This Halloween night a record will be broken on Piccadilly Circus as Circa 20:20, a new film by the Chinese artist Ai Weiwei becomes the longest-ever single piece of content to be displayed on the giant illuminated Piccadilly Lights billboard. Ai’s film runs for just over an hour, pausing the regular advertisements at precisely 20:20 GMT, as it joins together the 30 parts of his month-long residency on Piccadilly Lights. The work was commissioned by CIRCA, the new public digital art platform that invites artists from across the world to pause the ads on Piccadilly Lights for two minutes every evening at 20:20 with new work created in response to the world, circa 2020.
Ai was the first artist to be commissioned by CIRCA and throughout October at the appointed time of 20:20 he showed two-minute sections of this specially made film that “begins from the year I was born through to the current unceasing pandemic threatening the human condition globally.”
By connecting their headphones and devices to www.circa.art, audiences in Piccadilly will be able to have a full audio-visual immersion in Ai’s Circa 20:20; and for those who can not make it to the West End, CIRCA’s online platform will also stream Ai’s film in unison with the Piccadilly Lights screen.
CIRCA’s website also offers limited edition works by participating artists, and since the beginning of October, a £100 print created by Ai (which lists the many other alternative items that can be purchased for £100, from 117 cans of baked beans to 10% of a cremation in the UK) has generated nearly £70,000 for The Circa Economy, a charity committed to distributing the proceeds of these editions to support the UK’s struggling creative community. Ai’s print is still available to purchase until midnight on 31 October.
Throughout the month of November, the leading American artist Cauleen Smith will be the next artist commissioned by CIRCA to pause the ads for two minutes with her daily COVID MANIFESTO, curated in collaboration with The Showroom in London under the directorship of Elvira Dyangani Ose. These 23 handwritten manifestoes will unfold in a sequence, punctuated by seven intermissions selected from Smith’s existing works as the artist responds to Covid-19 and its multiple aftermaths. Then in December, if we are still able to walk around London’s West end, it will be the turn of the British artist Eddie Peake, who will provide his own highly distinctive response to what promises to be a very unusual festive season.