On a simulation of the barren Djibouti landscape, two teams of computer-generated figures meet daily at dawn to initiate a series of cryptic gestural routines—precise, repetitive, faintly antagonistic. The scene is a painstaking and extraordinarily detailed reproduction, constructed by hand within the virtual using photographic and satellite data guides from the real landscape. Neither completely synthetic nor strictly real, the work exists in ‘real time’ (Djibouti: GMT +3 hours), orbiting over a yearly cycle that incorporates the movements of sun, moon and stars.”