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Antenna Lab Brings New Life to Statues Across London and Manchester

Antenna Lab, Antenna International’s digital think tank, today announced the launch of “Talking Statues” across London and Manchester in the UK – a project that brings some of the region’s most historic and iconic statues to life. Developed in conjunction with the non-profit event production company Sing London, the Talking Statues project will bring 35 statues to life through Antenna Lab’s innovative technology and a dozen of Britain’s most recognizable celebrity voices.

Through its unique use of Near Field Communication (NFC), Antenna Lab will enable curious passers-by to swipe their smart-phone over a statue’s signage, triggering a “call back” from the likes of Isaac Newton, Queen Victoria or Sherlock Holmes. A call back can also be initiated by the use of a QR code or by using a short URL that is displayed on the signage at each statue.

“Talking Statues is all about using low cost technology to give people access to art, culture and technology in streets and parks,” said Jessica Taylor, Antenna Lab Director. “The technology is intuitive, making it easy to launch a spontaneous and immersive cultural experience. Even those who already love culture and public art will appreciate seeing these statues in a totally new way. Our hope is that museums – small and large – will benefit from this pioneering approach.”

The Talking Statues project will run for one year and will be closely monitored and analysed by Leicester School of Museum Studies, gauging whether the technology can lead people to visit surrounding galleries and museums, such as Palace Galleries, the V&A, the British Library, and the National Gallery. All findings will be made publicly available to museums and galleries.

“By giving these statues something to say, we persuade people to look at them more deeply,” said Colette Hiller, Artistic Director of Sing London. “Gallery visitors typically spend, on average, a few seconds in front of a painting. Talking Statues aims to persuade visitors to spend at least 2 minutes engaging with a statue – and to inspire the visitor to want to know more.”

Sing London commissioned some of Britain’s most celebrated writers to imagine and pen monologues for a range of iconic statues which were animated by a cast of actors and comedians, including: Dominic West, Patrick Stewart, Simon Russell Beale, Meera Syal, Hugh Bonneville, Jeremy Paxman, Jacqueline Wilson, Anthony Horowitz, Tony Harrison, Timberlake Wertenbaker, Prunella Scales and Tom Conti.

The ‘Talking Statues’ include:

(Links accessible only on mobile devices)

  • Dominic West as a stir crazy Achilles in Hyde Park (speak2.co/Achillies)
  • Patrick Stewart as the haunting voice of the Unknown Soldier at Paddington Station (speak2.co/Soldier)
  • Jeremy Paxman defending free speech as John Wilkes in Fetter Lane (speak2.co/Wilkes)
  • Baker Street’s Sherlock Holmes, as imagined by Anthony Horowitz with Ed Stoppard (speak2.co/Sherlock)
  • Tom Conti as Lincoln in Manchester’s Lincoln Square, written by Gary Younge (speak2.co/Abe)
  • Nicholas Parsons as Samuel Johnson’s famous cat, Hodge in Gough Square (speak2.co/Hodge)
  • Coronation Street star David Neilson propping up the bar as LS Lowry at Sam’s Chop House (speak2.co/Lowry)
  • Prunella Scales as Queen Victoria in Manchester’s Piccadilly Gardens (speak2.co/Vic1)
  • Hugh Dennis as a goat in Spitalfields (speak2.co/Hugh)
  • Alan Johnson MP as Rowland Hill, inventor of the Penny Black in EC1 (speak2.co/Alan)
  • Simon Russell Beale as Isaac Newton at the British Library by Timberlake Wertenbaker (speak2.co/Isaac)

Talking Statues is made possible with financial support from NESTA’s Digital R&D Fund. Additional support comes from Google Fieldtrip, and from Audible.co.uk – which is hosting a public writing competition to accompany Talking Statues. The company is inviting the public to submit their own monologues for one of four iconic statues. Winning pieces will be recorded by name actors and installed on the street by December. More details on the competition will be available at www.talkingstatues.co.uk in the coming months.

About Antenna Lab

Antenna Lab, part of Antenna International, is a collection of leading cultural technologists and creators of immersive multimedia museum experiences. The organization serves as a hub for exchanging ideas and trend spotting in the cultural sector. Drawing on original research and embracing rapid prototyping, digital innovation and emerging platforms, the Lab delivers consultancy and training products as well as showcasing leading-edge pilot projects and the latest digital innovations. www.antennalab.org | www.antennainternational.com

About Sing London - Sing London is a non-profit arts organisation whose events aim to lift the public’s spirit. Whether they’re filling the streets with pianos or with public ping-pong tables, Sing London projects strive to connect people to each other, and to the public spaces around us all.

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