Lindsey Mendick, ‘The Yellow Wallpaper’, 2020, installation detail, Eastside Projects, Birmingham. Courtesy: the artist and Eastside Projects; photograph: Stuart Whipps

https://www.frieze.com/article/covering-cracks-return-wallpaper

How artists from Édouard Vuillard to Dorothea Tanning and Kehinde Wiley used wallpaper in their work, with mention of Lindsey Mendick’s exhibition at Eastside Projects in Birmingham earlier this year – via Frieze.

https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2020/feb/12/sonia-boyce-first-black-woman-artist-represent-great-britain-venice-biennale

The artist Sonia Boyce has been chosen to represent Britain at the Venice Biennale – the first black woman to do so. Her work will fill the UK pavilion from May until November next year. Boyce is one of the leading artists of the British Black Arts Movement and studied at Stourbridge College in the 1980s – via the Guardian

https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2020/feb/07/charlotte-perkins-gilman-yellow-wallpaper-strangeness-classic-short-story-exhibition

Lindsey Mendick, whose work is currently on show at Eastside Projects in solo exhibition ‘The Yellow Wallpaper’, is featured by Kathryn Hughes – via the Guardian

https://www.architectsjournal.co.uk/news/exclusive-birmingham-smithfield-winner-announced/10045971.article?blocktitle=news&contentID=19633

Eastside Projects has been announced as part of the winning team to design the new market of Birmingham as part of the £1.5 billion Birmingham Smithfield regeneration.

https://www.theguardian.com/music/2019/jul/23/supersonic-festival-review-birmingham

By embracing the heaviness in Birmingham’s heritage, and adding a strong dose of eccentricity, Supersonic is world-class. Review by Ben Beaumont-Thomas – via The Guardian

https://www.theguardian.com/music/2019/jun/23/birmingham-heavy-metal-history-embraced-black-sabbath-one-hell-of-a-city

Vanessa Thorpe reports on Home of Metal, a series of exhibitions and events taking place across multiple West Midlands galleries – via The Observer

Installation view, The Range, Eastside Projects

Birmingham City University student, Gurpreet Kaur, responds to Eastside Projects‘ recent group exhibition, The Range.

I told my friend ‘’I feel weird’’, ‘’why?’’ she said? ‘’I don’t know’’. ‘’I just feel weird’’ ‘’I went to an exhibition where…’’

Walking down Heath Mill Lane you will come across a brown building next to Central Taxi parts blending in with the others. Keep an eye out for the scaffolding bars, yes that’s Eastside Projects. Use the second door with the huge door handle, which is probably an artwork. Then slowly walk in trying not to feel too intimidated by the people at the front desk. Don’t worry. ‘Ask’ them if you can see the exhibition and they will give you an exhibition guide. Walk in and enjoy! Trying not to feel intimidated again. Jokes.

You will be greeted by a mixture of artist works scattered across a white/grey bare room featuring artworks by: Adam Farah, Ain Bailey, Beverley Bennett, Hashim Ali, Seema Mattu and Zarina Muhammad. All curated by Rehana Zaman.

‘The Range’ is the correct name for the exhibition. There is certainly a range of themes such as culture, society and lifestyle running across the exhibition. Music, human rights, poetry, apprehensive, cringe and gimcrack stuff. So, if any of these interest you then make sure you direct yourself to Heath Mill Lane.

The space will absorb you in with calming sounds of a forest and tweeting birds. Starting with Hashim Ali. ‘My Mate, Jim Roberts’ is the first artwork I viewed even though it’s the last one on the gallery guide. It’s a video on a TV screen which seems like a collection of home videos and memories compiled together, which every family has. The nine-minute movie seems to consist of a timeline of the artist’s life. Childhood memories, Pakistani news, buildings, shops and the environment of the home town in which the artist has been nurtured in. Growing up as an Asian in the UK something you will be familiar with is the mimicking of an Asian accent. You too will understand this if you remember to spot the headphones. As time goes on the artist grows older and there are videos of fights in the clips. The police then come onto the scene. This may express the teenage years of the artist’s life. The culture of the first and second generation of migrants in the UK are conveyed through this video. I could relate to some scenes in the clips such as: the shaky family video footage, the Asian accents and the news. It brought the bond back to myself. Me questioning who I am and what it means to be a second-generation British migrant.

