'Oh, Boy!' New Art on the Underground

By Kira Last edited 120 months ago
'Oh, Boy!' New Art on the Underground

The latest art installation from the London Underground is being unveiled this week in a tube station near you. Artist Anna Barriball has been commissioned to design a series of posters for the underground, and the result is an enigmatic exercise in the art of typographic seduction. Taken from the backs of found photographs, a favourite medium of Barriball, the posters are printed in black and white and in the London Underground's classic New Johnston font. This combination lends a certain air of authority — and the suspect sheen of advertising — to the posters. At first glance, they look like ads for the tube, one of those "Please try not to sneeze on that elderly/disabled/pregnant lady that you should also get up and give your seat to" instructional posters.

Using these 'found' phrases, they simultaneously match and distort the the situation surrounding their placement. 'About 60 miles of beautiful views' is both accurate and laughably untrue. Others include 'On way to birthday party,' 'Oh, boy, what a wonderful city!', and 'Off to work 8.15 AM. (Nylon uniform.)', imbuing your underground commute with a hint of voyeurism as you get a peek into the real narratives of fellow Londonists. Their past commuter odysseys have been photographed, recorded, and cast off to become the art you read in your sweaty transfer between tube lines. Tamsin Dillon, Head of Art on the Underground, said 'Anna's project presents a subtle yet fascinating intervention into the environment of the Tube.'

We say, 1960s Situationist Guy Debord would have loved this, and so do we. A good psychogeographical work of text art does wonders for the sweaty misery of the 8 am/6 pm journey, and well done to the London Underground for supporting the arts in a place where the psychogeographers said we needed it most: on our daily commute.

Image courtesy of Slaminsky's flickrstream

Last Updated 12 June 2008


I really dig this project -- and an excellent review as well. They did a nice job placing that poster right under the CCTV, too.


I saw this yesterday... and not to open up the whole 'what is art?' debate, but I'm not sure this is...


I like all the art and poems on the underground, but yesterday I couldn't help but wonder, couldn't they save a bit of money for the passenger, and cut fares a wee bit if they just didn't bother spending on art.


Taken from the backs of found photographs

Hang on, hang on...where does one find photographs? Not being cynical or dismissive, just curious. I've never chanced across an abandoned photo.


@ manc ill kid: While I'm certainly not happy about public transport fares, I'd rather not spend my commute in a soulless tunnel, so I'm happy and grateful that they're funding these public arts projects. Think of how sad the world would be if there was no public art!

@ m@: (whoa, meta '@') Lots of antique/thrift/charity shops have boxes of old castaway photos, so I think those count as 'found,' in addition to garbage dumps, estate sales, maybe abandoned houses...? Good question though, I'd like to know where in particular she found the ones that inspired these posters.


There's an entire magazine dedicated to found photographs and documents called, appropriately, Found Magazine.

I've happened across Polaroids and passport photographs on the street, but it's become less and less often with the move to digital.