Skin Up

The Big 4

The blue wrap came off. The Big 4 saw the light of day. A real buzz was released into the air around the Channel. Big Art, bold creativity.

The Minister for Culture Margaret Hodge unveiled the 40’ high figure four based on those much admired idents on Channel 4. On the approach to the Channel’s Richard Rogers designed headquarters in Horseferry Road (London SW1), the 4 stands three and a bit storeys high. The structure forms a figure four only from a particular angle, just like the on-screen idents masterminded by Brett Foraker. The concept of the TV graphics is that the four only comes together for a fleeting moment. So, strictly speaking, the Big 4 should be viewed walking by, no stopping.

The structure has been skinned by leading British photographer Nick Knight. He is the first of four artists to tackle the task over the coming year. His approach: skin the figure with images of people’s hearts – from the outside. White skin, black skin, brown skin, the patchwork that is modern Britain. Stand in the middle and you can hear the beating of a heart.

In three months it will be the turn of Ghanaian sculptor El Anatsui, and then the marvellous Mark Titchner. The last skinner will be the winner of a competition run in conjunction with the Saatchi Gallery.

The Big 4 celebrates 25 years of Channel 4 Arts and the launch of the Big Art Project – an innovative, bold cross-platform initiative involving a 4 part documentary series from Carbon Media, the commissioning of 6 new works of public art across the UK – from Beckton to the Isle of Mull, and the first comprehensive map of public art in the UK in the form of the Big Art Mob – a mobile blogging initiative where people photograph public art they know and love and send it from their camera phone into a visually led blog and a Google Map mash-up, the Big Art Map.

Today I had a meeting at the Public Monuments & Sculpture Association with its Chief Executive Jo Darke to make sure the Big Art Mob complements what the Courtauld Institute-based research project has been doing. We (Jo, me and sculptor Nick Pearson) had a fabulous chat in a tranquil corner of Somerset House animated with passion for public art. What I so love about this interactive commission is it’s so adaptable to partnership initiatives. From arts & disability groups to the Arts Council, from Kew to specific creations like Aluna, Big Art Mob is an easy, accessible way to record, explore, enjoy, engage with public art in all its forms.

The day before the unveiling Montreal-based Mexican-Canadian multimedia artist Rafael Lozano-Hemmer revealed his idea for the Big Art piece in Cardigan on the Welsh coast to the local community. Home of the first Eisteddfod, hub of the oral tradition; point of departure for America in the 19th and early 20th centuries; Lozano-Hemmer has really got under the skin of the place and distilled in a work based on buoys floating just off the river bank, collecting and projecting back the voices of the local population and interested people beyond.

There’s 2,800 job cuts being discussed at the BBC today. That’s over three times the size of Channel 4. What the Channel lacks in bulk, it makes up for in size of ambition, degree of creativity and scale of idea. Sometimes it’s good to be the underdog. Between Saturday’s unbelievable England rugby match in Paris and yesterday’s unveiling of the Big 4, I’m totally c!h!a!r!g!e!d.

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5 comments so far

  1. David Barrie on

    There’s a real buzz going on somewhere up North too. It’s a town called Castleford. And in six weeks time the wraps come off a £4.5m new architect-designed bridge. It’s part of a larger £14.5m programme that was kicked off by Channel 4. A process that has leveraged over £200m of new investment in to a deprived town and transformed the daily lives of a land that the market forgot. It’s a process that has witnessed the commission of new work by German and Cuban artists. A process that wouldn’t have happened if it weren’t for Channel 4. An early example of Bold Creativity. We’re really excited by what’s been achieved. You’ll find more at http://www.channel4.com/castleford

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  2. ArkAngel on

    What public art has been commissioned as part of the Castleford project? Got any more info on the German and Cuban artists’ project(s)?

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  3. David Barrie on

    For German artists’ project see Arts Council webpage

    http://tinyurl.com/23mgge

    This is now in its second year – and very popular as a public meeting space. There is discussion now the work winning permanent planning permission.

    and for Cuban artist, see Arts Council webpage

    http://tinyurl.com/2gcutg

    Carlos’ work remains under development. It is being developed with a view to delivery and permanent installation in a new art gallery/community museum in the town.

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  4. ArkAngel on

    It would be cool if you or, even better, some Castlefordians could post some photos to http://www.bigartmob.com of the former. Presumably there’s nothing to photograph yet with the latter?

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  5. [...] The launch [...]

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