Baljinder Kaur is another artist who embraces her heritage and culture through art. She too is part of the generation whose grandparents and parents migrated to the UK. As a British Indian Sikh, she is intrigued by the lifestyle of the Sikh generation now, whether they be elderly or youthful. She drew a sketch of herself as a senior. Through her sketch, your first observation is the long, flowy attire worn by the person. You can also see the person wearing an apron which suggests that the attire underneath would be worn on a daily basis. As from the name of the sketch, the person is known to be ‘mopping’. Would the forthcoming generation want to wear this attire? How would they feel doing daily chores wearing the attire? Just as Hashim Ali has collated his life and culture through video clips Baljinder Kaur too collates her life and culture through observing and sketching the lifestyle of people within her community.

On the grey walls you will see some familiar posters that you may recognise if you have your aunty from India in your WhatsApp contacts. Massive low-quality posters on the walls done by Zarina Muhammad. ‘May your WEDNESDAY be magical one! Be safe, happy and healthy…’ ‘Have a wonderful THURSDAY Good Morning’. Not quite sure what the message was. Even though the poster looked naff, reading the quotes on them bought a sway of positivity to me. Maybe the scale of the writing on the posters had an impact on me, rather than the text on my smart phone. Maybe next time I get one of these messages from my aunt, I will cherish it more with gratitude. Maybe I should have the confidence to send these to everyone in my contacts and embrace the eyes in which Asians see modern day technology.

As was the door handle when we entered the exhibition, the lights that illuminate the gallery are also artworks created by Adam Farah. When walking in you may think they are just normal lights or may not even notice them. I only knew they were an artwork when looking at the exhibition guide. I noticed them when they were warming up the cold industrial area. They seemed like a blanket to the whole exhibition which wrapped and bonded together all of the artworks. With such diverse responses from the artists, the cultural concepts created merged all of the artworks together.

That’s another exhibition to add to the unusual list. But what was unusual? The idea is strong. You can find out for yourself.

There’s lots more artworks to go and see which haven’t been mentioned. There is also another exhibition on by Freya Dooley which is a neon pink room. So if you like pink. Exciting.

Gurpreet Kaur

Birmingham City University student, Gurpreet Kaur, responds to Eastside Projects’ recent group exhibition, The Range.

http://thisistomorrow.info/articles/the-range

Divya Osbon reviews Eastside Projects’ exhibition The Range, curated by artist Rehana Zaman – via this is tomorrow

ESP & Axisweb: Lunch and Pitch

What would you do with £200, do you have a great idea that you want to share with other people? Have you got an artwork that needs a boost, an idea that needs to be realised? Deadline: Wednesday 26 September 2018.

https://frieze.com/article/can-return-birminghams-eastside-projects-survive-gentrification-citys-art-scene

Tom Emery considers the re-opening of Eastside Projects in relation to the gentrification of Birmingham – via Frieze

Join Birmingham’s cultural revolution!

Eastside Projects report on the 16 new job opportunities created as a result of Arts Council’s NPO funding for Birmingham.

To register your attendance for any of our Curatorial Research Group events please email Lucy Lopez lucy@eastsideprojects.org

 

Curatorial Research Group
Monday 23rd October
Grand Union, Birmingham
3-5pm

Group meeting with presentations from Seán Elder and Aly Grimes.

Please come along if you are interested in finding out about the group – this will be an open and informal session!

About the speakers:

Seán Elder is a curator and writer from the Scottish Highlands based in Birmingham. Currently Associate Curator at Grand Union, Elder has worked in proximity with artists such as Gordon Douglas, Tako Taal and Leontios Toumpouris, and organisations including LUX Scotland, The Telfer Gallery and The Hunterian Art Gallery at University of Glasgow, to produce exhibitions, publications and screening programmes. His research seeks to utilise Queer methodologies within exhibition-making as a means of challenging existing power-structures and investigate the roles of language and society in forming identities.

