A new public artwork, Passage, is giving pedestrians and cyclists a rare opportunity to experience the history of the UK’s rail industry in Bath through a light and sound installation.
Passage is the latest public art commission for charity Sustrans, funded by the Arts Council, Sustrans Connect2 and local fundraising by the Two Tunnels Group.
Located in the Combe Down Tunnel, Passage forms part of a four-mile stretch of disused railway line which has been transformed by Sustrans into a groundbreaking new walking and cycling path.
This historic location presented an opportunity to create a unique interactive artwork, designed by London based United Visual Artists (UVA) and award-winning composer, Mira Calix.
Drawing upon the idea of the historic railway and inspired by the old train’s light reflectors, UVA designed a series of cast-iron sentinels; and through collaboration with Calix who composed 16 viola and cello scores linked to the lighting, positioned them in 20 recesses along the length of the tunnel.
The effect is a spatially distributed soundtrack, conducted by members of the public as they move through the tunnel as their speed and presence determines the composition and playback of the soundscape.
Malcolm Shepherd, chief executive at Sustrans, said: “This is the first time Sustrans has commissioned an artwork using the latest technology and the result is a wonderful artwork in an extraordinary public space.
“Passage will add to Sustrans art collection, Art & the Travelling Landscape across the UK, and establish the Two Tunnels Greenway as a memorable cultural attraction, in keeping with our commitment to work with artists when ever possible to create special places for everyone to enjoy.”
Matt Clark, Creative Director from UVA said: “United Visual Artists are delighted to have won the commission to work in such a unique site and hope the installation will encourage people into the tunnel to experience this changing environment.
“UVA worked closely with award-winning composer Mira Calix, taking physical and historical consideration of the late 19th century passage and its industrial past to construct this unique installation”.
Katy Hallett – Sustrans Art Producer added: “Passage is an exciting interactive work by internationally renowned lighting artists UVA. We hope the work will attract even more people to come and experience this wonderful space and walk or cycle the route and the beautiful landscape around Bath.
“Sustrans has a long history of working with artists on site specific commissions that reflect the local area and create a distinctive character for particular routes.
“In 1990 we worked with Andy Goldsworthy on two gigantic earthworks in Consett. More recently in Lincolnshire we worked with Architects Robbrecht en Daem on architectural viewing platforms; and in Llynfi Valley artist Jony Easterby has created The Maesteg Washery – a series pools and new planting to regenerate the old coal yard.
“Where ever possible we involve the local community; here in Bath we worked with Suited and Booted a digital arts group who worked with local youth clubs and schools to make a series of short animation films about bikes and cycling the new path.”