London commuters will be transported into outer space with futuristic Tube announcements in latest commission from Art on the Underground
From Thursday 26 September, some passengers on the Central line will be launched on a fantasy outer space trip in Transporter, a new commission from Art on the Underground to artist Harold Offeh, working with young people aged 11 to 19 years old from West London.
The every day Underground experience will be subverted at two Central line stations Notting Hill Gate and Bethnal Green with imagery inspired by outer space travel, running the full length of the escalators, and intergalactic station announcements written and recorded by children, complete with a specially composed musical riff.
Transporter is the brainchild of Ghanaian-born artist Harold Offeh, working over the last six months with two youth groups in West London, Canalside Activity Centre and Baraka Youth Association, supported by the Royal Borough of Kensington & Chelsea. Forming part of the special programme of celebrations of the 150th anniversary of the London Underground, the brief was to take this historic landmark as a springboard to imagine the next 150 years of the Tube.
Harold Offeh’s multi-media practice has been influenced by the Afro Futurist group of artists, writers and theorists, with roots in the avant-garde musical styling of George Clinton, of Parliament-Funkadelic fame, and Sun Ra (1914 – 1993), the legendary Alabama born jazz musician, philosopher and poet.
The young people collaborated with the artist over a number of months with educational visits to Tube stations to develop these transportive outer-planetary Tube announcements.
Harold Offeh will be featured in the forthcoming exhibition at the Studio Museum Harlem, New York, this autumn, The Shadows Took Shape, the first major museum exhibition to explore the ways in which this form of creative expression has been adoptedinternationally over the past twenty-five years. Offeh’s UK exhibitions and projects include the schools project, Live Art Salon at Tate Modern as part of The Tanks: Art in Action series, and solo exhibitions at South London Gallery (2006) and Peckham Space (2010).
Harold Offeh, said: “There is wonderment in disappearing into a ‘black hole’ in the ground and being transported and arriving at completely different location. This idea of the Underground as an everyday transporter, like the teleportation machine in Star Trek, inspired us to travel together through space and time in both a real and imaginary sense.
Louise Coysh, Curator for Art on the Underground at London Underground, said: “I’m really impressed with the creativity these young people have shown while working with Harold Offeh on these fantastic Tube announcements and the striking escalator artworks.”
“The future of the London Underground, along with the group’s love of science fiction, was the inspiration for this artwork and I’m sure our customers will enjoy this unusual project which should help to make their journeys more interesting.”
Imogen Brown, age 17 from the Canalside Activity Centre, said: “We got to experience and see new things in a Tube station that the public aren’t normally allowed to and we got to make announcements on the station’s tannoy. We also got to explore the London Transport Museum where we saw the history of London underground over the past 150 years.
“It helped us build relationships with young people from different cultural backgrounds and break down stereotypes that may have been formed. It also was a confidence booster for the younger members as it helped them with talking in front of an audience and learning new skills in drawing.”
Transporter is part of Art on the Underground’s Engagement Programme for Labyrinth, a major new commission by artist Mark Wallinger resulting in an artwork at all 270 Tube stations to celebrate the 150th year of London Underground. Labyrinth is supported using public funding art Arts Council England, with additional support from JCDecaux.
London Underground established Art on the Underground in 2000 initially under the title Platform for Art, with the purpose of producing and presenting new artworks that enrich the journeys of millions on the tube every day. From single site large-scale commissions at sites such as Gloucester Road Station, to pocket size commissions for the cover of the Tube Map, Art on the Underground has commissioned a roll-call of the best artists in the last 13 years, maintaining art as a central element of London Underground’s identity and engaging passengers and staff in a strong sense of shared ownership. Artists include Cindy Sherman, Tracey Emin, Michael Landy, Jeremy Deller, Susan Hiller, Barbara Kruger, Liam Gillick, Eva Rothschild, Yinka Shonibare, Richard Long, Gary Hume, Richard Wentworth, Gavin Turk and Peter Blake.