Aly Grimes is an independent curator and co-founder of Stryx – an artist-run project space and studios located in Birmingham, UK. Her curatorial work is concerned with new media art, collaborative methodologies and interdisciplinary modes of practice. Grimes is interested in fostering long-standing connections between artistic practitioners around the globe and is a founding member of September Collective, a pluri-cultural group of creative producers formed under the auspices of the School of Curatorial Studies, Venice. Her previous projects include ‘Symphony of Hunger; Digesting Fluxus in Four Movements’ co-curated with September Collective, and the ongoing project ‘Short Circuit’. She is currently undertaking the CuratorLab course at Konstfack University under the leadership of Joanna Warsza.

Joanna Fursman is a researcher at Birmingham School of Art and teaches MA Art and Education Practices at Birmingham School of Art, BA Art and Education and PGCE Secondary Art and Design at Newman University. Jo’s current practice and research is influenced by previous roles as co-director at Catalyst Arts, Belfast and a teacher of Art and Design for secondary school. Her practice-based PhD explores how a ‘possible’ school might be visibly thought or constructed via work of Pedagogical Art Practice, collaboration, its possibilities and production. Jo will present work from a recently completed research project at a secondary school, where collaboration as a methodology of production and art making through photography practice was employed. The discussion will develop around aspects of emerging collaborative practice alongside school as pedagogical frame.

 

 

 

Feminist Duration Reading Group Event
Thursday 2nd November
Grand Union, Birmingham
6pm Introductions and shared meal: please bring something vegetarian to share
7-9pm Reading Group Event

‘A Feminist Chorus for Feminist Revolt,’ a spoken distillation of texts from the Feminist Duration Reading Group, gathered into a score by Lucy Reynolds, The Showroom, London, as part of ‘Now You Can Go,’ 12 December 2015. Photo: Ehryn Torrell

Feminist Duration Reading Group: Italian Feminisms and the Practice of Entrustment

The Feminist Duration Reading Group was formed in 2015 in London to explore under-known and under-appreciated texts, ideas and struggles from beyond the Anglo-American canon of feminism. The Group meets on the first Tuesday of the month at SPACE studios in Hackney.

In an effort to broaden understandings of feminisms in the plural, and challenge existing definitions of feminism that reflect an Anglo-American and northern European perspective, sessions have focused on intersectional, Chinese, Australian and Arab feminisms, as well as transfeminisms in Serbian and Spanish contexts. A key focus of the group has been Italian feminisms of the late 1960s, 1970s and 1980s, especially the writings and collective practices of the Milan Women’s Bookshop collective and Rivolta Femminile.

 

Members of Rivolta Femminile in Jacqueline Vodoz’s new Venice flat. from left: Carla Lonzi, Renata Gessner, Laura Lepetit, Adriana Bottini, Liliana Padovani, Maria Grazia Chinese, Anna Jaquinta, Maria Veglia

For this session in Birmingham members of the group including Angelica Bollettinari, Sabrina Fuller and Roisin O’Sullivan will lead an out-loud reading of texts that emphasise Italian feminist practices based in relations of entrustment (“affidamento”) and reciprocal storytelling. Following the readings the group will lead a listening/reading/writing exercise that puts some of these ideas into practice.

Texts will be available on the day. Advance reading is not required as we will read excerpts together.

All are welcome!

Texts for Collective Reading

Adriana Cavarero, ‘The Reciprocal Communication of Voices,’ in For More Than One Voice: Toward a Philosophy of Vocal Expression, 2005

Discussion of entrustment and Amalia and Emilia in The Milan Women’s Bookstore Collective, Sexual Difference: A Theory of Social-Symbolic Practice, trans. Patricia Cicogna and Teresa de Lauretis, (Bloomington and Indianapolis: Indiana University Press, 1987)

Recommended Background Reading

Elisabetta Bertolino Beyond Ontology and Sexual Difference, An Interview with the Italian Feminist Philosopher Adrian Cavarero, 2008

Linda Zerilli, ‘Feminists Make Promises: The Milan Collective’s Sexual Difference and the Project of World-Building,’ in Feminism and the Abyss of Freedom, 93-94, Chicago and London: University of California Press, 2005

 

Public Art Thinking Symposium
Wednesday 22nd November
Organised by Vanessa Boni and Gavin Wade of Eastside Projects
Curzon Building Lecture Theatre, Birmingham City University
1-5.30pm

Public Art Thinking

We have 25 tickets available for Curatorial Research Group members. If you would like to come along and have attended our research group before, just email Lucy to reserve a free ticket.

See below for symposium information.

