Hull UK City of Culture 2017 planned events to run throughout the whole year including seven free art installations in non-city centre areas designed to bring art to people who would not usually see it - in locations where art is not usually found.
The City of Culture team commissioned internationally renowned artists, Davy and Kristin McGuire, to create Micropolis – one of seven ‘Acts of Wanton Wonder’. Altogether these public art installations would make up the project ‘Land of Green Ginger’ – Micropolis featuring as Act V.
Micropolis would include a 10 x 10 x 5 metre cardboard mini metropolis with tiny hotels, restaurants, shops and houses built inside a disused pumping station on the outskirts of Hull.
It would need tiny projectors tucked out of sight within the model that would not generate heat, be reliable for the 2-week long run and show stories and scenes starring, and made in association with, the people of Hull.
It took a year to build and install the cardboard model and film the scenes starring local people and volunteers. The artists used a mixture of ML750e ultra portable LED projectors and their short throw counterparts ML750ST hidden away within the sets. Content was played through these projectors’ in-built media player from an SD card. They also employed the standard throw XGA projector X400, the short throw Full HD GT1080 and the ultra short throw WXGA resolution W319UST.
Kristin McGuire said: “We use Optoma projectors a lot. They are really versatile, strong, bright and small with good image quality.”
As well as the usual cinemas, gyms and shish cafes you would find in any metropolis, visitors watched stories unfold on the streets and through windows within the tiny city. A woman is attacked by a huge spider, a half-naked man hangs from a tower block window ledge hiding from a suspicious husband at the window and robbers laden with their loot evade the cops.
Music and sound effects were synced to every vignette and played from raspberry Pis to local speakers and the projectors. There was also an overall soundscape played through a large PA system.
Kristin said: “The audio added atmosphere but also included talk from the little people. Basically it reflected the cacophony of a bustling city.”
A darkly comedic rodent theme ran throughout Micropolis with the Rolling Rat kebab house, Micropolis Meats Mouse Mincing Facility, Fat Rat Burger joint and even the city’s electricity was powered by rats in the power station (no animals were harmed in the production of this art installation).
Visitors got a hint of Micropolis in the hallway leading to the show including a miniature mouse mincing station before they turn the corner to see the dramatic cityscape within the atmospheric surroundings of the disused pumping station.
Pocket size people was the teaser for Micropolis. For four nights a mini ‘theatre’ was set up outside an old disused bingo hall on the outskirts of Hull. After dark, little people come out from the cracks to make use of rubbish discarded on the streets. The installation used the Optoma ML750e and ML750ST LED projectors that were connected to battery packs and concealed in waterproof transparent storage boxes. These were made to look like concrete blocks, inconspicuous on the city street. Like Micropolis, content was played through the projectors’ in-built media player from an SD card – so no other equipment was needed.
Pocket Size People and Micropolis free art installations were promoted as part of Hull’s UK City of Culture 2017 Acts of Wanton Wonder via social media. Little footsteps were painted on the pavement leading to the installations and curious rumours were circulated of weird activity outside the disused bingo hall and derelict pumping station.
Kristin said: “The reaction from local people was absolutely brilliant! Pocket Size People was a great testbed for Micropolis which had 13,000 visitors through its doors in just two weeks.”
Katy Fuller Creative Director at Absolutely Cultured and former Executive Producer at the City of Culture, said: “Micropolis was a fantastic project and really caught the imagination of our audiences. When they came through the dark corridors, turned a corner and the full extent of the towering carboard city was revealed there was an audible gasp.
“Seeing the miniature characters brought to life by the clever projection work was really captivating for children and adults, especially when they saw a tiny version of someone they recognised. I’ve commissioned work from the McGuires on a number of occasions and they always rise to the challenge and turn what sounds like an impossible fantasy into a deliverable reality!”
Local resident Wendy Whitehouse visited with her grandchildren and said: “I think it’s wonderful. The children have had a magical time spotting the tiny people and exploring the city.”
Kristin added: “It took a whole year to create Micropolis and we were incredibly proud of this large installation. It was great to watch visitors’ reactions as they came around the corner for the big reveal.”
Plans are underway to take the little people and Micropolis on tour. Watch this space for more details.
The McGuires Creative Studio
Based in Hull, Davy and Kristin McGuire export their work all over the world. Whatever their canvas, from international theatre stages, cinemas and gallery walls, to marble statues, the couple transform the familiar into the fantastical and breathe life into inanimate objects that draw you to dark and delicious destinations.