The completion of the 26 artworks in the Art in the Park programme for the Olympic Park launched the London 2012 Festival (UK wide from 21 June – 9 September). The commissions include Monica Bonvicini’s free-standing mirror sculpture, RUN, with the majority of the commissions integrated into the Olympic Park infrastructure of bridges, underpasses, security fences, planting schemes and large-scale facades. A total of 24 of the 26 arts installations on the Olympic Park will remain in situ in the future Queen Elizabeth II Olympic Park, Britain’s largest new urban park for over a century. The programme also involved projects based outside the site with artist-led community projects in the five neighbouring Host Boroughs (Greenwich, Hackney, Newham, Waltham Forest and Tower Hamlets).
The 26 artworks have been commissioned and created over the last four years through the Olympic Delivery Authority (ODA) Arts and Culture strategy, with funding from the Greater London Authority, Arts Council England, London Development Agency, and Forward Arts Foundation.
Monica Bonvicini. RUN: Three nine-metre tall letters forming the word ‘RUN’ situated on the plaza of the 6,500-capacity Copper Box – the London 2012 Handball Arena. The RUN letters are constructed from steel and reflective glass – producing a mirrored effect during the day and illuminated at night through 300 metres of internal LED lighting reflecting a series of internal curved mirrors, which the artist describes: “At night the psychedelic light reflections will illuminate the work in an exciting, elegant and witty way, reflecting the great liveliness of London.” As well having an athletic dimension the title invertedly refers to musical sources including Bruce Springsteen’s ‘Born to Run’, Neil Young’s ‘Running Dry’ and The Velvet Underground’s ‘Run Run Run’.
Lucy Harrison. Light Up Your Street: A project engaging local communities with Monica Bonvicini’s ‘RUN’. Using Bonvicini’s starting point of music that used the word ‘run’, Harrison collected song lines from people in Hackney Wick. These were then projected onto buildings in Hackney Wick over three evening events.
Ackroyd & Harvey. History Trees: A collection of ten semi-mature trees – each with a bespoke metal ring suspended in the crown engraved with words specific to the history of each site. Three trees and rings have been installed and a further seven will be installed in legacy marking all of the main entrances to the 500-acre Olympic Park.
Lucy Harrison. Mapping Your Manor: A project in response to Ackroyd and Harvey’s ‘Mapping the Park’ commission. Harrison worked with people who live or work near the Olympic Park to make an audio soundtrack to be listened to in the vicinity of each of Ackroyd & Harvey’s entrance marker trees.
Neville Gabie. Artist in Residence: Neville Gabie’s residency gave him access to observe and respond to the changes of the Olympic Park on a daily basis. As well as the physical structures of the new venues, Gabie has been responding to the huge range of jobs and skills required to make the site work. Using the concept of measurement, volume, time, and distance, he developed a series of projects between 2020 and 2012 that celebrate some of the stories of the people building the Park, as well as other projects, such as an exploration of the cultural past of the site itself. These included site workers posing in a specially commissioned photograph in homage to Georges Seurat’s Bathers at Asnières.
Keith Wilson. Steles (Waterworks): 35 pillars in the form of 3 to 5-metre high coloured crayons painted in the five colours of the Olympic rings. The Steles are placed along the Waterworks River and will be used for boat moorings after the Games.
The Klassnik Corporation, Riitta Ikonen and We Made That. Fantasticology: Landscape features in the Park including entrance markers on the Greenway walking and cycling route; planting designs for wildflower meadows in the south-east corner of the Stadium island; and Fantastic Factology, a series of bench plaques installed throughout the Park displaying a ‘fantastic fact’ collected by local residents through workshops and events led by the artists.
Martin Richman. Underwhirl: Large scale swirls made from coloured glass beads and coloured plaster, installed in an underpasse in the North Park..
Grenville Davey. Inter Alia: Abstract aluminium bronze forms developed through workshops with local residents drawing on the idea of finger prints and ‘leaving your mark’.
Jason Bruges Studio. Fast, Faster, Fastest: An interactive light-based artwork that challenges people to race against the speed of their sporting heroes on one of the Olympic Stadium bridges.
Jason Bruges Studio. Streamline: As people pass through an underpass, the bridge is illuminated with an imaginary water surface overhead. The artwork represents the patterns produced by Olympic and Paralympic swimmers passing by, illustrating the speed of the winning times they set during the 2012 Games. Although complete, this work will only be accessible by the public in legacy.
The View Tube: A café, social enterprise and community venue, which has hosted a variety of arts exhibitions and events over the last two years. Funded by the ODA with London Thames Gateway Development Corporation.
