I do like a bit of good street art. You round a corner in an unfamiliar town or city to discover a permanent or temporary addition to the urban scene. Much of the temporary variety can be very sharp and engaging in its message, have a social or political point to make or simply be very funny. In comparison the permanent variety can often seem rather dull and unamusing, be it a statue of some local hero or oblique reference to the history of the area. Rarely does humour seem to have played a role in choosing the artwork to be displayed.
The same can surely not do said of the newly unveiled public artwork in the Dutch town of Oss where I work. At least I assume that there must have been at least wry glint in the eyes of the commission who decided that this artwork should be placed between the railway station and the large chemical and pharmaceutical business on the other side. I had seen it being built for a week or two as I waited each day for my train to arrive. Initially I had assumed it was some sort of bicycle storage facility. But as the top section went on it became apparent that Oss too had made a piece of street art that celebrated a significant detail of local history. But it was a rather unexpected reference, leaving me to suppress my laughter as I boarded my train.
The aforementioned pharmaceutical company used to be known as Organon and was a major producer of the contraceptive pill, and it was this part of local history that is being landmarked. What had been made was a fourteen by seven metre pill strip, complete with twenty one press out ‘bubbles’ for the tablets. It wasn’t until last week that I saw the piece in its full glory. For twenty one days the lights under one after the other of the bubbles is extinguished, thus counting the month away. Finally, after dark in the ‘fourth week’ all the lights burn red, subtle it certainly isn’t! The council had chosen for a giant, glow in the dark, animated pill strip!
When seeing it all light up on a dark evening up you have to kind of admire the silliness of it. They can’t have been too serious about it…..can they?
Rather conveniently I am actually dealing with street art in all its forms in a series of lessons with some of my classes at the moment. We will undoubtedly be talking about the pill strip at some point. It ticks many street art boxes, sight specific, content and location connected, surprising, eye catching and funny….although I still have my doubts as to whether this was actually the intention.