Art Bypass was a response to the construction of the A34 Newbury Bypass which destroyed nine miles of ancient forest to make way for a new road. During that same year the motor industry celebrated its 100th anniversary. Working with Friends of the Earth and the Life Arts Research Centre at the University of Brighton, we asked artists to explore our complex relationship with the car and the cultural myths that surround it – from our love affair with the gleaming machine, the glory of speed and the symbolism of freedom to clogged roads, choking air pollution, road building programmes and climate change.
Over 50 artists created a series of ‘Roadworks’ that included sound, projection, poetry, land art, performance, dance and installations which revolutionised the car in ways the motor industry probably hadn’t envisaged. The result was the creation of a mile of motorway performance in the heart of the countryside overlooking the destruction that had taken place to create the new road. Art Bypass made the front page of The Independent on Sunday and was extensively covered in the press including The Guardian and The Big Issue.
Land artist Simon English mowed a huge image of a Desmoulin’s Whorl snail on the Art Bypass site at Newbury to kick off the project. Other ‘Roadworks’ included a wrapped car by Christo and Jeanne Claude, the UK premiere of Werner Herzog’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream (set in the Brazilian rainforest), a woodland choir, a one-woman show on a roundabout, and ten installations using old cars. Richard Demarco and Uwe Claus, continuing the work of Joseph Beuys, planted seven oak trees on site as part of 7000 Oaks. Steve Bell’s cartoons, all on the theme of road rage, were made into traffic signs for the event.
Commissioned and created in collaboration with Friends of the Earth and the Life Arts Research Centre at the University of Brighton with Robert Lamb and Bill Beech. Artists: Christo and Jeanne-Claude Javacheff, Heathcote Williams and Chris Hill, Zelito Vianna, Werner Herzog, Lucelia Santos, The Cholmondeleys, Simon English, Peggy Atherton, Kate Roe, Hugh Grace, William McIntyre, Hannah Sofaer, Renny Nisbet, Richard DeMarco, U We Claus, Dominic Clare, Clare Patey and Neil Smith, Paul Williams, John Phillips, Steve Bell, Peter Mountain, Ben Keeble, Crazy Jane, Marcus Tate and Dick Straker, Kevin Dagg, Gill Murray, Johnnie Woodford, Chandalay Quor, Cathy Wren, Roy Hutchins, Hamish Black, Graham Massey, Sam Smith and Walter Bailey. Production and Mud Management by Neil Cooper and Simon Byford. Conceived and curated by Clare Patey with the help of Robert Lamb and Bill Beech.