Keep an eye out for the time on Friday morning. At 8.12am, when you might normally be spreading butter on your toast, waiting for the bus or – in a perfect world – still in blissful sleep, one of the most ambitious performance art works the UK has ever seen will be underway, and you could take part.
British artist Martin Creed has devised the performance 'Work No.1197: All the bells in a country rung as quickly and as loudly as possible for three minutes'
for the Cultural Olympiad (the first part of the opening ceremony for the Games beginning at 8.12pm that night), and the work’s title really says it all. Churches and their affiliated bell ringing groups up and down the United Kingdom are getting involved, and a quick look at the Facebook thread at the bottom of the London 2012 Festival page
shows that participants will range from Dunkeld Cathedral in Scotland to the local St. Mary's Church in Perivale, Ealing.
Martin Creed. ©Chris Watt Photography.
But the definition of bell here is a broad one: the Turner-Prize winning Creed wants cyclers to ring their bells and people at home to ring doorbells. Even Big Ben will be pealed, the first time its bells have tolled off the hour since the funeral of George IV in 1952 – they will ring more than 40 times during the three minutes until 8.15am. The performance combines a celebration of the Olympics with one of British ecclesiastical tradition, contemporary art practice with a ritual steeped in history – and, if enough people take part, it could be an unforgettable expression of community coming-together.
Sam Phillips is a London-based arts journalist and contributor to RA Magazine