Robots ready to take over Clyde Tunnel

Portal will transform a Clyde Tunnel walkway into a 'sensory subterranean spectacle'
Portal will transform a Clyde Tunnel walkway into a 'sensory subterranean spectacle'
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Real-life robots are to be deployed to turn part of Glasgow’s famous Clyde Tunnel into a huge science fiction-inspired work of art.

Creatures will whizz along cables, beasts will emerge from the surface of water tanks and a mechanical arm will be transformed into a writhing creature during the “sensory subterranean spectacle”.

Underwater plants, a crystal forest and dramatic sound effects will help transform one of the 800m-long pedestrian walkways which link Whiteinch with Govan.

Glasgow-based artist Robbie Thomson is working with two leading robotics firms to create the special effects for his “audiovisual adventure” entitled Portal, which will be part of the annual sonic art festival Sonica.

Some of the robots being used in the event will respond to the movement of audience members through the 55-year-old tunnel during the 12-day all-ticket event.

People will be allowed into the southbound pedestrian tunnel in small groups in 15-minute intervals between 11am and 7pm.

Portal is being staged as part of a city-wide cultural programme organised to coincide with the European ­Championships, a new ­multi-sports event being shared between Glasgow and Berlin next month.

Thomson has been preparing for the event with smaller-scale versions of his installations at The Glue Factory, a former warehouse complex turned arts centre near the Forth and Clyde Canal.

He will have less than a week to prepare for the event in the tunnel itself ahead of the first planned preview on 31 July.

Thomson, who is creating Portal with composer Alex Menzies, said: “I put in a proposal to Sonica for the project last summer and have really been working in earnest on it since the start of the year.

“We looked at various different sites around Glasgow, including old subway tunnels, but the project needs a lot of infrastructure to be brought it.

“I’ve actually done quite a lot of work in underground spaces before – I’m really interested in their acoustics. I had been in the Clyde Tunnel in the past quite a bit and have always thought it would be a wicked place to use.

“Tunnels are quite psychological places – you can apply a lot of metaphors to them. When you’re deep in the belly of them, there could be something happening in them that no-one else knows about. They have a real sense of detachment from the outside world.

“I really wanted to look at biological and synthetic forms. I’m interested in robotics and how artificial intelligence is changing the way that we negotiate everything.”

Cathie Boyd, artistic director of Cryptic, the arts company behind Sonica, said: “I hope it will offer people a really immersive journey through the Clyde Tunnel and an experience that will stay with them for a long time afterwards.”