Reporter 421, 27 May 1998

In the news

Holiday hoax puts art in the picture Sun, sangria and flamenco music fooled art critics and the national media into believing that a group of students from the Fine Art department had jetted off to the Costa del Sol for a holiday as part of their third year degree show.

The 13 students carefully planned the project, entitled Going Places, to challenge people’s perception of art. The elaborate hoax began when 60 lecturers, local artists and fellow students were invited to a sponsored exhibition of their work. On their arrival, guests were ushered into a gallery filled only with the sound of flamenco music. The students were nowhere to be seen and a video camera trained on the audience made many guests believe that they were part of the exhibition. Guests were then driven to Leeds/Bradford Airport to witness the students apparently returning from a Spanish holiday armed with photographs claiming the whole experience to be a form of conceptual art.

The story triggered intense media debate as to the meaning of art. A minority criticised the students for blowing £1,000 – raised through a grant from Leeds University Union and sponsorship from local businesses – on a holiday. Articles and photographs of the students apparently enjoying their trip appeared in The Guardian, The Times, Daily Telegraph, Daily Express, Daily Mail and the regional dailies. The students discussed their project and the meaning of art on Sky News, Live TV, ITV’s Calendar and Talk Radio.

At the height of the publicity another surprise was announced live on Radio 4’s Today programme... the students hadn’t been on holiday to Spain at all. In fact, as The Guardian described, the holiday snaps were taken in an abandoned nightclub and on the beach in Scarborough and at a private pool in Chapel Allerton. The BBC’s Look North followed up the story by taking the students back to the Yorkshire beach where it all began for a further photocall. The stunt received praise from Nigella Lawson in The Times. She wrote: “The Leeds students’ holiday-as-performance-art exhibition isn’t pretentious: it is sending up pretentiousness.” With the help of Max Clifford the students have now secured an exclusive interview with the Sunday Times.

More league tables were published this week and the University scored highly, rising fourteen places on last year’s position in The Times ‘Good University Guide’. In a subject-by-subject analysis, many departments were rated in the top 20 nationwide for their teaching and research standards.

And finally, Professor Peter Bonsall of the Institute for Transport Studies was interviewed live on BBC TV’s One O’Clock News regarding a new transport scheme launched in Leeds last week. Cars with more than one occupant can now use a high occupancy vehicle lane, introduced on a busy city bound road, whilst single occupant cars are left behind waiting in traffic.

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