Catherine Yass’s piano dropping project pulled in Poplar 14|07|2014


Turner Prize nominated artist Catherine Yass hit a bum note recently when a planned project to drop a piano off the top of the empty Balfron Tower was cancelled. The Erno Goldfinger designed residential block in Poplar, East London – currently empty and awaiting renovation – was to be the site of a community workshop by Yass looking at how sound travels when falling 27 storeys. 250 locals signed a petition objecting to the project, and as a result the building’s managers cancelled the proposed event.
The Evening Standard

A Turner Prize-nominated artist’s proposal to drop a piano from the top of a 27-storey tower block of flats has been barred after nearby residents called it “dangerous and ludicrous”.

Catherine Yass, 50, hoped to perform the stunt at the empty grade II-listed Balfron Tower in Poplar “as part of a community workshop to explore how sound travels”.

But more than 250 locals signed a petition that called on housing bosses to block the project, saying it amounted to anti-social behaviour.

Poplar Housing and Regeneration Community Association, which manages the Sixties block awaiting renovation, has cancelled Yass’s plan.

It said the event was “part of a community workshop looking at how sound travels” and had been set to take place at the 276ft tower in St Leonard’s Road next Tuesday.

Director of housing Andrea Baker said: “We’ve listened to the concerns and as a result the project will not be going ahead.”

Petitioners today welcomed the cancellation. Retired nurse Jean Brown, 66, who lives on a nearby street, said the project was fraught with “danger and utter stupidity”.

She added: “People seem to have finally come to their senses. The idea shouldn’t have been thought up in the first place. To have it discussed by the board was ludicrous. The community association employs anti-social behaviour officers and if chucking a piano off the Balfron Tower isn’t anti-social behaviour I don’t know what is.”

Residents were not alone in objecting to the plan. A spokesman for East London-based artists’ collective Whiteism tweeted: “I thought it was a joke to be honest. I had a lot of respect for Catherine Yass. Not any more.”

London video artist Nick Stewart posted: “There has been a rash of art projects of late that speak more about artist arrogance than art.”

Yass was shortlisted for the 2002 Turner Prize for her experimental exhibition of films and photographs shown in lightboxes. Her current exhibition Cadences. at the MK Gallery in Milton Keynes, explores themes of “flght, falling, destruction and gravity”.

She said the piano event had been cancelled “at the residents’ request”.

The Balfron Tower, designed by Erno Goldfinger and a twin to Notting Hill’s Trellick Tower, is currently playing host to an “immersive” 12-hour production of Macbeth.

A spokeswoman for the Alison Jacques Gallery, which represents Yass, said: “Piano Falling was intended as a swan song to the lost socialist ideals of modernist housing that Ernö Goldfinger, amongst others, brought to Tower Hamlets.

“The residents of Balfron Tower have recently been decanted to make way for privatisation. I have total sympathy with their distress, and accordingly told them we would not go ahead without their consent.

“I had hoped that Piano Falling and the related community events and workshops we organised would address these issues and offer some real regeneration to an area which has been ignored until it is seen as valuable real estate.”