‘Wait – look, earlier, to your left – can you see the Cage of Rage?’ It was a chilly January morning, and my friend and I had just left for a long drive to Wales. ‘The Rage Cage?’, I answered, completely lost. “Yeah, the Rage Cage, where people went to party when the clubs were closed.” Although we didn’t see the Rage Cage from our vantage point in the car – even without leaves, the trees obstructed the view – I vaguely knew what he was referring to. But I had no idea of the new function of this sculpture of Eddington.
Colloquially known to many students as Rage Cage, the Fata Morgana Tea Room (by Winter/Hörbelt, installed 2018) is a sculpture at Brook Leys, a small park in Eddington that was designed as part of the local sustainable drainage system. Formed mostly of stainless steel, the structure rises above the lake, appearing from a distance like some sort of abstract amalgamation of tin cans. However, as you approach the structure, its subtle textures become apparent; its seamless curves and internal fixtures become legible and the sculpture itself becomes almost translucent as the landscape beyond appears through its latticework frame.
“The world somehow feels calmer when sitting inside the tea room”
Entering inside, this conversation between the park and the sculpture is all the more fluid: on one side moorhens and ducks bathing in the lake, on the other, only reflections of light in the trellis of steel, before this perspective simply topples over by taking a few steps forward. While that’s not entirely surprising – the room is literally called Fata Morgana – the effect is soothing, even calming, and the world seems somehow calmer when seated inside the living room of tea. Looking at the lake from within, ghostly behind the steel, it’s easy to see how the teahouse could be described as a bird’s skin. However, it is enough to take a look at some rubbish (not tolerated – use the bins!) on the floor of the sculpture to recognize that it is a place with many functions.
“A sculpture that elicits such a social response from those who interact with it can only be described as a success”
Ultimately, the presence of the tea room as a place of socialization – the existence of the Rage Cage – illustrates the success of the sculpture. The students interacted with the work, responded to its material, demanded from the work a symbolic function which was never peripheral to the work, but always central: an evocation of the landscape, a reaction to the decor. Isn’t that the very essence of “place-making”? A sculpture that elicits such a social response from those who interact with it can only be described as a success – it inspires questions about the function of public space, it demands a reaction from its audience (for lack of a better term), she revels in the triumph of use over exchange. Just last week I spoke to an art consultant who told me about a cardboard sculpture commissioned as a temporary installation in a London park. “It was one of our most successful orders,” they said, “because someone set it on fire. The artist was thrilled! The Rage Cage, too, strikes me as such an example: a sculpture that evokes such a response, that causes people to question, to imagine, to interact so directly with its form, is nothing less than a ingenious intervention in the public space.
“Sometimes the best public art is where people go to party when the clubs are closed”
Fata Morgana Tea Room is one of several commissions in Eddington, as part of the wider North West Cambridge Development program Public art strategy. Over £3million will have been spent on public art as part of the wider development program when completed. Another commission to Brook Leys, by the same artists, Winter/Hörbelt, can be seen continuing past the tea house. pixel wall is more subtle, a curved screen of fifteen square meters of polished steel, reflecting the park in front. More than just an ersatz mirror, it responds playfully to the light: while the tea house is dull and spectral, the wall shimmers in the sun, shimmering almost at the edge of the lake.
Less interactive, perhaps, is one of Eddington’s best-known public art commissions. Richard of York gave battle in vain, by David Batchelor, is Sainsbury’s set of seven LED light rings, frequently seen in the marketing of Eddington or the U Bus. Its name, the famous mnemonic, refers to the fact that each of the seven rings is always a different color of the rainbow: constantly rotating, over the course of an hour each ring will cross the spectrum. Decidedly stronger than the Winter/Höbelt commissions, the work taps into an appreciation for color that can often be lost in larger-scale developments like the one at North West Cambridge. Of course, it’s the work that has become synonymous with Eddington – but, as the appeal of the Rage Cage shows, color and figuration aren’t everything. Sometimes the best public art is where people go to party when the clubs are closed.
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