Vegan options, dehumidifiers and 55,000 litres of jelly: Museums at Night with Bompas and Parr at ss Great Britain

| 17 May 2012
A photo of a grand ancient ship on a glass dock under a dusk sky
© David Norton
Museums at Night 2012: Brunel’s ss Great Britain, Bristol, May 18-19 2012

Near a ship renowned for sturdiness, this weekend Museums at Night event is likely to be a wobbly one. Bompas and Parr, the self-proclaimed “jellymongers”, are shaping their vertiginously-balanced creations within the surroundings of a historic wonder docked at Bristol.

“Arguably, this is the most ambitious special event Brunel’s ss Great Britain has ever held,” says Sally Cordwell, of the ss Great Britain Trust.

“Bompas and Parr are two of the UK’s most exciting and creative artists. They are helping us to push the boundaries for museums and introduce the ship to new audiences. Linking modern art with an historic iron ship is ingenious.”

Around 55,000 litres of lime green neon jelly are expected to be used. “We have, of course, no way of knowing what [Isambard Kingdom, the designer of the 1858 vessel] Brunel might have thought of it around his ship.

“We do know, however, that he was himself a talented artist as well as an engineer, and was never afraid of a challenge.”

When the preservative-heavy idea opens on Friday, neon lights will be switched on beneath the glass “sea” alongside speeches by the dapper young pair – esteemed for giant cocktail walls and sugary replicas of St Paul’s Cathedral – who are behind it.

They’ve already had to adjust their plans. A tweet by Bristol MP Kerry McCarthy, a vegan known as the Labour Party’s former “Twitter Tsar”, pursued the precise ingredients forming the jelly.

The artists couldn’t work entirely with vegetarian agar (their jelly would have lost “some of its wobble”), but they did offer to make a vegetarian option alongside their “Bristol selection” of standard gelatin jellies.

“It is great that the artists listened to suggestions and were willing to make a special veggie jelly option,” says Cordwell, whose team won the visit by public vote in Culture24's Museums at Night Connect10 competition.

“We had lots of fun with our ‘get a wobble on and vote’ campaign. Our challenge is to ensure that the artists are able to make spectacular art while not damaging the multi-million pound dehumidification system.

“This is a truly once-in-a-lifetime event.”
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