It was perhaps the strangest 60 minutes that this oversized, traffic-choked television has ever seen.
Overlooking the tumbling river of vehicles that flows between Liverpool’s Lime Street Station and the exquisite St George’s Hall, the 31-metre long Media Wall usually plays host to a constant cycle of ads. However, for one hour only on January 20th 2016, its consumerist mantra was interrupted by the Four Words art project – a stream of slogans, thoughts, non-sequiturs and questions on the theme of money, value and exchange.
Conceived by the artist Alan Dunn, and forming part of the Liverpool Provocations series, the anti-ads were provided by an eclectic list of artists, writers, economists, journalists, musicians and community activists – not to mention the odd creative copywriter. Each contributor was required to submit four words together with instructions for a ten-second text animation; on the day, the 70-ish syntactical snippets were aired three times each, and once the hour was up, normal commercial service was resumed.
At the very least, Four Words threw a linguistic spanner into capitalism’s works for an afternoon during the January sales, provoking plenty of puzzlement and, perhaps, a little inspiration for the city’s passing workforce.
As revealed on this very blog back in December, I was one of the contributors invited to take part in this intriguing intervention. When I originally trailed my involvement, I kept my four-word slogan under wraps, but now my story can be told. Here goes:
So there you have it: PUT. THAT. COFFEE. DOWN!
This isn’t the time or place to go into the what-and-why of that caffeinated call to action – I’ll save that for an article on my writing archive at noiseheatpower.com sometime soon. For now, let’s accept it at face value – just one four-word utterance among the many that caused Liverpool to raise an eyebrow one chilly January afternoon.
I’d like to express huge thanks to Alan Dunn for issuing the call, to Jack Ehlen for executing the animation, to my fellow four-worders, and to Metal Liverpool who put so much work into helping the whole thing happen. The event was well documented in both photographs and video, so those who have the time and/or inclination can gorge themselves on these literary snacks while reliving the whole provocative experience. Without having to endure the biting wind.
And if any of the organisers are reading this, I’m ready to do it all over again whenever you want.
In fact, let’s go crazy. Next time, let’s make it five.
Watch interviews and clips from the day…
…or watch the full 20-minute Four Words cycle