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Art

Designing London 2012: The artwork of the Olympic Park

Posted by Liv Siddall,

There are far, far too many aspects of the Olympic games to even begin to get your head around, but perhaps try imaging it as a a very big dinner party. A lot of guests are coming – some more VIP than others – and everything is riding on the main dish being as magnificent as possible. Well, it’s a little more complicated than a mere dinner party – but we can pretty much agree that the Olympic Park is the centrepiece of the games, and something that almost all lasting opinion of London’s year of glory rides on.

Luckily, it seems to be going down a storm. You only have to look at Twitter to read comments such as “The Olympic Park is ten times cooler than Disneyworld” and many other people comparing it to nothing less than a religious experience.

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    Monica Bonvicini: Run

So, after months (nay years) of strange, utopian visuals and some rather endearing CGI fly-throughs of the park it is finally open and running like a well-oiled ship with a happy crew. Between undulating green patches of grass and some Avatar-crossed-with-Thorpe-Park man-made rivers, sit some quite pleasantly subtle pieces of brilliant contemporary art, commissioned especially for this strange two weeks of our lives. All artworks, although entirely different aesthetically and based on the theme of have one key feature – they all evoke a kind of mushy feeling of pride and sentimentality, which, as far as the fantastic reviews go, has been absolutely lapped up by the watery-eyed and willing public (which is, by the way, no bad thing.)

The first to mention is the artwork that has probably induced the most Olympic-spirit in those who have viewed it – Monica Bonvicini’s brilliant ‘Run’ sculpture. A colossal 30ft steel and glass word “RUN”, even in its few letters, stirs something in all of us, be it a kind of terror dating back to laps of the pitch in our school days, or just reminding us of the drive of life, and the speed at which we compete against one another on a day to day basis. Those feelings, and the fact that it’s inspired by Bruce Springsteen, Neil Young and Velvet Underground lyrics and full of flashing lights at night time make it one of the most popular spectacles on the entire sight. Bonvicini said of her work that RUN is "already blending in perfectly in the landscape, avoiding monumentality through the mirroring of the surroundings. At night the psychedelic light reflections will illuminate the work in an exciting, elegant and witty way, reflecting the great liveliness of London.”

Another piece of artwork receiving a lot of attention due to its simplicity and sentimental nature, is a glorious project entitled History Trees by multi-faceted and biology-inspired artistic duo Ackroyd and Harvey . The pair have wrapped ten freshly planted trees in bespoke, metal rings, each carefully inscribed with an absolutely glorious ensemble of words which you can read here and here. The idea is that as the tree grows within the ring, the leaves will begin to embrace it and forge a bond between the event and nature.

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    Ackroyd & Harvey: History Trees

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    Ackroyd & Harvey: History Trees

Although these two projects have proven to be the most popular, perhaps due to the hype built around them during pre-production, the other eight artworks displayed are equally as impressive and diverse. Keith Wilson’s Steles add a vibrancy to a slightly less exciting area of the park, and Julian Popp’s bit.fall and Peter Lewis’s Running Water bring tender intelligence and wow-factor to the necessary water feature. Events such as Studio Weave’s floating cinema in collaboration with artists Nina Pope and Karen Guthrie allow the public to be fully immersed the kind of outdoor, guerilla cinema that is becoming synonymous with the UK.

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    Keith Wilson: Steles

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    Julius Popp: bit.fall

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    Peter Lewis: Running Water

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    Studio Weave: Floating Cinema

Of course, the centrepiece of centrepieces has to be the controversial Olympic tower, looming over the park like an enormous shisha pipe, rollercoaster, dragon, bong whatever you want to call it. Anish Kapoor’s 377ft mass of steel, which you can see preliminary sketches of here is the only place where you can have a full view of the site, which is actually a very clever idea. From one of the most expensive pieces of art ever created you will be able to look down upon the rest of the magnificent art in the park, and take it all in at once – it’s almost an artistic viewing platform. Having this sort of aesthetic luxury in an area dedicated primarily to sports is something that we should be extremely proud of, and is a major step forward in how the entire country reacts to art in the public domain.

Oh, and they made a lego version as well.

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    Anish Kapoor: ArcelorMittal Orbit

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Posted by Liv Siddall

Liv joined It’s Nice That as an intern in 2011 and is now one of our editors. She oversees itsnicethat.com and has a particular interest in illustration, photography and music videos. She is also a regular guest and sometime host on our Studio Audience podcast.

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