Art on the Underground presents Acts of Kindness – a new art project for stations and trains on the Central line created by Michael Landy, in collaboration with London Underground customers and staff.
This project celebrates the ordinary acts of generosity and compassion that take place every day on the Tube. From the 19th July, the first Acts of Kindness stories will debut at three Central Line stations: Liverpool Street, St. Paul’s and Holborn. Holland Park, Hanger Lane and Leyton will follow.
These artworks were created from an invitation earlier this year where customers and staff were asked to submit their stories of kindness to the artist via the TfL website. Landy then selected stories he received and represented them as poster artworks in stations and trains along the Central line. More stories will be published at the Acts of Kindness web page. In the future, trains travelling on the line will also carry the stories.
Michael Landy is interested in small, fleeting exchanges of kindness as much as heroic acts. Commenting on the project, he said: “Sometimes we tend to assume that you have to be superhuman to be kind, rather than just an ordinary person”. Landy first began thinking about the idea behind Acts of Kindness in 2001 immediately after making his work Break Down. For Break Down he destroyed all his possessions, from his birth certificate to his car. The experience of being left with nothing helped him reflect on what we are aside from what we own, and on the value of feeling part of a common humanity. “One of the questions that motivated Break Down”, he says, “was what makes us human, more than just being consumers.”
“I guess I wanted to take that a step further. I was looking for the right situation to explore what value kindness has, what it means, and what kind of exchange is involved in giving someone a helping hand”.
He found the situation he was looking for in London Underground when he witnessed two strangers, one trying to help the other. “I’m interested in what sort of exchange happens between strangers in an act of kindness. It’s a gesture of trust between two people. There’s a risk in that. They may just ignore you or take it the wrong way.”
“I’m fascinated by when you see people prepared to give up something for somebody they don’t know. It’s a remarkable moment. It’s unexpected, life-enhancing. I think sometimes it’s easier to remember those times when people have been unkind. But once you start to notice kindness you see it happening more and more”.
A version of the Acts of Kindness project will also be created in Sydney as the 24th Kaldor Public Art Project in partnership with Sydney’s Art and About festival. The project will be presented throughout the streets of Sydney from 23 September until 23 October 2011. The Sydney call for stories from the public will go live from 20 July. More information can be found at:
Photo: Daisy Hutchison