Artichoke is delighted to announce that an artwork commissioned for the Lumiere light festival in Durham 2011 has found a permanent home in the city.
Helvetictoc by Swiss web designer Tobie Langel, will be installed in Durham this Wednesday, 26 February. The work, which describes the approximate time in words, will be projected onto the wall of the Clayport Library in Millennium Square.
The piece is an affectionate tribute to both an iconic typeface and to the nation of clockmakers from where it came. The artwork’s witty use of language recalls the era before smartphones and the almost forgotten act of asking someone for the time.
Helvetictoc originated as a small web application combining a number of Langel’s interests: typography, minimalism, randomness, humanisation of digital user interfaces and the perception of time.
Langel’s app was spotted online by Artichoke, who saw its possibilities as a projected lightwork and commissioned a large-scale version for Lumiere.
The installation proved so popular it returned to the third Lumiere festival in Durham in 2013.
Helvetictoc will be looked after by Durham County Council. The permanent installation has been made possible thanks to a £10,000 community fund grant from the Durham-based business, the Banks Group.
Helen Marriage, Director of Artichoke said:
“It’s really wonderful to see one of our commissions for the Lumiere Festival becoming a permanent part of the Durham urban landscape.”
“Artichoke believes in the power of art to transform public space by changing not only how it looks but also public expectations.  And who, in our hi-tech 21st century, would ever have imagined a clock made of words?”
“Tobie Langel’s Helvetictoc is a perfect addition to Durham’s most contemporary architecture, and we’re really delighted that the Banks Group and Durham County Council have had the vision to commission it as a permanent part of the city’s life”.
Cllr Simon Henig, Leader of Durham County Council, said:
Helvetictoc has amused the crowds as part of the world class Lumiere light festival twice now and I am delighted it will become a timely reminder of the importance of art and culture in County Durham.”
“It is charming in its simplicity, practical in its message and a really fitting permanent addition to Millennium Place.”
“As a council we remain committed to a rich programme of cultural events which we know deliver much needed economic benefits to businesses and make our county a better place to live, work and visit.

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