Public Art Thinking

Be a part of our critical discourse around public art and its publics!

Birmingham Big Art Project and Eastside Projects will host a symposium that brings together practitioners, council directors, urban planners and architects to investigate ways in which artists and organisations are developing strategies to rethink their role in the future planning of our cities.

Public art is often complicit in projects of urban re-development. But who is dispossessed? How can we claim ‘difference’ when space is becoming homogenised by mass developers? Could artists be better property developers?

Speakers include: Mel Jordan, Barbara Holub, Rosalie Schweiker, Robert Garnett and Andy Reeve.

Come join/take part/observe/be active in conversations around public art.

A double issue of the Art & the Public Sphere journal titled Public Art Thinking has been dedicated to this concept of Public Art Thinking and on the occasion of this project.

 

The Curatorial Research Group is led by Lucy Lopez and Eastside Projects, supported by New Art West Midlands, with additional assistance from Grand Union.

 

 

The autumn season of Curatorial Research Network events led by Lucy Lopez and Eastside Projects with New Art West Midlands is now live.

Job Centre Junior by Amelia Beavis-Harrison. Photograph by Greg Millner

We catch up with Amelia Beavis-Harrison, newly appointed ESP & Public Programmer at Eastside Projects. Yorkshire-born Amelia has until recently been based in Oslo, Norway, and has a busy independent practice as both artist and curator dealing with socio-political subjects.

 

Job Centre Junior by Amelia Beavis-Harrison. Photograph by Greg Millner

Can you tell us more about your work as an artist and curator? What projects are you currently working on?

I see my curatorial work as an extension of my artistic practice, often sharing related interests and ideas between the two as a mutually influencing way of working. My artistic practice is largely performance-based focusing on using language as a way to question socio-political situations, and the organisations I have been a part of and established have often had this same level of questioning. Kunst Vardo, for example is a nomadic platform commissioning artists to very directly respond to themes relevant to the geographical situation the project takes place in.

At Eastside Projects I’m currently working on a programme that runs parallel to Policy Show, which opens in September. The programme is called Reaction School and is a series of micro-master classes with artists and thinkers from across the UK, focusing on how to visualise policies/politics and get active. It brings together some of my own interests in activism and policy change whilst being hands on.

I’m also currently in the middle of preparing two of my own exhibitions in September. The first is a solo-show at Tenthaus in Oslo exploring bias in the media, and the second is a group show at The Museum of Non-Conformist Art in St Petersburg, Russia.

A Mans House is His Castle by Sarah Maple, curated by Amelia Beavis-Harrison. Image credit Eirik Slyngstad

What drew you to the role of ESP and Public Programmer at Eastside Projects?

Eastside Projects is an example of how an artist-led organisation can operate on the same level as a curated institution, and it was important for me to join an organisation that both supported and encouraged those values. I have predominantly worked with site-specific programmes that focus on an event based structure and the role seemed to fit very seamlessly with my background and interests. I am very invested in the self-empowerment of individuals, and the ethos of ESP being member-driven and running in parallel to Eastside Projects, opposed to under, is something I want to champion.

What are you looking forward to within the role?

I have an ambition to meet all the members of ESP, and to get the voices of the ESP community heard. It’s a big task but by no means impossible. We are also in the process of establishing a development platform for women to take them to the next level within their practice. Female artists and practitioners are globally underrepresented, and although this is starting to be addressed and considered more widely within programming and collections management, we wanted to make a firm commitment to the development of female practices. I am looking forward to finding out how we shape the programme and what particular needs female practitioners have that are currently not addressed in established development programmes. This could be anything from childcare demands to making the female voice heard.

1000 Bottles of Water by Martinka Bobrikova & Oscar de Carmen, curated by Amelia Beavis-Harrison. Image credit Ayatgali Tuleubek

What have been your experiences of being based in the West Midlands so far?

I have only just moved to the West Midlands after re-locating from Oslo. It took me a little while to adjust back to UK living but it becomes familiar very quickly. Before Oslo I was based in Nottingham and came to Birmingham for exhibitions and events. Luckily now the train ride is a bit quicker.

