In Hull, Giant Robotic Beacons Illuminate the UK City of Culture

© Jason Bruges Studio
© Jason Bruges Studio
Photo of Claire Lancaster
Tech & Entrepreneurship Editor8 December 2017

With the night sky and the city’s architecture as a backdrop, the robots rise, swoop, curl, spin and reach out.

In Hull, Jason Bruges Studio has unveiled a striking public art and robotic light installation in honour of the city’s UK City of Culture celebrations.

Where Do We Go From Here?, a multi-site installation dotted around Hull’s Old Town, features large re-purposed industrial robots fitted with light sources, mirrors, prisms and directional speakers.

© Jason Bruges Studio

Accompanied by specially commissioned soundscapes producing a choreography of movement, light and sound, the robots throw, reflect and exchange light, leaving the viewer feeling as if they may have detected distinct personalities among the machines.

The specially designed structures, some reaching more than 6 metres high, guide people through the city’s night-time streets, enabling the (re)discovery of Hull’s urban environment, while harkening back to Hull’s heritage as the leading centre for navigation in Europe.

© Jason Bruges Studio

‘I’m interested in how art and technology combine to generate spectacle, entertainment and equally stimulate learning and new ideas,’ Bruges explains. ‘Digital interventions can invigorate our public spaces and shape how we behave within them. I wanted this installation to reflect both Hull’s past, as well as the transformation it is undergoing to become a leading centre for both culture and, through green energy, technological innovation.’

Bruges continues: ‘Art has an important role to play as a cultural catalyst and agent of change. In a world that is increasingly digital and where the role of robotics is more prominent in our daily lives, I’m interested in exploring the ways in which we can use this technology to enhance our public spaces. The robots act as “beacons”, giving people a way to navigate through the streets. It’s very much like walking round an urban art gallery; you can walk through in any order, you can take as long as you like, stay as long as you like, come on different days.’

Jason Bruges Studio

According to the city, the installation aims to to start a conversation, about Hull and its future, about society, art, culture and technology.

‘A key element of Hull’s year as UK City of Culture has been the use of technology to tell stories and to show the city in new ways,’ says Martin Green, Director of Hull UK City of Culture 2017. ‘In Where Do We Go From Here? Jason Bruges has produced a striking artwork across four locations in the historic heart of the Old Town. Each has its own atmosphere, sometimes playful, sometimes ethereal, sometimes contemplative. As we approach the end of this incredible year, it takes us into 2018 and as we look ahead to the future, asks a key question for our times, one we hope will get people thinking.’

Jason Bruges Studio

Where Do We Go From Here? runs daily 5pm–9pm until 7 January 2018. The installation is in place across four sites in Hull’s Old Town: Beverley Gate, Trinity Square, Museum Gardens and Wilberforce House in High Street.

For more on Hull’s year as the UK City of Culture, read our coverage of the Turner Prize award ceremony held in the city earlier this month.

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