I saw a program about Mark Wallinger’s Labyrinth in BBC’s The Culture Show (available to view until 15th March) so went online to read more about it.
I love how the individual artworks are assigned to the various underground stations, connecting them and archiving them within the Tube system, creating a large scale artwork, and how the labyrinth symbolizes so beautifully the simple straightforward route we all take when we go to the underground, in this vast and complex network.
From Art on the Underground website- they explain it so much better:
Mark Wallinger has created Labyrinth, a new artwork for London Underground to celebrate its 150th anniversary. Wishing to forge a poetic link with the Tube’s rich history of graphic language, he has made a work that sits comfortably alongside the two of its major design icons, the roundel and Harry Beck’s Tube map, and yet stands out as a new symbol marking the Tube’s 150th year.
Wallinger has created 270 individual artworks, one for each station on the network, each one bearing its own unique circular labyrinth, but with a graphic language common to all. Rendered in bold black, white and red graphics, the artworks are produced in vitreous enamel, a material used for signs throughout London Underground, including the Tube’s roundel logo, whose circular nature the labyrinth design also echoes. Positioned at the entrance of each labyrinth is a red X. This simple mark, drawing on the language of maps, is a cue to enter the pathway. The tactile quality of the artwork’s surface invites the viewer to trace the route with a finger, and to understand the labyrinth as a single meandering path into the centre and back out again – a route reminiscent of the Tube traveller’s journey.
At an early stage in its history, the labyrinth became associated with the Greek legend of Theseus and the Minotaur. However, the fact that Theseus required the assistance of Ariadne’s skein of thread to navigate the complex passageways of the Minotaur’s lair would suggest that it was in fact a maze, which has numerous pathways instead of just one, and is essentially a puzzle. This myth is one of the many references drawn upon in this work by Wallinger. He comments: ‘Mostly we go about our business, journeying to work on the Tube and return home along a prescribed route. The seeming chaos of the rush hour is really just the mass of individuals following the thread of their lives home.’
Each of Wallinger’s Labyrinth artworks bears a different number, written in the artist’s hand. For the collector or the train-spotter in us, there’s something appealing in this cryptic element of the work. Although the numbers resonate with the tradition of editioned artworks, such as prints made in series, in fact they relate to the ordering system that allocates each artwork to its particular station. This numbering scheme brings an internal logic to this vast collection of artworks that is directly connected to a real, albeit highly unusual, Tube journey. They refer to the order of stations visited in the Guinness World Record ‘Tube Challenge’ 2009, the record for the fastest time taken to pass through every single station on the London Underground network.
As Wallinger’s artworks are gradually installed across the Underground over the first six months of 2013, Labyrinth will become integrated into the experience of travelling on the Tube. The location of the artworks will be different at each station, whether in the ticket hall or on the platform, encouraging people to seek them out. In one’s own station, the labyrinth will become a familiar symbol that marks the start and seals the end of the day.
All images above: Mark Wallinger, Labyrinth, 2013 © The Artist, Courtesy Anthony Reynolds Gallery, London. Photograph © Thierry Bal, 2013