One of my very first experiences of Birmingham was attending a Re:Flux concert curated by aas and Ensemble Interakt at St Paul’s Church in 2008. I seem to remember there being a lot of repetitive noise and the use of a piano. Birmingham’s changed a lot since then, and is set to change again as Digbeth goes through a period of flux and gentrification with HS2. I’m looking forward to seeing what reactions and responses come with the change.

 

 

 

We catch up with Amelia Beavis-Harrison, newly appointed ESP & Public Programmer at Eastside Projects.

Studio work by James Lomax

Earlier in the summer we spoke with the first three artist residents of Glasshouse, a group residency at The New Art Gallery Walsall and Eastside Projects – Alice Gale-FeenyJoe Fletcher Orr and Bryony Gillard 

Since 4 July, artists Tom Verity, based in Stoke-on-Trent and James Lomax, based in Birmingham, have been undertaking the second part of this residency programme in The New Art Gallery Walsall’s Artists’ Studio. Anneka French found out more.

Studio work by James Lomax

 

Anneka French: So, you are roughly half way through your residency …

James Lomax: I think we are both beginning to get to the direction we want to take things.

AF: Before you came, did you have specific aims or strategies in mind or were things more open?

Tom Verity: I had the materials planned but left it quite open. I think you’ve got to with a residency.

JL:  I applied with something quite prescribed ideas – looking at two specific motifs in my work – reflections of water which I’d been screen printing on glass and Perspex, and Venetian blinds which have been coming up a lot in my work. I was interested to find out why I’m using these motifs and materials. I think it was 4-5 months between applying for the residency and coming here but through doing a couple of shows in the meantime, I actually worked quite a lot of that stuff out and I’ve decided that these things were isolated to individual works. It’s important to try and find the next motifs that might carry through. My work is specific to a memory, place or situation.

AF: How have you responded to place and context here? Previous works have had a lot of quite domestic reference points.

JL: I haven’t based work specifically on the galleries but I’ve done a lot of walking around outside and inside and spent time talking to people. The way I start research is by walking around a town. I’ve taken lots of photographs but haven’t had any of them developed yet. I have those images in my memory. The mundane experiences become a research tool. I’ve been looking a lot at history books in the shop on Walsall. These kinds of books are written by someone who has ties to the area and they are quite personal things. I will often draw on something within those as a starting point. That has taken me to making these large concertina screens though I’ve decided it wasn’t working.

AF: Tom, tell me about the materials you’ve been using.

TV: Ropes and weights. It’s strange when you invite people to the studio because none of the pieces are finished and I don’t really like any of them. You have to take forward the bits that are working.

AF: It’s a visible context for making. How have you worked with the context of the gallery?

TV: I have previously worked quite directly with that kind of information but I thought this time it might be better to go with the flow. I thought it might be quite boring for audiences otherwise so I’ve left the influences to happen more naturally. It’s probably slightly too early to say how.

JL: I think you have to be quite careful coming into a residency and making work about a place. Someone asked me about the use of leather and of course Walsall has a leather making industry and I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t on my mind. I’ve been buying chamois leathers from Poundland because it’s right outside the gallery.

Studio work by James Lomax

AF: So the materials are as much about that proximity as history then?

JL: It’s as much about that and about my own personal experiences and also just working with a different material. I made these angular formal structures using leatherette and I really didn’t like them and now I’m using a way more natural material to make something more irregular and organic and hopefully more anthropomorphic. I don’t know how the material is going to react. I’m stitching together these structures and filling them with expanding foam and they do their own thing.

AF: Can you tell me more about how you are selecting materials, James? There are lots of art technician and DIY-related materials.

JL: All these things are bodging materials, I would say. They are quick fixes and I’ve never used them in an art gallery environment. Part of the reason why I want to use them is because I’m intrigued by them and I don’t know how they are going to behave. These adhesives are new to me. They come out of the tubes in these colours. I try and keep away from art materials because of the language that goes with them. I want the materials to have a domestic reference.

AF: The adhesive pieces have a definite baking reference to them.

JL: Yeah, they are delicate structures and precarious. I made some from a solvent free version and they were hanging from the ceiling. The next day they’d fallen and shattered so it is a learning curve with materials.

Studio work by Tom Verity

AF: Can we talk about colour within both of your works? James, you’ve used things as they come and Tom you have made some more specific decisions on colour?

