Talking buoys cause controversy

A proposed art installation is causing waves of protest in Cardigan, west Wales

A raft of 127 ‘talking’ illuminated buoys, said to be Wales’ answer to The Angel of the North, has sparked unrest in Cardigan, west Wales, with over 100 residents holding a protest last week and more than half of the 4200 population signing a petition against the installation.

The installation, ‘Turbulence’ is by Mexican artist Rafael Lozano-Hemmer, and is part of a joint project between Channel 4, Arts Council England and the Art Fund and is due to be moored on the River Teifi, with supporters claiming it will help put Cardigan back on the map.

Turbulence is an interactive installation consisting of a cluster of buoys illuminated by the voices of passers-by. The buoys will float in the centre of the river and contain a loudspeaker, LED light source and a sensor that detects movement in the water. In addition a number of microphones placed around the quayside will record people’s voices and automatically convert them into blinking lights within the buoys.

But not everyone is happy, Ralph Rea, who has canoed on the river for 40 years and is leading opposition to the scheme said the area of buoys will scare the river’s otters, swans, trout and salmon and cause a hazard to small boats, he told The Times, “It will never be built because we won’t let it.”

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However, a spokesperson from Channel 4 said that the aim of the project is to document the challenges and pitfalls when commissioning new public art and that organisers of the Big Art Project have been working with the local community during every step of the process. Justine Bower of Channel 4 said, “The potential navigation hazard has been dealt with: the proposed installation has been moved to another site along the river.”

The new proposed location is about 50 yards from the original location, upstream of the bridge. Bower said, “The water is less turbulent there. Only smaller craft can venture beyond the bridge and there is plenty of room for navigation, so the work is not an obstruction or hazard.”

The scheme is currently awaiting final approval pending an environmental impact assessment, although the council says that if a detrimental effect on wildlife is shown the scheme will not go ahead.



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