Simon Pope. Memory Marathon: A large-scale participatory event in which artist walked a planned 26-mile route through the five Host Boroughs for London 2012. He was accompanied by 104 residents who recalled their stand-out memories from Olympic history. The event resulted in a feature length film screened in the host boroughs.
Shoreditch Star: An educational magazine themed around young people’s views on public art and design, inspired by arts projects in the Olympic Park, involving local schoolchildren in an arts and culture community engagement project. Funded by the ODA and the Contemporary Art Society,
Clare Woods. Brick Fields and Carpenters Curve: Two large-scale paintings digitally printed onto over 88,000 ceramic tiles, making it the most complex tile mural in the UK. The murals are integrated into the facades of two utilities buildings in the south of the Park. These reflect the history and her memories of the site in its former state.
DJ Simpson. Open Folds: a large scale work for the Utility buildings made out of punched anodized aluminium as an more abstract interpretation on landscape.
Carsten Nicolai. Ifo Spectrum: An artwork for the fence of an infrastructure building in the Olympic Park. His work is an alternative representation of the Olympic Emblem with the five rings transformed into an image of a low-frequency oscillation sound wave, which has been digitally printed onto a fence.
Winning Words: Spark Catchers is a poem written by Lemn Sissay, inspired by the history of the Bryant and May match factory, which still stands today, and the first trade Union strikes led by Annie Bessant.
Winning Words: Ulysses – the last line of Alfred Lord Tennyson’s poem Ulysses: ‘to strive, to seek, to find and not to yield’, installed as a permanent installation on a wall in the centre of the Olympic and Paralympic Village.
Winning Words: The Fun Palace – Caroline Bird’s poem is about the life and work of Joan Littlewood, Director of the Stratford East Theatre. She very nearly built ‘The Fun Palace’ – multi-creation arts and education centre designed by Cedric Price - on the site of the Olympic Park in the 1960s. It was never built, but it remains a source of inspiration as a proposal ahead of its time.
Winning Words: Bicycling For Ladies – A poem by John Burnside inspired by cyclist and suffragette Sylvia Pankhurst, and by the women of Bow, and the East London Federation of Suffragettes, who campaigned for women’s rights at the beginning of the Twentieth Century. Centred on the themes of cycling and the women’s movement, ‘Bicycling for Ladies’ was an early text on woman’s freedom.
Winning Words: Wild Swimmer – Poet Jo Shapcott wrote this poem hoping that readers would imagine themselves on a swim through the rich social, industrial and natural histories of the eight kilometres of waterways in and around the Olympic Park, finally emerging in Zaha Hadid’s Aquatics Centre.
Winning Words: Eton Manor – A poem by poet laureate Carol Ann Duffy, installed on a public wall in the venue and mounted on a metal plate designed by artist Stephen Raw. This commemorates the history of the Eton Manor site in the north of the park, formerly known as “The Wilderness” by local communities. Tthe Eton Manor site housed the sports ground of the Eton Manor Boys Club, founded at the beginning of the 20th century and run by Old Etonians.
Floating Cinema: A participatory project in Summer 2011. Designed by architects Studio Weave, and programmed by artists Nina Pope and Karen Guthrie (collectively known as Somewhere), the Floating Cinema boat held over 30 events on the waterways that connect to the Olympic Park and engaged with over 5,000 people.
Royal Artillery Barracks community engagement: Four Colours, a group of female artists, Amanda Westbury, Janetka Platun, Helen Ball and Susie Miller initiated a range of artist-led community engagement events to celebrate The Royal Artillery Barracks’ role as a London 2012 venue.
Running Water: Two temporary water features for the Olympic Park by the Canadian artist Peter Lewis from one of the North Park bridges.
Julius Popp. bit.fall: A large scale temporary water feature consisting of five waterfalls, each creating a continuous cascade of words formed of hundreds of water droplets, taken from the river below. The words are chosen at random from live news feeds by specialist software developed by Popp.
Images – ODA Art Commissions:
Monica Bonvicini. RUN. Photo: David Poultney @ ODA
Ackroyd & Harvey. History Trees. Photo: David Poultney @ ODA
Keith Wilson, Steles. Photo: Andy Keate, courtesy the artist.
Neville Gabie. Freeze Frame. Based on the Bathers at Asnières by Seurat.
Martin Richman, Underwhirl. Photo: David Poultney @ ODA
Oscar Bauer and Nazareno Crea. Cloud Bridge
Clare Woods. Brick Fields and Carpenters Curve. Photo: David Poultney @ ODA