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One unreal weekend, two acclaimed artist-filmmakers and one incredible city-wide canvas. OverWorlds & UnderWorlds awaits…

  • Date: 11 May 2012
  • Area: North
two men in tunnel

The Quay Brothers, Dark Arches, Leeds, for Overworlds and Underworlds, Leeds Canvas. Credit: Tom Arber 2012

Next weekend (18- 20 May), light, live dance, music and film will see the city of Leeds transformed in spectacular fashion for one weekend only as part of the London 2012 Cultural Olympiad celebrations.

Curated by internationally acclaimed artist-filmmakers the Quay Brothers, Leeds Canvas: OverWorlds & UnderWorlds will see some of the city’s most dramatic spaces - including the impressive County Arcade, the Dark Arches at Granary Wharf and one of Leeds’ oldest thoroughfares, Briggate - transformed through a series of major public performances and artistic installations.

The free event is Yorkshire’s own contribution to Artists taking the lead, the UK Arts Councils' flagship project for the London 2012 Cultural Olympiad. The project is one of twelve extraordinary public art commissions created across the country, one in each nation and region of the UK, to help celebrate the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games.

The project is led by a consortium of celebrated regional arts organisations including representatives from Northern Ballet, West Yorkshire Playhouse, Opera North, Yorkshire Dance, Phoenix Dance, Leeds Museums & Galleries and Leeds Met Gallery & Studio Theatre. The concept is quite literal – the team hands the city over to an artist (or artists) to use as an incredible large scale canvas – lending their valuable skills and experience to the artistic vision. The Leeds Canvas team will produce an event of this nature every four years to coincide with each Olympic and Paralympic Games year, leaving a lasting cultural legacy for audiences across the region and beyond to enjoy. 

For their 2012 commission, the team have chosen to work with enigmatic artist-filmmakers and animators the Quay Brothers. Identical twins, they studied at the Philadelphia College of Art and then later at the Royal College of Art in London, and they have influenced a generation of artists and animators with their own unique style. As well as creating their own projects, they have collaborated widely with festivals, theatre directors, opera houses and choreographers, and are always in demand for their designs for live performance. Terry Gilliam named their work Street of Crocodiles as one the ten best animated features of all time.

For 2012, The Brother’s present the theme OverWorlds and UnderWorlds, designed to plunge audiences deep into an alternative reality of art, dance, theatre, and music, leading them through the OverWorlds of the city’s historical arcades into the UnderWorlds of the atmospheric Dark Arches. The once in a lifetime event will include a mysterious series interventions and unexpected surprises – maybe an eruption or even a flood – encouraging people to see the city as they’ve never seen it before. The Quay Brothers usually work on a small scale creating stop-motion films with elaborate, intricate sets. In contrast, Overworlds & Underworlds will see their work set out on a scale never achieved before in the city.

An education and outreach programme led by Space 2, Pyramid of Arts, and Leeds Young Authors involving hundreds of local young people and adults will run alongside the commission. Inspired by the Brothers’ theme ‘flow’, a series of three projects will give participants the opportunity to showcase their creative talents and develop new skills, working with some of Yorkshire’s leading artists and arts organisations.

Steve Dearden, Executive Producer, Leeds Canvas said: 'The great thing about this project is that the Quays have not just taken the lead but they have involved hundreds of other professional and community artists in the project – composers; brass bands; choreographers; dance students; writers; sculptors; sound artists and other film-makers.'

The Quay Brothers said: 'This is the first time we have been invited to work on such an enormous scale, and we’re delighted to be working with such a renowned and talented group of artists and designers. Leeds is a city full of unusual spaces that resonate with our ideas and those of the creative team. OverWorlds & UnderWorlds is going to take all of us into new territory, through familiar spaces, perceived in unfamiliar ways.

For those who can’t make it to the city itself they needn’t fear – the project will be available online as part of The Space, a new free digital arts service developed by Arts Council England in partnership with the BBC, which looks to transform the way people connect with, and experience, arts and culture. The Space will see OverWorlds & UnderWorlds streamed live as well as exclusive features including an online game, and a behind the scenes look at how the project came about.

Cluny Macpherson said: 'This is no ordinary commission; Leeds Canvas is a hugely experimental and ambitious programme and the Quay Brothers aren’t your average artists. OverWorlds & UnderWorlds is set to be an incredible live event that celebrates 2012 through the true spirit of creativity – collaboration, imagination and the desire to go beyond the norm. What’s more it’s free, meaning that the experience is open to as many people as possible.'

Leeds Canvas: OverWorlds & UnderWorlds is a free multi-location event taking place 18 - 20 May at venues across Leeds city centre and online. Visitors are advised to collect a map from Briggate, County Arcade or the Dark Arches to help navigate their way, and should allow a leisurely two hours to absorb the work.

Friday 18 May, 5pm - 9pm
County Arcade performances at 5pm and 7pm. Dark Arches open 5pm - 9pm.

Saturday 19 May, 2pm-9pm
County Arcade performances at 2:30pm, 5pm and 7pm. Dark Arches open 4pm - 9pm.

Sunday 20 May, 2pm - 5pm
County Arcade performances at 2pm and 3:15pm. Dark Arches open 2pm-5pm.

Visit the website for up to date times and details.