Andrew Shoben is the founder of artists’ collaborative Greyworld. In this interview, volunteer co-ordinator Sam Drew speaks to Andrew about the mysterious clockwork keys appearing in Bath city centre.
The clockwork keys appearing in Bath over the four nights of the Illuminate Bath festival originally appeared in a Greyworld installation called ‘Clockwork Forest’, in Grizedale. When turned, the keys play a twinkly music suggestive of old music-boxes and fairy tales. For the Illuminate Bath festival, the keys trigger a variety of installations created by students from Bath Spa university. How did you feel about working collaboratively with the students?
It was unusual and interesting for us to work with students to create the second element of the work. Whilst that would usually be something we wouldn’t contemplate, it seemed like an excellent way to go in Bath.. The work is about inclusion, allowing the widest possible interaction in parts of the city that usually don’t offer it. So why not the work itself!
What’s wonderful about Greyworld artworks is their ability to spark the imagination and encourage new exploration of familiar spaces. Do you feel that audiences will be as suggestible to narratives and play in the urban setting?
I think they are as suggestible in an urban setting as a rural one. In fact, I think more so! To be honest, I am a child of the city. The countryside is a strange greenish place, with few power sockets and not much coffee. It is the city, and urban movement, that inspires us.
How did you get started? The first Greyworld public installation, Railings—a section of street furniture tuned to play ‘The Girl from Ipanema’ when you run a stick along it—was often installed without permission. Is this a viable way for new artists to exhibit their work, to get it into the public domain?
It can be, if you’re not making hateful, or destructive work. Getting commissioned to make art is very hard. Sometimes you have to commission yourself. It’s all about how much freedom you have to make what you want. We just launched Trafalgar Sun, a huge 2.5 tonne sun in Trafalgar Square. It was paid for by Tropicana. They allowed us to make what we wanted, and didn’t try to slap a logo on it. So we are happy.
Greyworld are an artists’ collaborative who specialise in public art. Their work has appeared all over the world. Their latest commision Trafalgar Sun was launched on 23rd January.
Andrew Shoben is a regular contributor to television, radio and print, and lectures extensively around the world. After lecturing at the Royal College of Art for four years, he became Professor of Public Art at Goldsmiths University.
Various artworks inspired by and utilising Greyworld’s clockwork keys can be seen during the Illuminate Bath festival. Come down to Bath city centre between 5 and 8 pm each evening between today and the 28th January to see them, as well as a rolling programme of live, free, and interactive artworks.