three silhouettes of figures making shapes with their bodies

27 Jul 2022

Walk This Way – Artist interview Adrian Riley

About Walk This Way

Walk This Way has been created by Annabel McCourt and Adrian Riley, the artists behind public artworks Murmuration and Come Follow Me, and co-created with visual artists Rod Dickinson and Sarah Selby.

Developed to be a digital extension of the public artworks by the artists, Walk This Way bridges the gap between the physical and digital, and tests new ways to involve and animate people in the place.

Walk This Way was commissioned as part of Grimsby Creates Creative Programme, delivered by Threshold Studios supported by Digital Democracies.

Adrian Riley is an award-winning artist-designer with over 30 years’ experience in graphic design and creating artworks for public spaces. Annabel McCourt is an international contemporary artist from Grimsby. Annabel and Adrian both create public art that expresses people and places.

For this blog post we talked to Adrian Riley about the creative process behind Walk This Way, a participatory public art installation that will be live on 12th & 13th August 2022 in St James’ Square Grimsby.

Man with long brown hair and beard sitting on paved area outside Grimsby Minster. Letters GY etched into paving
Come Follow Me, Adrian Riley
woman standing on a bench in front of a brick wall with copper figures that are flocking along the top of the wall
Murmuration, Annabel McCourt. Photo credit: Rick Walker/PA Wire

Interview with Adrian Riley

Can you tell us what it’s been like to develop a digital extension of your original works and how you came up with the idea for Walk This Way?

Being asked to develop a digital extension of Murmuation and Come Follow Me has been a welcome opportunity to look back at the origins of both artworks. Annabel and I discussed what had prompted the original ideas behind them (as we came up with them independently) and why we made certain decisions – visual decisions but particularly decisions about content and how it was important to us both that the content came from the people of Grimsby. That led us to the themes that are explored in this new digital project – community, belonging, and ownership of public space.

Can you tell us a bit more about the idea behind using CCTV and Artificial Intelligence in the installation?

On this project we had to make a decision early on about how accessible it would be – we didn’t want the technology to exclude anybody who might not, for example, have the latest mobile phone (I don’t!) or who didn’t have access to the internet or who lacked familiarity with certain technology. That’s the thing about public spaces like Saint James Square – they are open to absolutely everybody and we wanted the digital artwork to be as publicly accessible as ‘Murmuration’ and ‘Come Follow Me’ are in that space. So we thought about what technology was already in the town centre  – the stuff that is part of our lives whether we’re aware of it or not, and could we use that in some way? That’s where the idea of CCTV and AI came from.

Annabel had read some disturbing stories about the use of AI in South Africa in identifying ‘undesirable’ people just by the way they move. I suspect most of us think this will never happen here yet I heard a similar story from the UK only a few days ago. We thought about the silhouettes of Grimsby residents in Annabel’s ‘Murmuration’ and the stories of local people and historical figures in ‘Come Follow Me’ – how might AI identify them? Might regular people or even the founding fathers of Grimsby be identified as ‘undesirable’ by this technology? The idea sprung almost fully formed from that conversation. We chatted with two amazing artists – Rod Dickinson and Sarah Selby – whose own work with technology is exploring similar ideas and together we have created this new work that we’re prototyping in Saint James’ Square.

figure in black pointing upwards with right hand. Computer generated dots on joints and lines between them
text in lights reads: WALK THIS WAY

How will audiences interact with the technology within the installation?

We’re inviting the people of Grimsby to stroll across St James’ Square in front of some CCTV cameras we’ll have purposely set up which connect to the AI and a large display screen. 

People can pull funny shapes, goof around, or try to be more subtle and see what happens. It’s suitable for any age and it’s great fun to see who the AI thinks you are. But perhaps you’ll occasionally pick up on other messages which might make you think about the town and how we share it as a community.

Exhibition details

Walk This Way

12 August 10am-8pm and 13 August 10am-4pm

St James’ Square, Grimsby

Read more about Walk This Way in the full press release here. 

Digital Democracies