Each evening, at exactly 20.21, the screen at Piccadilly Circus will light up with the livestreamed words of the legendary Patti Smith.
“Some of the work I did in my bedroom, some in a recording studio and some at my desk,” says Smith. “I had to teach myself how to use photo-booth on my computer and then film myself reading a poem to the people, and then figure out how to send it. I’m sure there are 14-year-olds who can do this in five-minutes, but it took me quite a while to figure it out, but I got there and I’m so proud of myself. This is my contribution to the technological world.”
The punk poet Laureate’s toe-step in the digital world is all courtesy of her collaboration with Circa, the innovative and independently curated digital platform which is currently revolutionising the way public art- particularly during a pandemic- is consumed. Her month-long residency began on New Year’s Day and her 3rd January performance featured a special poem, written by Patti, and dedicated to Great Thunberg on her 18th birthday.
“This is ‘The Cup’” Patti announced, as she introduced the work, “and it was written with great urgency, which is why I would like to dedicate it to Greta Thunberg on her 18th birthday. Her message for us all - a message we must all embrace - is one of action. Of a school girl, who stepped out on her own, and appealed to us all, to save our Earth. Together.”
Patti Smith poem ‘The Cup’ for Greta Thunberg:
If we be blind, if we turn from Nature, the garden of the soul, she will turn on us. In place of songbird, the shrill cry of the locust devouring the harvest, the terrible crackling of the blazing rainforest. The bushfires. The animals screaming. Peatlands smoldering, seas rising, cathedrals flooding, the Arctic shelf melting, the Siberian wood burning, the Barrier Reef bleached as the bones of forgotten saints. If we be blind, failing in our supplication, species will die, bee and butterfly driven to extinction, all of Nature nothing more
than an empty husk, the ghost
of an abandoned hive.
The 74-year-old singer, writer, artist and icon, whose image and work typified the punk spirit of New York in the 1970s, is also celebrating an anniversary of her own. Her Circa commission marks the 50th anniversary of her first poetry recital at St. Mark’s Church-in-the-Bowery on 10 February 1971. Half a century on, she can still command a crowd; over a million people tuned in to Circa’s website on New Year’s Day, to watch her inaugural performance.
Created by artist Josef O’Connor, Circa has taken up residency on Europe’s largest screen, and has already featured the works of LA artist Cauleen Smith, London born Eddie Peake and the Chinese contemporary titan Ai Weiwei. The concept is both simple and brilliantly audacious- streaming interactive art (from a different artist each month) every night, at the same specified time, where passers-by can connect their headphones to the CIRCA website for a fully immersive experience.
It is an answer to the disruption of the artistic community in many ways. The content has consciously focused on events ‘circa’ 2020/2021; from Black Lives Matter to Covid-19 and it allows public art to exist in a safe, socially distanced space whilst supporting creatives financially. Each featured artist has also created pieces for Circa, all of which retail from approximately £100. The print sale model is entitled the #CIRCAECONOMY and has thus far raised just over £90,000 for the UK’s struggling artists.
Visitors to Piccadilly Circus can connect their headphones to circa.art and receive a fully immersive audio-visual experience. The website also streams the artwork every evening at 20:21GMT. For January, Patti Smith has created a series of four prints costing £100 each which are available to purchase on shop.circa.art from 1 - 31 January, 2021.
In need of some at-home inspiration? Sign up to our free weekly newsletter for skincare and self-care, the latest cultural hits to read and download, and the little luxuries that make staying in so much more satisfying.
You Might Also Like