Smile For London Uses Underground Art to Cheer Up Rush Hour

Image: Westminster Tube Sign, (c) Transport for London 2005

(Alex Goldmark, Transportation Nation) Video artists in London are making videos to cheer up commuters. The public art project Smile For London is collecting short films to play on Underground train platforms next month:

"From 17th January 2011, just at a time when Londoners are feeling the January blues and in need of a lift, we’ll be taking over the platform screens for two weeks on weekday mornings with a creative intermission; a programme of film, art and animation, exhibiting the best of London’s emerging and established artistic talent."

They specifically want videos that will make commuters smile, and the collection of entrants posted so far are a delightful diversion.

Video underground is novel, but not entirely new. New York City experimented with video inside subway cars earlier this year, but they did it for special sports advertising, not art. Several cities use projectors to play commercials, usually without sound. That's the technology in London, which inadvertently enabled this art project.

This open call for art comes in a medium mostly new to transit spaces. In fact Smile For London's call for submissions explicitly encourages innovation in video, asking artists "to create a twenty second silent piece of moving image with a view to pushing the boundaries of the medium," according to the website. This video seems meet that request based on the unusual lighting methods, though without the written technical explanation on the website, I wonder if commuters will appreciate the feat.

If you're feeling inspired, local London artists can submit films until December 15th. The rest of us can watch them here. My favorite, of about six randomly sampled, is this:

How snow is made from Amael Isnard on Vimeo.