TV: I’ve selected things like the ropes from the colour options available. I wouldn’t say these colours are fully finished as they are test works. But going back to references, this piece on the wall has a reference to the thing on the back of train seats where you can store objects – I’ve been travelling on the train every day. I’ve been thinking about geometric structures of painting and more historical still life paintings of letters and other objects trapped on noticeboards. The framework allows you to play and swap objects in and out.

JL: Although I’ve been working with things that come in their natural colour, colour is important to the work and I select materials according to their colouring. These pieces could all be pink but I want them to be pink and green, kind of like Drumstick lollipops. The material has a skin and you can press it in with your thumb, a little bit like chewing gum. In the last show I did, I was working with cyanotype processes which were connected to what the work was about.

TV: The materials are representing themselves in my work. Similarly, all the fixings are on the front – there is nothing hidden away, which shows an honesty to the materials and the making processes.

JL: Do you think it’s important to reference the fact that you studied painting? I always frame your work within painting.

TV: Not really but those things come into my thinking. Jeremy Moon’s abstract paintings are influences. I like the lines I’m using to have a use, in that they are holding things to the wall and a use in their visual aspect. They are doing something.

AF: How much have you been here together? Do you think that your works are speaking to each other or being influenced by each other?

TV: We’ve been in at least 2 days a week together.

JL: We cross over quite a lot. I wouldn’t say Tom’s work has fed into mine but I think the way we have used the space has. Tom was using the walls so I decided to do something in the middle of the room. I’m jealous of your speed of working because I have to really build up.

TV: I can work quickly but a lot of it is bad. This is useful because you move quickly through ideas but they are not made as well as they could be and might not have chance to express themselves. I’m looking for the core ideas to be solid before I develop them into something well made. The screen you made had a high production value.

JL: I think that’s the thing I didn’t like about it. Sometimes I make something that I’m not fully happy with. I knew what that screen was going to do before I made it but these other materials are much more unpredictable. I put the adhesive chain together this morning and I didn’t know how it was going to work as a thing. The production value and preciseness of the screen and the fact that I’ve worked as a fabricator mean that I know how those things work and there is no intrigue there. The problem with my way of working is it takes me 2 or 3 weeks to know I’ve got it wrong.

AF: Both works have an obvious tension – things being suspended, objects piercing others – could you say something about that?

TV: I like the work to be physically active. Tension is a by-product of that. Chance and precariousness bring something else to the work.

JL: I’m trying to bring different objects together to create a kind of character around a piece of work. I feel like I am constructing a kind of character through the different materials. I build a picture in my mind of an individual and scenarios that are sometimes based on a specific happening or place. I’m interested in organic forms and a lot of my work is figure-like when I look back at it – more like portraiture. Something more angular is more like a still life, if that makes sense.

AF: Is it important that the person or story is kept secret?

JL: Yeah it is. It’s something I’ve been battling for a while. I just don’t think it’s important for the viewer to know that. I hint at these things through materials and titles. I think it’s more interesting to allow interpretation of the work on their own terms rather than force mine upon a viewer.

AF: Can we talk about your plans for the remainder of your time here and your show within this space. Presumably the door will remain shut during that time…

TV: Yeah, some parts of the room won’t be visible. You can quite precisely set up an exhibition.

JL: The single viewpoint is something I’m interested in. I’ve often made works for shows so that they are directly obstructive of other of my works. I like choosing the way my works are seen. I made work in 2015 that split the space in half and meant you couldn’t see the whole show in one go. There is a curatorial element of my practice from that point of view. I’m still working on the chamois structures.

AF: Will they be hung or on the floor?

JL: I don’t know yet. I could have 10 different configurations. The installation part of it will be the making of the work. I’ve also been using the sun to bleach wood, wallpaper and paper towels. I accidently did some a while ago but the process intrigued me. I haven’t yet worked out what they are yet but they might come into it. The residency has been a great opportunity and it’s been great to be so public facing.

TV: Everything has been more performative with people watching. It’s like being in a zoo a little bit.

JL: I have quite enjoyed that aspect. It’s funny with a group of kids looking in. We’ve had some nice conversations. We’d both like to thank Walsall – they’ve been wonderful.

A public presentation of work made during the residency will be on display in the studio from 23 August – 29 September 2017.

