Is The London Underground Showing Film Trailers Now?

Tabish Khan
By Tabish Khan Last edited 31 months ago

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Is The London Underground Showing Film Trailers Now?
Liam Gillick gives us some new art on the Underground. Photo: Thierry Bal

If you see one of those Underground advertising TV screens switch to a blue screen displaying 'McNamara '68', keep watching — it's the beginning of the latest piece of Art on the Underground by Liam Gillick.

It's only 10 seconds long and is in the style of a film trailer. 1968 is the year the Victoria Line started running and the background shots in the video are traces of the original line which are still in place 48 years later.

McNamara is a reference to the fact that 1968 was also the year that Robert McNamara became president of the World Bank, and changed the way that organisation operates. It's an abstract reference that Gillick has focussed on in his previous works. A gold star to anyone who got the reference straight away — we certainly didn't, and had to have the artist talk us through it.

Gillick says the work is designed to appeal to the "indifferent as well as the culturally literate". He's made the work short as he wants it to be "part of the flow of commuters", and he's very aware that most people will probably ignore it.

What follows the title screen is the fun part. Each version of the video will feature a cast member, but they are actually anagrams for stations on the Victoria Line. So 'Watchtower Stallman' is Walthamstow Central. We'll leave the rest for you to figure out.

This is where Art on the Underground is at its strongest: when there's engagement with the audience, as when we're trying to navigate through Mark Wallinger's labyrinths.  

The difficulty with any Art on the Underground is that most people will ignore it and assume it's just more advertising, but we'll leave it with you to decide whether this is memorable or forgettable.

The video works and accompanying poster artworks can be found across the Underground network until 31 July.

The work is designed to have the feel of a 60s spy movie. Photo Thierry Bal

Last Updated 05 July 2016