Monday, October 22, 2007

Public Art to replace the Cornmarket bandstand ... you decide!

Cyberscribe and Slugger beat me to it, but it’s a public art story that’s worth repeating.

Remember the Cornmarket bandstand? The landmark that took the bad look of the humorously coloured Frazer (Fraser?) Frazer’s clothes shop. The bandstand that hosted school children singing tuneful and not-so-tuneful carols in the run up to Christmas each year. And the one that the council boarded up to make it look like a big pot when they hosted cookery demonstrations inside.

Well, it was pulled down a while back, and the Department of Social Development is running a public vote as part of its Streets Ahead project to let us all decide which shortlisted piece of public art should be erected in the space. Interestingly, it’s now referred to as Arthur Square, the space formerly known as Cornmarket.

You’ve a choice of ...

The Dancing Tree - five wobbly pillars, like upside-down wind chimes, representing a hollow oak tree, acting as a meeting place as well as a backdrop for occasional drama. The top of the pillars will rotate and swing in the wind, and a spotlight in the pavement will “attract the flâneurs from different directions”.

The Dancing Tree

Phoenix Rising - a big spoon sticking out of the ground, representing Belfast’s renaissance, “a Phoenix Rising that sweeps the ground and spirals up to reach into the sky”. As a landmark and beacon, it too will support street performance, as its “oval seat becomes a perfect mini-amphitheatre”.

Phoenix Rising

Spirit of Belfast - four curved stainless steel squiggles, complete with “a ribbon of light provided by very energy-efficient light emitting diodes” whose “intensity, color [sic] and movement will be programmed as called for by events, the time of day ... or special celebrations within the city”. It intends to become “the hearth of our city centre”, drawing people to its interactivity as it weaves together steel and reminds of us of the fabric (linen) of our history.

Spirit of Belfast

(No sign of an option for a new improved bandstand, so looks like the primary school kids will be getting wet next Christmas. I’d love to meet the Public Art Selection Jury that assessed the twenty applicants, and whittled down the eight long-listed concept sketch designs to the final three. According to the Victoria Square newsletter, the jury is made up of “representatives from DSD, Belfast City Council, The Planning Service, Multi Development, EDAW, Chamber of Trade and Commerce, Belfast City Centre Management, Arts Council NI and the Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure” and they selected the final three “using criteria of artistic quality, deliverability and cost.”)

There’s £200k at stake - the budget allocated for this public art - so we better take this seriously. The online poll opened today, and runs until November 4. You can also vote in person at the Lagan Lookout (beside the Big Fish) and see the exhibition between 11am–4pm (Monday to Friday) and 11am–2pm (Saturday).

Update: The squiggle won!


Stephen Barnes said...

They're not serious, are they?

That first design looks like those wee toys you used to get which had a boy or a horse on a base. Press the bottom of the base in different ways and the figure would bend in some amusing ways. After you make the horse crap a few times, it looses its appeal.

What I can't understand is why they use expensive artists to commission expensive pieces of 'art', with expensive opening ceremonies, and expensive marketing campaigns. Belfast has thousands of students studying art in the UU: why not open the streets of Belfast to them? Free art for Belfast. Free publicity for the students. Don't try to explain the pieces: just have them arrive and let people make their own minds up.

More money in the public coffers for cleaning up dog crap, methinks.

Anonymous said...

We could do with less of the high-fallutin' marketing speak about regeneration and just say "Because it looks cool".

For that reason I choose the cool lit-up circles that I refuse to call 'Spirit of Belfast'. If I recall rightly, the spirit of Belfast hangs around in Castle Street and heckles the punters waiting for their buses.

Coke_Shy_Hero said...

Hmmm, great choice. Rickety-sticks, the wicker basket-case or LED-doodled noodles. Plenty of options, none worth voting for - bit like local politics! :-)

One of the most annoying bits of this sort of thing is that there seems to be more effort put into the "blurb" than the art itself. I wonder what the "blurb" was for the "wee doll on the ball" that looks out to the Lagan - I'm quite fond of that.

I'll get down to the big fish and personally spoil my vote - a satisfying, yet pointless protest that I haven't enjoyed since my university days at Queens.

Anonymous said...

I quite like them all, but would probably go for the first or third - if I could vote that is, as your link doesn't seem to be working Alan (perhaps a problem at their end though).

Just the other week I was showing bits of Belfast to visitors and we discovered a piece of public art (if that's what it was) that I hadn't known was there: walking along Custom House Square, I stood on what looked like a large vent cover on the ground and it gave off a tinkly chime. Stepping on different parts of it produced different notes. We pranced around on it delighted for about 15 minutes, like kids - or more accurately like Tom Hanks in Big.

Anyway, never mind the bandstand - does anyone remember the fountain that was there previously?

Alan in Belfast (Alan Meban) said...

I think the link is ok ... here it is again -

Anonymous said...

I don't think its really that good I mean the first one would have liked much better