Bus Tops – A project running for London 2012

Bus-tops is an exciting and innovative project running as part of the London 2012 Cultural Olympiad and is one of 12 commissions funded by the Arts Council. Headed up by two project leaders from digital technology backgrounds Bus-tops has the potential to completely pull apart and challenge the way digital art work is accessed within the public arena.

The project presents itself in the form of thirty red LED screen based sculptural installations on the roofs of bus shelters across twenty boroughs of London. The installations then collectively form a citywide exhibition displaying artwork to commuters in an unconventional and refreshing setting.

The use of bus shelters as a canvas usually has negative connotations and associations with unwanted graffiti, vandalism and anti social activity. With that in mind the concept of installing an exhibition opportunity harnessing the use of new technology with the intention to engage the public positively is a step towards a new way of considering public artwork.

Perhaps the most refreshing aspect of the project is that Bus Tops equally encourages both practising artists and members of the general public to create work to be displayed on the screens. Opening up a platform that allows everyone the opportunity to have a voice or share a piece of work. Entrants can opt to submit an image, an animation, text or even create their own artwork using the online tool available on the website.

“When you see a bus shelter roof it is a blank canvas in a very literal sense, there’s nothing on it apart from maybe a shoe, or occasionally a potato or something like that. So what we wanted to do was to take back this pseudo public space and put something there where anyone could create art for it” says Alfie Dennen from Bus-tops.

The public curates the exhibition – the most popular artworks voted for on the website are put forward for public exhibition providing a warming sense of engagement and ownership. The screens are refreshed regularly allowing for high volumes of work to be seen as well as creating an ever-changing platform for regular bus travelers on the following routes; 113 West, 68 East, 76 East, 149 East, 245 East, 472 East, 4 East and 210 West.

The screens are innovatively designed to be visible from street level as well as the top deck of a bus. The bespoke designed screen enclosures are made from locally sourced timber and provide a stark contrast to the Monochromatic red LEDs which make up the 256×80 pixel screens.

The Bus Tops revolution has the potential to allow thousands of people who usually would not deem themselves creative to become artists and share an opinion or an idea with a mass audience. This novel venture could be a real turning point for the accessibility and preconception of contemporary art.

Each month until September 2012 the project presents new works from a selected artist, who will be using 10 of the 30 screens exclusively for that month; Carla Arocha + Stéphane Schraenen, Jemima Brown, Jasmina Cibic, Michelle Deignan, Kate Davis, Ian Monroe, Mark Titchner, Conrad Ventur, Zoe Walker & Neil Bromwich.

What will you submit?

Words Gem Barton


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