CIRCA 2020: Tapping into Your Screens… and London’s Most Iconic Billboard
In the city of London, Piccadilly Circus’s iconic illuminated billboard pauses its constant stream of advertisements for two minutes at 20:20. Instead, a short video is played. This video, curated and produced by a contemporary working artist, provides an insight into their life, practice, and values. The project, titled c. 20:20, was launched by CIRCA, who have established themselves as a new platform for the creation and exhibition of digital art. With the mission to democratise art for the public on a global scale, CIRCA promises an exciting look into the current and rising artistic community. Everyday a new video is shown to the public, challenging the way we interact with public spaces through art. Whether by sending messages, encouraging discussion and action, or just showcasing talent, this new project facilitates a new means of dialogue with the aim of bringing together a global community of creatives.
But how did this all come about?
The project started in the studio of London-based artist, Josef O’Connor. Concerned with the way in which we can connect communities of people through art and technology, O’Connor wanted to build upon the concept of introducing art to the public in public spaces- turning the world into an interactive art gallery.
The introduction of Coronavirus and the subsequent closure of galleries across the world only spurred O’Connor to produce the project. As mentioned on CIRCA’s website, “2020 was a year in which we all pressed pause. Now we want to continue the habit, stopping time to bring a moment’s reflection to one of the busiest commercial spaces on earth.” As the busy flow of everyday life was forced to a temporary stop, many of us were forced to take a breath and look at the world around us. The nationwide lockdown limited our physical movement in a way we hadn’t experienced before, and many turned to the arts as a means of reprieve.
CIRCA expands on this concept, as Britain tries to get back up on its feet again, by hosting an ongoing exhibition that appeals to public curiosity and promotes a range of artists. With the usual advertisements paused for two minutes each day, the project provides an opportunity to put artists and the public in conversation. Each month shows a different exhibition, where artists are able to use their video slots to create art and promote themselves in any way they wish. Starting with a selection of students and then moving on to established and rising artists, this inaugural exhibition is a promising start to a contemporary renaissance in current art.
“Class of 2020 is dedicated to every art student in the UK who, due to COVID-19 restrictions, were denied the highlight of a Degree Show.”
CIRCA also aims to bring together the artistic community by bridging the gap between established and rising artists. The project ‘Class of 2020’, shown earlier this summer, brings together twenty-six young artists who were unable to present their final projects before graduating. By uniting a multitude of backgrounds, disciplines, and media, the project aimed to provide a platform for the voices of a new generation of emerging artists.
The series was co-curated by Aindrea Emelife, an independent curator and art critic, and Jody Mulvey, a recently graduated art student. Each student had a two-minute slot every day at 20:20, where their work was shown in Piccadilly Circus. In equalising the space for both recently graduated students and well-established artists, CIRCA highlights a vision the encapsulates the present and future possibilities of art.
“We commission new work that is socially engaged and motivated by the desire to engage with public discourse and debate. It is a point of departure to provoke discussion, inspire and unite people through culture.”
The next stage in the project moves from recent graduates to established and rising artists. Rather than a day, these artists will have the Piccadilly Lights to themselves for an entire month, providing a breadth of content for viewers to tune into on a daily basis.
For the month of October, CIRCA have launched a collaborative project with the artist and activist Ai Weiwei to produce a 30-part video series documenting the artist’s career. Viewable both in Piccadilly Circus and online, the video series combines footage, photography, music, poetry, and art to present a colourful retrospective of Ai’s artistic career. Beginning with Ai’s early days in New York and culminating in his most recent projects, the series promises a deeper insight into his art, life, and relationship with the Chinese government.
Starting with Ai, each artist involved in c. 20:20 will also create an exclusive print available to purchase on the CIRCA website. Each print is priced at £100, and proceeds will be distributed as part of the CIRCA ECONOMY. This is but another initiative in the project which is intended to aid Britain’s cultural sector, as CIRCA ECONOMY provides funding to help struggling creatives through charitable and institutional partners.
With Ai kicking off this phase of the project, CIRCA instils the promise that much more is to come over the next couple of months. Mouthing Off will be covering the events of Ai Weiwei’s video exhibition with CIRCA. Spanning across four articles, we will be looking into how events, themes, and social issues have defined the artist and his work up to the present day. Our first article will drop on the 10th October after Ai’s tenth video has been released, so stay tuned!
If you happen to be near Piccadilly Circus at 20:20, please do go check out CIRCA’s video installation- it’s a once in a lifetime opportunity to engage with art in a public space as large as this. Help to participate in history (and tag us in the comments whilst you’re at it)!