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
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.