When Vic Reeves was handed creative free reign over this year’s Illuminating York, the result was always going to be slightly surreal.
The four-day event opens tonight and visitors to the city’s Museum Gardens will be greeted by a man wrestling what looks like a giant walrus, a nude grave digger and a series of not particularly accomplished dancers performing against the ruins of St Mary’s Abbey.
“Art should be fun,” said Reeves, aka Jim Moir, who was in York for the launch of the festival last night. “Often in art galleries you have paintings which people tell you have some incredibly deep meaning, but I’ve always thought really good art shouldn’t need an explanation.”
Illuminating York began in 2005 and this year 10 acres of gardens have been transformed into Reeves’s own absurd take on Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.
The installations, which include a tea party and a flying bicycle, are also accompanied by a soundtrack. Specially selected by Reeves from his own music collection, the tracks range from Anthony Newley to Led Zeppelin.
“When we approached Jim, we basically said do whatever you want,” said Chris Walker, managing director of the York-based art and design company Bright White Ltd, which designed the various installations. “He sent us various drawings and the first thing which struck us was just how well they would work as projections.
“Illuminating York began with a very strict brief. The projections had to somehow celebrate the city’s heritage and while they have been incredible after a while you do start to run out of ideas. This year, the team has been more flexible and having Jim on board has taken the event in a different direction.”
However, the 53-year-old Leeds-born comedian didn’t quite have it all his own way.
“I wanted to have a giant 100ft spear made of hay bales,” he said. “I still think the idea has merit, but unfortunately no one else agreed.”