My Three Words Development

There is a row of wire figures, they stand next to each other in a field, and are white, yellow, blue, red, yellow and deep blue in colour. The sky is blue behind them.

– By Jonathan McGrath, Producer


My Three Words developed from two concepts; first, as a simple creative response to the What3Words app, that IOU had become fascinated and curious about; and secondly out of the longstanding collaborative partnership between IOU and Junction in Goole.

What3Words is a free app that divides the entire planet up into three-meter squares and assigns three random words to each of the squares. The emergency services use the app as a tool to help people in need identify exactly where they are. IOU’s work has always responded to or been inspired by a location and this app gave us the opportunity to play with the idea of identifying a three-metre square anywhere on the planet and making an artwork in response to that location.

Initially, the three random words, generated by the app, can be used as inspiration or a creative trigger to make a piece of art that links to a location or space. Once made, the artwork can only be presented in its designated 3-meter location. 

Over the last ten years, IOU has worked in partnership with Junction arts centre, which has commissioned and hosted multiple IOU installations since re-opening in 2011. Junction became an experimental practice ground for IOU and we are very proud to have created so many diverse productions with them. Most of which have gone on to tour to other venues around the UK. 

Visit Speaking Tubes, Fulcrum, Volatile Light, Totum 1 links. 


IOU first received a brief for a commission from Junction in winter 2020 to celebrate its tenth anniversary and create a year-long project that would initially be hosted online, then outside and finally in the Junction building itself, as a means to re-engage audience post-pandemic. It was a perfect fit for our What3Words inspired idea and Junction very generously awarded us the commission. 

Working with web developer Aiden Rumble and the team at Junction, we created a new website that was embedded within Junction’s web page. After an open call process, we successfully commissioned several great artists who had a relationship with the area in response to the My Three Words brief.   What followed was 14 commissioned online artworks inspired by the What3Words location coordinates relating to an area of Goole. All commissioned artists are from different backgrounds and communities and have presented a range of art forms as installations including poetry, sculpture, music, printmaking, digital sculpture and performance. 

The online installations have created an accessible art trail around Goole that audiences can explore independently and be inspired to make work of their own that can also be uploaded to the MyThreeWordsGoole website. 

Audiences can follow the art trail using a fully integrated online navigation system accessible through the website by any device. It doesn’t require any additional app downloads making it easily accessible. 


The Trail

Once on the trail, bespoke IOU signs and QR codes designate the location of the artworks. Audiences can scan the QR codes to access hidden content and videos created by the artists explaining how the location inspired the work.  Additionally, the website has been developed so that any member of the general public can upload their own My Three Words artwork with video and instructionals guiding audiences through the process

Throughout 2021 My Three Words has successfully delivered 90 Arts Awards to school children who have all made work that is hosted on the My Three Words Schools page. 

The My Three Words project will be available for other hosting venues and partners throughout 2022 and beyond. This is an original and exciting new approach to cultural placemaking and engages the public online, on the street and at a hosting arts centre.