Around & about

Message from the Unseen World


Celebrate National Poetry Day on 4 October by taking a stroll to visit Message from the Unseen World, a poetic tribute to one of Paddington's most remarkable figures.

Located just beneath Bishops Bridge and spanning the walkway to form a natural gateway to Paddington Central, this artwork combines three vital artistic components - text, light and technology, all of which have been included in pioneering art installations since the middle part of the 20th century.

The textual elements of Message from the Unseen World are individual words and phrases from an Alan Turing-inspired poem by Nick Drake. Text has been a vital means of expression for artists for decades; coming to prominence during the 1960s, as a new generation of conceptual artists began to make use of words rather than traditional materials of paint and canvas, it is now a key tool for many contemporary artists. In encouraging the viewer to engage with an intellectual idea or concept, and presenting a transient and ephemeral view of Drake's verses, Message from the Unseen World has a firm link with this important artistic genre.

Famed as a war time code breaker, Turing is also renowned for his pioneering work on computers, his publication in 1936 On Computable Numbers forming the basis for modern computing. Fittingly, Message from the Unseen World makes use of algorithms, through which the lines of Drake's poem are broken down into infinite permutations. Evolving during the 1950s, computer use in art began as a collaboration between artists, mathematicians and scientists; further innovations followed, culminating, towards the end of the 20th century, with the inclusion of technology and computers within overall creative trends. In fact, many artists now establish a multi-disciplinary practice, often encouraging interaction which allows the audience to exert control over the final image.

dsc_1012.jpgMessage from the Unseen World by United Visual Artists.

Lighting too plays a vital role in Message from the Unseen World. The illuminated elements allow the viewer to register the individual words and phrases generated via the installation's own technology. The invention of artificial light in the first half of the 20th century enabled avant-garde artists to incorporate light into their artworks. By the 1960s, pioneers were utilising readymade fluorescent or neon lights as the main proponent of their practice, and the formation, part way through that decade, of the Californian Light & Space Group led to a revolution of the media through their largescale light based artwork. More recent light art projects have embraced entire architectural elements and also incorporate projections and festivals, including Lumiere, the London light festival co-sponsored by British Land in January 2016. 

You can read the full text of Nick Drake's poem here.