LIGHTS OUT, ‘Traw’ by Bedwyr Williams co-commissioned by 14-18 NOW and Artes Mundi

11 / 07 / 2014


North Wales Memorial Arch & Pontio Centre Stage As Lights Go Out Across the UK To Mark the Outbreak of the First World War

14-18 NOW, the cultural programme for the First World War Centenary Commemorations, in collaboration with Artes Mundi, will present Traw a major outdoor public artwork in Bangor by Bedwyr Williams, one of Wales’ leading visual artists, as part of LIGHTS OUT, a nationwide event on 4th August 2014 marking the centenary of the outbreak of the First World War.

On 4th August 2014, from 10pm – 11pm, Williams’s large-scale video and sound installation will be presented at the site of the North Wales Memorial Arch, Bangor, which contains the names of over 8,500 soldiers, sailors, and airmen from the counties of North Wales who fell in the First World War.  The Memorial Arch will take centre stage in front of images projected from the Arch onto the enormous facing wall of Bangor University’s new Pontio Arts and Innovation Centre, making a connection between the sacrifices of the past and the hopes of the future.

Taking photographs found in the Cymru 1914 archive, Williams has created a sequence of images of local military and civilian personnel who were affected by the First World War.  Excluding all uniform and references to rank, the cropped images of faces reveal something of the individual’s personality and personal sacrifice in a war where death was measured in millions.

Traw is a Welsh word meaning to strike.  A resonating soundtrack that centres on a slowed down clock ticking underpins the work and will be felt, as much as heard, across the city.

Commenting on the project Bedwyr Williams said: “As a young art student I walked past the memorial arch in Bangor many times and I have to admit that I never gave it a huge amount of thought.  Working on this project I’ll never be able to walk past this place again without thinking of the lives lost fighting in the First World War.”

In a dramatic UK-wide event LIGHTS OUT is an invitation to everyone to turn off their lights from 10pm to 11pm on 4 August, leaving on a single light or candle for a shared moment of reflection. People can take part in whatever way they choose and with whatever thoughts they have about the moment that Britain joined the First World War exactly one hundred years ago. Either at home or as witness to one of the many creative LIGHTS OUT moments taking place around the country, people will join together for an unprecedented collective experience.

The inspiration for LIGHTS OUT comes from a famous remark made on the eve of the outbreak of war by the then Foreign Secretary, Sir Edward Grey: “The lamps are going out all over Europe; we shall not see them lit again in our life-time. Britain declared war on Germany at 11pm on 4 August 1914 ushering in one of the darkest periods in our history.

Millions of people are expected to participate and hundreds of local authorities, iconic buildings, national organisations including the BBC and the Royal British Legion, parish councils and places of worship have already pledged their support. Iconic landmarks such Blackpool Illuminations, the Houses of Parliament, Eden Project, Imperial War Museums and Tower Bridge will turn off their lights; the Royal British Legion has launched a campaign for at least one million candles to be lit across the UK and theatre productions including those of the National Theatre’s War Horse, both nationally and internationally, will invite their audiences to take part in LIGHTS OUT after their curtain calls.

Williams is one of four leading international artists commissioned by 14-18 NOW, the cultural programme for the WW1 centenary commemorations, to create striking public artworks in Belfast, Edinburgh, Bangor and London, as focal points for LIGHTS OUT in each of the UK’s four nations.

Each LIGHTS OUT commission takes a unique approach to creating a light source to bring people together as the UK commemorates the outbreak of the First World War on the evening of 4th August. Bombay-based artist Nalini Malani will present a large-scale video projection across the entire west elevation of the Scottish National Gallery in Edinburgh, commissioned by the Edinburgh Art Festival; leading artist Bob and Roberta Smith’s new large-scale work using thousands of candles will be created by a range of community based groups in Belfast, commissioned by Factotum.  Across London a special project will be revealed on the night of 4th August.

Turner Prize-winning artist Jeremy Deller has created an original LIGHTS OUT digital artwork in the form of an app, which anyone can download for free. Over the days leading up to 4 August a new short film will be revealed each day, culminating in a film being revealed for just one hour from 10pm-11pm on 4 August.

Bedwyr Williams is currently the artist in residence at Pontio, a major new arts and innovation centre being built by Bangor University and designed by Grimshaw architects, which will open in September this year.   The aim of his residency is to explore Bangor University’s collections as part of a new work that he will present at Pontio when it opens later this year.

Pontio’s Artistic Director Elen ap Robert said: “Pontio, Bangor University’s soon to open Arts and Innovation Centre, is ideally positioned to host Bedwyr’s bold new work to mark the Centenary. Sandwiched between the city’s Memorial Arch and the iconic University building – the striking projections against Pontio offer an appropriate and timely reminder of the passing of time since WW1.”

For 14-18 NOW Williams has extended his research and has been working closely with the Cymru1914 archive, which is undertaking a mass digitization of primary sources relating to the First World War from the Libraries, Special Collections and Archives of Wales.  This digital archive brings together source materials that were previously fragmented and frequently inaccessible, including newspapers, manuscripts, photography, journals, recorded sounds and interviews.

The local community will be invited to engage with the project with a series of workshops to gather personal histories, stories and family connections to the First World War.

Karen MacKinnon, Director and Curator at Artes Mundi, commented:

“Artes Mundi is delighted to co-commission Traw by Bedwyr Williams together with 14-18 NOW.  This poignant new artwork will shed light on the national libraries archives and touch the communities of Bangor, connecting to the other 4 LIGHTS OUT commissions across the UK.”

LIGHTS OUT complements the candlelit vigil service to be held in Westminster Abbey from 10pm to 11pm on 4th August  There will also be a candlelit vigil service at Llandaff Cathedral, Cardiff between 10 and 11pm.

The 14-18 NOW programme is funded by £10 million granted from the National Lottery including The Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) and Arts Council England (ACE) which are contributing £5million each.