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Ol’ Robbo was perusing the Telegraph when he came across this article about plans to turn Hadrian’s Wall into “the world’s longest artwork”:

Hadrian’s Wall is to be turned into what organisers claim will be the world’s longest artwork, an installation spanning 73 miles.

Connecting Light will consists of 450 giant balloons fitted with LED lights, hovering above the Roman structure in locations from Wallsend to Bowness-on-Solway.

The balloons will transmit ‘messages’ to each other that translate into different colours. As the messages move from one balloon to another, the installation will become a line of pulsating colours stretching into the distance.

The project is part of the London 2012 Festival and is the brainchild of New York-based digital arts collective YesYesNo.

Well, I thought, the lights strung out all along the Wall might look pretty cool in and of themselves, and might perhaps also be reminiscent of signal beacons flashing all along its length back in the day in the defense of the Empire against Pictish incursion.

Then I read on to what the indecisively-named arts collective brainchilding the project meant to be the message:

According to the collective, the installation will transform the 2,000-year-old wall into “a bridge not a barrier”.


Somebody call 911!  We’ve got a visualized whirled peas overdose here that needs medical attention stat!

Rereading the statement, I started to try and figure out what it’s actually supposed to mean, but found myself stumped.

It certainly can’t be commentary specific to Hadrian’s Wall itself, can it?  There’s plenty of debate surrounding the actual purpose and the military and economic wisdom of building the thing in the first place,  but I’m pretty sure that nobody has suggested that better communications between the Picts and the Romano-Britains would have been possible but for the erection of a barrier by a meddling Imperial government.   What would have been possible was more cattle-raiding and other forms of armed intrusion.

It surely can’t be a blanket statement that all bridges are good and all barriers are bad, can it?  Even what little history is still taught in schools these days, and indeed simple common sense, quickly puts paid to such an idiotic notion as that.  If YesNoWaitMaybe, or whoever they are, want to make a statement about truly bad barriers, I suggest they take their lighted balloons to, say,  the North Korean side of the DMZ.   (See where that will get them.)

Is the effect instead meant to be purely aesthetic, a sort of Escheresque inversion of perspective?  Like looking at a silhouette of a candlestick and suddenly seeing the profiles of two faces?

Or has that old stick-in-the-mud Robbo simply fallen into the trap of believing that a piece of art is supposed to have an actual, recognizable point about it?  (I’m assuming here that it isn’t simply a matter of ars artis gratia, because even I know that this is downright heresy among Modern Artistes.  Anyway, WellUmErUh started it by going on about barriers and bridges in the first place.)

Indeed, is not a work that in fact invites a wide variety of interpretations an actual “bridge” in itself because it brings all the interpreters together?  (Whoa, that would be profound.)

As I say, beats me.


Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

I see that today is the anniversary of the birth, in 1754, of General Sir Banastre Tarleton, notorious leader of British Dragoons during the American Revolution.

I mention this because I was musing t’other day on our iconic revolutionary figures (one gets these whims), and specifically on the ones I dislike the most.  It was Tarleton who lead the raid on Charlottesville, Virginny in March, 1781 in an effort to capture members of the Virginny legislature, together with Governor Thomas “The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants” Jefferson.   When Jefferson got word of Tarleton’s rapid approach to Monticello, rayther than considering the possible refreshment of the tree of liberty with his own blood, he high-tailed it into the forest and hid.

The image of Tom making a run for it, which I am sure I have reduced to something near caricature in my mind’s eye, has always been a source of grim amusement to me, because he really stands out at the top of Robbo’s list of said disliked figgahs, being, as he was, the equivalent of a limousine liberal.

So that’s that.

(In case friends of the decanter are interested in other members of Robbo’s dislike list, I’ll just say briefly that I think Tom Paine a loathsome rabble-rousing blowhard and Ben Franklin a somewhat-too-slippery fish for my taste.  However, so far as I’m aware, Tarleton never chased either of them, so they’re somewhat outside the scope of this post.)

UPDATE:  The Mothe mentions the salacious doin’s between Tarleton and “Perdita” aka Mary Darby Robinson in the comments.

Here is the print to which she (the Mothe) is referring – by the young James Gillray, no less, one of ol’ Robbo’s favorites.  And here is a nice little summary of the Ban and Mary show.


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August 2012