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Breaking Boundaries - The Ashford Ring Road

Temporary Works: The Lost 'O'

Temporary commissions were mentioned in both the brief to RKL and the “lead artist” briefs. A programme was realised through the appointment of Michael Pinsky, who developed and curated an extensive and challenging series of works called “Lost O". The work aimed to raise awareness of the ring road scheme, and in particular the issues it wanted to address around the dominance of the driver and the car.

Conceived and curated by Michael Pinsky, “Lost O” coincided with the Tour de France passing through the town in July 2007. A programme of installations, interventions and performances by eleven international artists, it aimed to raise awareness of the changes taking place in the town, ask questions about ownership of road and public space and make people think about broader notions around sustainable transport and urban living. Reflecting Ashford’s position as an international gateway through the town’s Eurostar station, Pinsky made a deliberately international selection of artists, from France, Sweden, Canada and the USA.

Pinsky was appointed through a competitive interview, and the opportunity of creating work around the Shared Space ethos was one of the major factors which attracted him to the project. As part of raising awareness about this, he was keen to bring in a range of artists whose work had some sort of relevant activism, or who had a track record of interesting performance in public space. The resulting programme became a much larger undertaking than originally envisaged in the brief, and the appointment of a dedicated project manager was necessary as the programme developed.

Over the period of Lost O, Ashford experienced a flock of sheep in the churchyard, wearing bells around their necks which created a diminished seventh chord; a collection of salvaged road signs from the old ring road re-placed and arranged in various locations; performances including a gang of quasi-military cyclists circling the town; construction of pedestrian crossing controls which were impossibly high to reach – to name but a few of the works.

The themes of “play and subversion” (Blueprint, Sept 07) caused a great deal of media coverage, ranging from hugely supportive to absolutely outraged. “Artworks drive motorists round the bend” shouted the Daily Mail… “Ashford is turning its ring road into an ‘art space’. Genius or folly?” asked The Times.

The artists

Taking on the role of curator was a step in professional and personal development for Michael Pinksy, and since the Ashford programme, he has become involved as lead artist in another very large scheme, with the confidence and experience to curate and work with other artists. The process of selecting other artists has also resulted in careful examination of what is important in other artists’ work to him, and also what comes across as important in his own work. The detail involved in realising some potentially complicated work in the public realm has also made him re-examine the need for a high level of technicality in his own work, as opposed to the social and political significance that ostensibly very simple work can create.

The artists involved in Lost O were:

Akay & Peter


Michael Pinsky

Simon Faithfull

Gary Stevens

Dan Griffiths

Thompson and Craighead

Mark Prier

Brad Downey

Bryony Graham

Olivier Leroi

The artists and the works are extensively documented on the dedicated website