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A Man of Few Words - by Swan Morrison

Motorway Madness

This was my second circumnavigation of the M25. I had watched the slip-roads closing one by one as vehicles were shepherded onwards through majestic corridors of road cones. Meanwhile JCBs jerked and juddered into their places to drill and lift concrete and tarmac.

Ahead lay a full two miles of road, descending and rising again to the next high point - all now carpeted with an exquisite quilt-work of reds and greens, blues and whites.

I drew to a halt to add my contribution to the work as both artist and medium.

A minute passed, then five, then ten. Nothing moved. The notes from sporadic horns performed a spontaneous symphony, while bewildered drivers left their vehicles like actors making an entrance onto a stage. Some started fights to lend further depth and colour to the work

Alistair and I took our cameras, mine still; his video, and began to catalogue, as well as being a part of, the developing experience. I thought of Sarah, high up on a footbridge above the motorway at Watford, her easel before her and palette in hand.

Few knew of the Repair Scheduling Computer - a clever device that co-ordinated roadworks on the motorway so as to minimise disruption. Its tasks included operating motorway signs and sending instructions to contractors. Hacking into the system had been easy. Much more difficult had been the programming needed to open and close slip-roads so as to ensure that a stationary vehicle occupied every inch of the M25. Then to simultaneously cut trenches across all slip-roads to maintain the integrity of the work.

Alistair had spent several weeks refining and testing the software but now all the worry and all the sleepless nights were rewarded. We had a masterpiece of multi-media art involving complex mathematics, computing, photography, painting, dynamic sculpture, sound and video and real human life.

Lines of metallic dots brought meaning and expression to their concrete canvas. In addition, the intimacy and raw reality of spontaneous street theatre was expressing the full gamut of human emotions: bewilderment, confusion, anger, fury, resignation, humour in adversity, fear, panic. All of human experience had found an artistic vehicle for its realisation.

Above personal triumph it had also been a victory for art. More serious attention than ever would, this year, be focused on the Turner Prize.