Daniel Hardiker and Neil Hetherington started working together as ZEROH on New Year’s Eve 1999 – a name inspired by new beginnings so it’s fitting that their initial project in Hastings’ neglected Bottle Alley was the first public art show in its 80-year history. Their second work, WaveLength, comes after the repairs and serves as a celebration of the iconic seaside structure. I met them to find out what’s in store for 2018.
What drew you to Bottle Alley?
How can you not be drawn to Bottle Alley? It’s an incredible space, unique to Hastings and we should be proud of it. We always take that route from St Leonards to Hastings and became really fond of it. It’s been neglected for years and people would avoid it because of the street drinkers and drugs. We got a lot of aggro when we were working on our first project, Point of Decay, as it was being used for drug dealing. We wanted to make it more inviting and encourage people to go down there and for the council to take more care of it as well. We knew they were going to redevelop the alley so we came up with a concept that would fit in with that in terms of commissioning art that would decay over time with the weather.
What was your next project?
WaveLength is our second project in the space, which was produced for Coastal Currents 2017 after the repairs. We painted 113 concrete columns of the passage in different shades of green and blue from east to west and yellow and orange from west to east. When you stop halfway along and look back, you can see the colour shifting like the sand. It’s a stunning effect and has a real rhythm to it, it makes you slow down and appreciate the view. We’ve had a really positive response with more people going down there and there seems to be more respect for the space. There’s only been one incidence of graffiti since last September.
And now we have an amazing light installation….
A new lighting installation was launched in Bottle Alley in November 2017. The council has replaced some 500 metres of broken lighting with equipment that can be programmed for special effects and synchronised to music to create a sound and light show. We advised them on the lighting and produced a demo at the launch event to show local businesses and councillors what can be done in the space.
There are 1,524 lights and each one has its own address so it can be controlled as an individual entity. The potential is enormous – it’s a proper spectacle. The lights are so strong that they create their own bands of colour – pure whites and pure blacks and that’s something we want to play with in terms of sound and movement. The guys who fitted the lights were quite shocked – they didn’t envisage how they would look. We were there for the first test run and it was amazing to see the light coming towards you, it definitely makes you move faster!
Every Friday night there’s a light show in Bottle Alley, which is organised by the council in association with the pier.
How do you want to make people feel?
For the launch event of Point of Decay, we had a classical trio on a red carpet in the space. We’re really proud of that – it’s such an opposite feeling to how it is normally down there – using the language of privilege in a way to entertain people and showing how it used to be back in the day, when the seaside was a destination. Hastings & St Leonards was a very social space in the 1920s/1930s so it’s interesting to reconnect old photos with the potential for what we can do now. Seaside architecture is very monotone and traditional, all white and beige. We really love the splashes of colour along the seafront and the lights add to that, It reflects the diversity of Hastings a bit more than the white architecture.
Did you have much support from local businesses?
We applied for Arts Council funding through Coastal Currents, the town’s annual arts festival. WaveLength was supported by Trade Paints who provided materials and advice and Leyland Paints who provided the paint.
Our budget would have meant a more simple piece, but thanks to Trade Paints we were able to add two colour tones instead of one. We had a small team of 5 – 6 artists working on the installation for one week and used over 200 tins of paint!
You said you were planning a live event in the space – how’s that coming along?
We had plans to do something big in the spring but have moved this to the other end of the year, when the clocks go back, as we realised the people we wish to involve would need more time and none of us wanted to rush it. We want to do an event which is a little bit different, something people haven’t experienced before; a bit more challenging and less obvious. The musical response on the demo day was a real spectacle so we’d like to push that further and have a live element to it. At the moment the lights are pre-programmed and don’t cater for any live control so if we were to put an artist down there, we’d want to have the space to respond to them in a live way – that’s the goal for the next event.
What attracted you to Hastings?
We lived in Brighton in the early 90s when it was a vibrant, creative, edgy town and then it became a city and lost its identity. We stumbled across Hastings on a day trip to buy a camera. Driving by Marine Court we were amazed by the level of beauty of the architecture and the sense that it’s a real place to live with real people. Brighton had lost that a bit. We did the Hastings Moth Project, which integrated us into the arts scene – the work became a talking point and was a good way to meet new people. Since then, we’ve collaborated with a variety of artists on many levels and really enjoy the process. Andrew Kotting recently commissioned us to do the end title sequence for his next film, Lek and the Dogs, which has just had its international premiere in Rotterdam.
What else is happening on the arts scene?
We’d love to see more permanent public art in Hastings and there needs to be a space for artists to create and exhibit their work. There seems to be a hierarchy of acceptance for graffiti! If it’s not offensive and has some artistic merit like the Banksy in St Leonards then it’s more acceptable. The decision making process seems to go up the ranks in the council. That kind of conversation should be happening in publicly and we would like to see an agenda for this and further conversations about permanent art. We have some fantastic street artists in the town and it would be nice to celebrate this in our public spaces. There’s been a lot of talk about a street art festival over the last couple of years and it would be fantastic if Hastings could develop this in the same way Blackpool has.