CANARY Wharf station just got a whole lot more interesting. No longer just a place for commuters to rush through en route to work, it is – for the next year at least – home to a series of video art installations commissioned by Art on the Underground. The opening series of Canary Wharf Screen is called The City in the City, and will explore different versions of city life.
We caught up with the head of Art on the Underground, Tamsin Dillon, to discuss the project.
What’s the space like?
It’s a solid wall built at the end of the ticket hall. It’s in a redundant part of the hall; people don’t need to get through it to get out of the station or towards the turnstiles. We’ve used it before actually, projecting a work by John Gerrard on a large wall we built.
Why pick this bit of the station?
The hall is huge, and this is about offering something that people will see from a distance but also that they can come and look at close-up. You can’t do something like this in the Underground.
Tell us about the project?
Well, we wanted to do something that reflected the rise of this particular kind of art – the video installation. We wanted something that explored the urban environment, especially in a way relevant to Canary Wharf, a unique urban space. How do people behave in these spaces as opposed to in the office or at home? How do people collectively use public space? Suki Chan’s film, for instance, looks at railways running through the city, while Melanie Manchot’s film focuses on an urban street party and Marcus Coates’ work looks at a whole range of public spaces, from bingo halls to other sites as well.
What did you want the audience to get from this, specifically a commuter crowd?
People can read their own interpretation into the films. We’re hoping that people will come back at lunchtime and watch the films all the way through – at the weekend, it’ll be a different audience. We want to encourage audiences that know a bit about film to come specifically, but we also want to give something a bit new and interesting to the people that pass through who are used to the cinema, to mainstream films.
What’s particularly challenging about curating and creating art on the Underground?
Oh, it’s a huge challenge for the artists because of the signs, the advertising, the design of stations, people hurrying their way through. And people care a lot about the Tube as a space – everyone has their favourite line and so on; people understand the Tube in very particular ways. Art on the Underground tries of offer people encounters with art they could see in a gallery – but in a totally different way.
Canary Wharf Screen consists of four film series over the next year in conjunction with Video Umbrella, Animate Objects, Lux and the BFI. For more information about CWS and the four film-commissioning bodies, go to tfl.gov.uk/art