Dopplarity at Bank underground station, London (2000)

R. J. Preece
artdesigncafé - art | 20 January 2011
This review first appeared in Sculpture, 20(3), pp. 75-76, April 2001.

Dopplarity at Bank underground station

“Mind the gap,” passengers were repeatedly warned, at deafening volume. Set beneath London’s financial district in the Bank underground station, “Dopplarity” featured interventions in advertising lightboxes and on poster sites. The theme of the show fused the Doppler Effect (“the apparent change in frequency of sound”) and polarity (“in this context, used as the changing relationship one has with a landscape as one passes through it”). The 13 participating artists were Richard Ashcroft, Adam Broomberg, Oliver Chanarin, Robert Davies, Leo Fitzmaurice, Gerard Hanson, Mary McIntyre, Effie Paleologou, Jacqueline Pennell, Dan Shipsides, Michael Wilson, and the two “Dopplarity” curators— artists Victoria Hall and Niamh McCann. Coinciding with the tube intervention, Hiscox Art Café exhibited limited edition prints by the artists, most being miniature versions of the Bank-based pieces.

Set amidst a multitude of advertising, the artwork locations included the base of escalators, curved walls opposite the train platform, selected lightboxes between two train lines, and those along curved stairwells. At the bottom of the escalator, Jacqueline Pennell’s There’s as much as here (2000) introduced the show. The work consisted of mirrored glass in opposing lightboxes offering arriving and departing passengers up to eight different vantage points of crisscrossing reflections, making the stationary mirror a dynamic tool for site intervention.

On a poster site across the train tracks, Leo Fitzmaurice’s Implalettable (2000) consisted of a digital print of a Claude Monet-like landscape, The Thames at Westminster, from London’s National Gallery. Made from variously colored and flavored chewing gum, the piece commented on graffiti and tweaked appropriation with its original medium and visual texture. Its effectiveness derived from viewers’ familiarity with museum posters advertising acclaimed artworks in the London tube. The logo and slogan imagery were deleted, resulting in the uncertainty of an advertising mistake.

Meanwhile, Effie Paleologou’s Light Box P5/22 (2000), situated in a curved stairwell, inserted a digital photo print of an actual lightbox’s interior. Nearby, Ashcroft’s Fat Laces 101 (2000) played off the commercialization of hip-hop culture with a how-to text and illustrations. In a transitory passageway between the Central and Northern Lines, Mary McIntyre showed the photographic image, St. Joseph the Worker (2000), taken at a Catholic church, which referred to the patron saint and the estimated 392,000 people who pass through the station monthly. Also in this spatial context, Victoria Hall presented Crackerjack (2000), which used one month’s lost property from the Central Line and referred to a children’s TV game show from the 1970s and ‘80s called “Cracker Jack”— a contest of holding as many items as possible without dropping them. With the list of lost articles printed vertically, the artist’s self-portrait captured her in the role of eccentric fashion victim, subverting the glamour game of status-obsessed, “adult” products and accessories advertised throughout the tube.

The transitory nature of the space raised issues about time, recognition, and experience— particularly since there were no blinking neon lights pointing to Art. While I was guided with a floor plan (and a curator) that identified the artworks’ locations, the experiences of unguided tube riders ranged from a complete lack of recognition to, potentially, the full-blown art experience. Co-curator Victoria Hall expected that repeat viewers would gradually pick up on some images over days, offering a unique time-based experience.

The show resulted in subtle and rewarding interventions for the guided or visually alert; but many viewers probably failed to notice it. Minimal signage— perhaps something like asking waiting tube riders on the platform, “Which one is the artwork?” could have done wonders for public awareness, complementing the underground art experience and directly activating commuters to think about the site, advertising, and art.