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Category Archives: Spooky London

Time Out blog: 12 Londoners that will give you nightmares

My latest article for the Time Out London website is a Halloween special looking at 12 characters from London-based films, legends and literature…including pig-faced hybrids, razor-wielding barbers and much more. Please click here to read.

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Monument to the Unknown Artist

Just around the corner from the new Tate Modern extensionyou’ll find a rather uncanny statue plonked upon a 6ft. plinth bearing the Latin inscription, “Non plaudite modo pecuniam jacite”- which translates as ‘Do not applaud, just throw money’ (an improvement on its original caption- “Quidquid Latine dictum sit altum videtur”- ‘Whatever is said in Latin sounds profound’!)

Monument to the Unkown Artist (image: copyright Andrew Shoben)

Monument to the Unkown Artist (image: copyright Andrew Shoben)

Known as the ‘Monument to the Unknown Artist’, the piece was installed by an art collective called Greyworld; a group of artists who’ve been creating intriguing urban art since the mid-1990s. Other projects of theirs include the Lake District’s ‘Clockwork Forest’ (2011) and Trafalgar Sun (2012).

To the uninitiated, the Monument to the Unknown Artist can often cause considerable alarm- due to the fact that it’s capable of movement.

Monument to the Unknown Artist

When it was first unveiled in 2007 a camera was linked to the artwork, the idea being that the statue could observe and mimic the actions of passersby. I’m not quite sure if this feature still functions- I certainly wasn’t attempting to dance like John Travolta in ‘Saturday Night Fever‘ when the above clip was filmed. Perhaps this mysterious figure is beginning to take on a mind of his own…

Unknown Artist

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Cabbie’s Curios: A Monolith in St Katharine Docks

Based upon a story by Arthur C. Clarke and directed by Stanley Kubrick, 1968’s ‘2001 A Space Odyssey is widely considered to be one of cinema’s greatest science-fiction films.

2001 poster

Epic, disturbing and frequently baffling, one of the film’s most memorable recurring images is that of the mysterious black monolith which reveals itself at various key points in the evolution of mankind.

The Monolith's four appearances

The monolith’s four appearances

Initially, this looming icon was intended to be transparent and Stanley Kubrick commissioned a hefty 2-tonne prop from the aptly named Stanley Plastics. However, once on the set at Borehamwood Studios the notoriously picky director decided that the monolith looked far too sparkly and decided to change the design altogether. Basalt was selected as the new material, providing the monolith with its now infamous brooding aura.

Poster advertising '2001 A Space Odyssey' on the London Underground, circa 1968

Poster advertising ‘2001 A Space Odyssey’ on the London Underground, circa 1968

The rejected monolith was left to gather dust until 1977 when it was decided that it’d make the perfect basis for an artwork in honour of Her Majesty the Queen’s Silver Jubilee. The slab- said to be the largest solid block of Acrylic in the world- was therefore handed to sculptor, Arthur Fleischmann who carved a gleaming crown into the material.

The monolith at St Katherine Docks; its home since 1977

The monolith at St Katherine Docks; its home since 1977

The recycled prop has been on public display ever since at St Katherine Docks, Wapping quietly watching over London’s own transformation…

HAL Gif

HAL 9000, the murderous super-computer from ‘2001’

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