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The Good, The Standard And The Ugly: Aeolus

Jonathan Schofield likes a bit of steel

Published on November 9th 2011.

The Good, The Standard And The Ugly: Aeolus

Category: Very good


Aeolus, 2011 

When and where?

Now, until 4 December at MediaCityUk. 


Luke Jerram


A big steel thingy of ten tonnes and six metres in weight and height. A hedgehog organ of shiny walk-throughableness. 

Mediacity Artwork 006

An organ?

Yes, Aeolus, is in effect a big organ with pipes and wires so that when the wind blows across it the piece sings a haunting eerie melody. According to the artist it represents, 'the three dimensional nature of the wind'. 

What inspired it?

Luke Jerram was in the Iranian desert and came across a well-digger who talked of the "winds singing across the wells". He then thought of Aeolus the Greek god of winds and put the two together to produce his lovely hollow hedgehog. It seems a long way to go for inspiration but his piece works well here. Not that this is the first time this idea has been used.

Where has it been used before?

Loads of places, very successfully on the moors above Burnley with the Singing Ringing Tree by architects Tonkin-Liu, which also sings with the wind. In fact given its crag-like form and its location that work is probably better than Aeolus. But Aeolus is still an immensely satisfying piece of public art which if you want to seek meaning could reflect in this location the relationship between Man, Time and Mother Nature. For a video of the Aeolus effect  - click here

How so?

The huge forms of heavy industry - vast machines of manufacturing on its grandest scale - once filled this area of the city region on both sides of the Ship Canal. Made from materials ripped from the Earth, they've now all gone, or been tamed and turned into exhibition pieces in the Museum of Science and Industry. This could if you want, remind you of time passing.


So you like it then?

Oh yes. And remember you don't have to seek any meaning in it, just enjoy it for what it is. It's what public art should be after all.

And that is?



Public art should be big, bold, obvious, even spectacular - it should live up to its name. A good measure of public art might be whether a cheeky kid can climb on it. I like also that Aeolus is a temporary piece, on tour from the Eden Centre. 

Temporary's a good thing?

I think so. Public art can date very easily or begin poor and get worse. The new Chopin statue on Deansgate is like that (click here), poorly modelled and poorly sited it is, at best, a curiosity. Aeolus is a good piece, but as with the visiting shows at The Lowry nearby, can make way for new work which may or may not be as good. These in turn can make way for more art, and thus we get a sculpture gallery on the Quays with something fresh to look at every now and then. That's more enriching than something shoddy stuck there for decades.


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12 comments so far, continue the conversation, write a comment.

Brian SewellNovember 9th 2011.

Thats more like it.

Calum McGNovember 9th 2011.

I like it! Went a few weeks back. Cool!

heatherwickNovember 9th 2011.

Further to my design advice, they made sure the ends won't fall off this time...

Simon SmithNovember 9th 2011.

I don't mind public art as long as no public money is used to fund it.

Those who want public art should pay for it all themselves. But would they still want it if they had to do this?

I doubt it.

3 Responses: Reply To This...
heatherwickNovember 10th 2011.

What an unbelievably daft thing to say.

As a council tax payer with no kids, I from now on refuse to pay the full wack. Why should I pay for other peoples' kids education?

See what i've done there?

Dr EvilNovember 10th 2011.

I can top that:

as a contributor to National Insurance who never falls ill, I will no longer pay my taxes to support the NHS. Why should I pay for other peoples' flue jabs?

And while you're at it, privatise the NHS (if you haven't done so already)!

Jeez, this Simon bloke appears to be a bit 'mono-structured'....

AnonymousNovember 15th 2011.

Usual muddle headed thinking from our resident 'Hyacinth Bucket'.

Presumably, Simon doesn't mind other people subsidising the upkeep of the roads he uses, or the parks he visits or the health services he or his family use, or the local education service or policing or any of the other public subsidies that help maintain the value of his house?

Does he not also support Man City, a stadium part built with public money?

Isabella JacksonNovember 9th 2011.

Ah Mr. Smith, maybe I'm being a tad slow and missing the irony in every comment you make - I somehow doubt it though. Is there any review or news item ever posted on this site that you don't moan about or find the negative within? Hop over to the MEN comments section - you'll be amongst friends there.

Simon SmithNovember 9th 2011.

Isabella, as you replied after half an hour or so you can't be accused of being slow.

I'd say you might have an over-developed ability to spot negativity in people who don't share your opinions.

2 Responses: Reply To This...
tblzebraNovember 9th 2011.

I'd say she was spot on about you Simon.

Simon SmithNovember 9th 2011.

Good for you Tblzebra.

We are all entitled to our opinions.

When it comes to art it seems that those of us who don't want to pay for it are exempt from all the usual toleration, respect and celebration of diversity that is usually de rigeur amongst those who are eager for other peoples money to be spent on it for their own profit or enjoyment.

crazyjohnNovember 11th 2011.

This looks great btw. I was yooogging past one day and there was a person detailing why it was there and conducting some experiments. They said with abit of demand it may well stay. For me it creates a real gateway to Media City, something that is lacking at the moment. KEEP IT

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