Since 4 July, artists Tom Verity and James Lomax have been undertaking the second part of the Glasshouse residency programme in The New Art Gallery Walsall’s Artists’ Studio. Anneka French found out more.

Mark Essen, face, face, face, face, face, face, face, 2016. Image courtesy of the artist

Birmingham-based artist Mark Essen is one of three artists selected for 3-Phase, a development programme and exhibition series delivered in partnership with Jerwood Charitable Foundation in London, Workplace Gallery in Gateshead and Eastside Projects in Birmingham.

Mark Essen, face, face, face, face, face, face, face, 2016. Image courtesy of the artist

Mark will develop new work which will tour to each of these organisations this year and during 2018 alongside works by Nicola Singh and Larry Achiampong, the other individuals selected.

The aim of the project is to foster support for and dialogue between artists across the UK. First launched in 2015, this iteration hopes to increase this cross-partnership communication.

Mark will present a new body of work exploring values of our archaic economy and offering suggestions of an alternative structure – specifically degrowth – a political, economic and social movement based on ecological economics. By incorporating hydroponics into the work, the artist communicates how urban agriculture may be used as a form of resilience, redressing the balance with nature.

Mark Essen is one of three artists selected for 3-Phase, a development programme and exhibition series delivered in partnership with Jerwood Charitable Foundation, Workplace Gallery and Eastside Projects.

Lucy McLauchlan, Birmingham Bt Pass showing at Centrala Art Gallery 8 July. Image credit Matt Watkins.

New Art West Midlands’ director Craig Ashley reflects on yesterday’s announcement from Arts Council England about investment to the region’s visual arts organisations through their National Portfolio for 2018-22.

Lucy McLauchlan, Birmingham By Pass showing at Centrala until 8 July. Image credit Matt Watkins.

Arts Council England’s National Portfolio for 2018-2022 will include thirteen West Midlands’ Visual Arts organisations, up from the current number of seven. This almost doubling of the visual arts contingent is great news for the region, and the sector is strengthened further through the inclusion of more organisations working under the categories of Museums and Combined Arts where there is increasing work in the widening realm of visual arts, and exploration of the innovative spaces between art forms.

With the exception of Birmingham’s The Drum, which closed last year due to a number of challenges and was consequently not in the running for this next round of funding, the current cohort of West Midlands-based National Portfolio Organisations working across Museums, Visual and Combined Arts remains unchanged and will continue to receive investment.

This is an active and positive endorsement of the great work being done in the region, and Arts Council’s decision provides a degree of certainty in uncertain times. Investment from other sources of income must continue to be a priority over the next four years, and the impact of this stabilising fund will allow the time to further develop and grow the opportunities for a wider and more diverse funding mix.

It is important of course that, within the context of some much needed good news for the arts, there is a balanced view. Where other areas of public funding for culture have been consistently cut in recent years, particularly the investment from our challenged local authorities, the National Portfolio money awarded through Arts Council demonstrates the absolute necessity of public money to secure and strengthen our creative output.

As recognised by the Creative Industries Federation, public money sits at the foundation of our £84b-a-year-and-growing creative industries sector, providing essential support at the start of careers and initiatives that go on to bring great success to Britain. Furthermore, anticipating the gap left by the withdrawal of EU funds beyond 2019 – subject of course to the ongoing Brexit negotiations – how do we shore-up and sustain future public investment in the arts? Arts Council England cannot do it alone, and a wider valuing of the arts in society must be a collective concern that we need to address together, within and beyond the visual arts.

The important and integral partnerships between our National Portfolio Organisations and others, both within and beyond the Creative Industries, will help to strengthen a platform for the visual arts over the coming years, and provide a firmer base to build upon for the future. From artists to arts organisations to educators and business, the benefit of the National Portfolio investment is channelled through the relatively few to the many.

So now is definitely a time to celebrate the achievement of those organisations and their supporters and partners that have strived to creative something crucial, critical and valuable. The National Portfolio status is something to be proud of, and an indicator of the valuable contribution organisations make as instigators, protectors, mediators, collaborators, risk-takers and trailblazers.

The inclusion of more organisations in the National Portfolio reflects the region’s growing confidence and the breadth of the work we do. Distinctively here in the West Midlands, the support for the smaller-scale, diverse, innovative and artist-led outfits bolsters the resilience of the visual arts ecology.

