Mark Wallinger, Labyrinth, London Underground Tube Stations, London
Zoe Pilger is an art critic for The Independent and winner of the 2011 Frieze International Writers Prize. Her first novel, Eat My Heart Out, will be published by Serpent's Tail in February 2014. She is also researching a PhD at Goldsmiths, University of London, on the subject of romantic love and sadomasochism in the work of contemporary female artists. She has appeared on BBC's The Review Show and Sky News
Monday 18 March 2013
“You learn to know where people want to go even if they don’t know themselves,” one tube employee at Bank station told me, as I wandered around the labyrinth of tunnels, escalators, and platforms in search of Mark Wallinger’s own Labyrinth – artwork number 142 out of 270.
These black designs on white vitreous enamel are small enough – about the size of a TV – to blend in with the underground atmosphere of signage, so that they are often impossible to find unless you are assisted by the very friendly, informative, and sometimes bemused staff.
Each design is a variant on a circular labyrinth with a red cross at the bottom, marking the single entrance, which doubles up as an exit. The point about the labyrinth is that there is only one path; once you are in, it’s very difficult to get out.
Wallinger has been commissioned by Art on the Underground to commemorate the 150 anniversary of the tube. By the summer, there will be a Labyrinth in all 270 stations; at the moment, there are 23.
Winner of the 2007 Turner Prize, Wallinger, 53, grew up in Chigwell, Essex, 100 yards from the Central Line. He said recently that Harry Beck’s original tube map is such a part of our collective identity as Londoners that it is internalised, “mapped onto one’s mind.”
This might be true, but I have lived in London all my life and I still have to check the tube map to see where I’m going. Perhaps the familiarity makes it difficult to remember where things are.
The simplicity of the designs is a nod to the mythic overtones of the labyrinth, as opposed to the maze, which is more commonly associated with garden hedges. The single path that leads you back to where you started is symbolic of the idea of a return. Rather than a grand quest, this commute is “a daily ritual for most people,” as Wallinger points out.
The resonance of these works lies not so much in the designs themselves, but in the act of trying to find them. To search for this quasi-existential map transforms the tube stations into destinations in their own right.
Rather than using the stations to get from A to B, Labyrinth is a fun exercise in getting lost. It draws attention to the Dickensian surrealism of London, which appears stuffed with mad people of all descriptions.
There’s revolution in the air, but one lady’s not for turningTV
Robin Thicke admits he didn't write 'Blurred Lines'music
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Rihanna 'nude photos' claims emerge on 4Chan as hacking scandal continues
- 2 Frank Lampard equalises for Manchester City against Chelsea: how Twitter reacted
- 3 Kim Kardashian 'nude photos' leaked on 4chan weeks after Jennifer Lawrence scandal
- 4 Free U2 album: How the most generous giveaway in music history turned PR disaster
- 5 Britain First picture: Photographer 'horrified' after first Afghan policewoman killed by Taliban used for 'ban the burka' campaign
Downton Abbey series 5, episode 1, review: Revolution still seems far off
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written
Friends 20th anniversary: The highs and lows of the cast's careers since TV series ended in 2004
Downton Abbey series 5, episode 1, ITV, review: There’s revolution in the air, but one lady’s not for turning
Best movies on Netflix UK and US: 32 films that will end your endless scrolling
Scottish independence referendum: A nation divided against itself
Scottish referendum results: Cross-party consensus collapses amid Tory-Labour spat on the 'English question'
Scottish independence: David Cameron is becoming the 'George Bush of Britain'
Hilary Mantel 'should be investigated by police' over Margaret Thatcher assassination story, says Lord Bell
Plebgate MP Andrew Mitchell called officer a 'little s**t', claim court documents 'exposing ex-Chief Whip's 'record of abusing police'
Archbishop of Canterbury admits doubts about existence of God