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Human Rights in the country of Gulliver

A project to celebrate the millennium in London: An artwork about the philosophical and imaginary world of Gulliver

25 November 2020
Year :
1996 - 2000
Lieu :
North Greenwich station, London

In 1996, British artist agent Vivien Lovell and PACA asked us to design a project for the celebration of the millennium in the North Greenwich station in the Jubilee Line, in London. With the Millenium coming up, we had to invent a powerful project that is related to the relativity of time and ideas. Therefore, we imagined how to express Human Rights in Gulliver’s country. After the book Gulliver’s Travel by Jonathan Swift.

The context for the project was an empty site with no existing buildings: the location for the station was determined by the alignment of two lines across the Thames between Canary Wharf and Canning Town. The station was well underway in its architectural design by architect Will Alsop, with whom we entered in contact. The architect’s suggestion was for us to work along a specific wall located on one of the station platforms.

For more than two thousand years, human beings have been searching for the best way to live together in theory and practice. Different concepts have been provided, we are still searching and it is difficult to see how it should end.

Our proposal on Gulliver’s travels and Human Rights had to think and express these concepts in the four countries Gulliver visited. The book is divided into 4 chapters, which 4 philosophies which will give us  4 types of representations of Human Rights. The images created will represent Human Rights’ symbolic within Swift’s mind.

Considering the architect’s style, we chose to create a monumental sculpture made of 4 large glass panels, behind which 4 representations of Gulliver’s countries would be built in various materials, objects, aluminium, motors, texts and lights… each layer floating in its own space.

Let’s imagine that we (the viewers) are Gulliver. The artwork represents the different countries of Gulliver’s travels. Through observation, we discover the temporal and spatial scale and displacement in time and space of imaginary societies.

1-In the land of Lilliput, people will write a small text that is too small for us to read, so that we would feel like Gulliver and feel like a giant.
2-In contrast, in the land of Brobdingnag, we feel very small, facing huge letters, which are too large to read.
3-In the land of Balnibarbi, where the academics changed the text according to their principles, we see a text that only contains nouns…
4-In the land of the Houyhnhnms, living creatures are so wise that there is no need for Human Rights!

The project was not accepted because Jonathan Swift was not English! So we changed to work with the concept of Utopia.


Vivian Lovell
PACA – Public Art Commission Agency
Modus Operandi
Alsop Architects
Agosto Foundation


London Underground