Here's looking at you: Installation artists invade the streets, hotels and shops of Hull this week. Clare Bayley roots out opinion on what they think they're up to

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The Independent Culture
There was a time when art was kept safely within the confines of the gallery or theatre. Now you can be walking down a shopping street and there it is. This week in Hull it's almost impossible to avoid. The second ROOT Festival of Time- Based Arts is everywhere: in the shops, in the Tamworth Lodge Hotel, in Hull Paragon train station. 'It's all to do with people, and communicating with them,' says the man responsible, programmer Mike Stubbs. 'This festival is all about challenging the relationship of artwork to society.'

ROOT is an acronym for Running Out Of Time, and 'time-based' is an umbrella term for live art which happens over time. One project, Spoiled, involves artists Anna Helgesson and Gavin Randle ensconcing themselves in a shop window with their infant daughter, Freya. Each day they will construct an installation on aspects of child-care - breast-feeding, sleeping arrangements - while carrying out their daily routines with Freya. Passers-by can tell them what they think through a baby intercom. Isn't this just the sort of project that turns the public off art?

'What we want is to generate dialogue,' says Anna Helgesson, and they are prepared for the fact that some of this will consist of being told that what they're doing isn't art. Mainly, though, Spoiled aims to question our assumptions about bringing up children. 'Everyone has their own views about it,' says Helgesson. 'We want people to learn to trust their own instincts, not to get too muddled by all the advice they get bombarded with.'

In the current climate of uncertainty about how far others can or should intervene in how people raise their young, the glass window and the intercom take on a discrete layer of symbolism. No doubt somebody will object to involving an innocent child in a piece of public art, but at least they'll be encouraged to voice their objections.

Most of the artists involved in ROOT 94 make their art out of everyday experiences. The Zwillinge Project is a collaboration between artist Kirsten Lavers and theatre-maker Melanie Thompson. Together they have compiled 'evidence' by raiding waste-paper bins in hotel rooms for discarded objects, as well as from conversations and other explorations in and around Hull. From this they will construct one of their strange, and beautiful installations in a suite of rooms at the Tamworth Lodge Hotel.

Susan Collins has filmed people's nods, winks, handshakes and fragments of speech: 'Got the time, mate?' and 'What you looking at?', to make computer-animated video projections, Pedestrian Gestures, which will be on display in the railway station. They will be triggered by people walking past.

For Mike Stubbs an important aspect of the festival is to counter the reputation of experimental arts as elitist and obscure. 'This year especially, we're concerned with the role of the artist in relation to society. We're more fine-art than community-art based, but one of the threads that's emerged is about the relationship between life and art, the responsibility of the artist in society.' And the great thing is it's public art, so that whether you do or you don't like it, you can always have a chat with the artist.

Spoiled: to 21 May, with a special performance on 21 May (for venue details call 0482 216446). The Zwillinge Project: the Tamworth Lodge Hotel, 26-27 May, 10am-4pm. Pedestrian Gestures: Paragon station to 27 May, 4pm-11pm.

(Photograph omitted)