The collective strength of Birmingham’s Eastside organisations demonstrates the importance of working together to mutually support. Joining Eastside Projects in the National Portfolio are Centrala, Grand Union and Vivid Projects, all based in the Minerva Works complex in Digbeth, alongside Friction Arts at The Edge on Cheapside. This critical mass is a model that New Art West Midlands is keen to support elsewhere in the region, to ensure sustainability alongside critical success.

Our museums continue to get the support they desperately need and deserve, with Birmingham Museums Trust and The New Art Gallery Walsall receiving continued investment in the face of challenges with their respective local authority funding. Encouragingly, Wolverhampton Art Gallery receives an uplift from 2018 and they are joined in the National Portfolio by Culture Coventry (The Herbert Art Gallery) and Compton Verney, both of whom become regularly funded through Arts Council for the first time.

The region’s reputation for distinctive festivals shines through the Portfolio, with BE Festival and Fierce now joined by Flatpack, Shout, Capsule’s Supersonic Festival, and the Stoke on Trent-based British Ceramics Biennial. And in terms of innovation, BOM and Hereford-based Rural Media are supported to continue their leading roles in developing the territory within the scientific and digital realms. Wolverhampton’s Newhampton Arts Centre adds to the region’s complement of multi artform venues, widening the cultural offer in the Black Country.

These decisions demonstrate Art Council’s commitment to diversifying the National Portfolio, in terms of practice and geography as well as the protected characteristics including disability, ethnicity, gender and sexuality. Among the existing National Portfolio, the Shropshire-based Disability Arts organisation DASH has received a significant uplift in their regular funding to expand their partnership work to commission disabled artists. DASH’s director Mike Layward commented:

“[This] is not only great news for the organisation as it secures our work across England for the next 4 years, but it’s also great news for the disabled artists we work with. The uplift will allow us to develop a new area of work with disabled children and young people who will be the disabled artists of tomorrow.”

New Art West Midlands’ director Craig Ashley reflects on yesterday’s announcement from Arts Council England about investment to the region’s visual arts organisations through their National Portfolio for 2018-22.

Image credit Alice Gale-Feeny

Artists Alice Gale-Feeny, Joe Fletcher Orr and Bryony Gillard were selected for Glasshouse, a residency devised by The New Art Gallery Walsall and Eastside Projects, with the aim to strengthen relationships between artists and galleries across the country. The three artists, based in Nottingham, Liverpool and Bristol respectively, spent time in May and June undertaking research, making and developing new conversations about their practice.

Anneka French spoke with them to find out more about their experiences at The New Art Gallery Walsall just prior to their studio presentation.

 

Image credit Alice Gale-Feeny

Anneka French: Maybe we could start with what it’s been like being in this artist studio space …

Joe Fletcher Orr: I think Alice should talk about that as her work has been about the space.

Alice Gale-Feeny: I guess my work has been more about the space. I was really interested in responding to this situation of being on show, being watched and being able to watch bodies in space. I’ve explored that by being in the building, not just in the studio.

Bryony Gillard: I think what’s different about working in this context is that the boundary between process and presentation is more permeable. I think we’ve all thought about what the space looks like when we leave which is a different way of using a studio to the usual. Here, it’s been possible to leave things up to test and people will see these things.

JFO: Maybe we should have left the door open. It probably looks more like an office.

AGF: Last week I had a good conversation with a man who came in to speak with me about the slide projector I was trying to mend. It was something about the old technology that invited him in. It was a talking point.

AF: Is the interaction important? There are maybe more similarities between Alice and Bryony’s practice but Joe, running Cactus, this interaction must be pretty important to you?

JFO: Yes it’s really important. My plan at the start was to have conversations with people and build relationships.

BG: This has happened well with the staff.

JFO: I’ve had a lot of conversations particularly with Zaynul, one of the gallery assistants. He’s really nice and the curatorial staff have been very supportive of course. We’ve had the whole care package.

BG: All the staff are very warm to the artist studio programme and people are really curious. This has been a great aspect of the institution.

AGF: I think they’re interested in the process of us being here which is not something I’ve experienced before.

AGF: Working with other people in this space has been a really interesting challenge. It frees up your own practice.

JFO: I’m used to hanging around with artists who have the same approach. But Bryony and Alice don’t really have the same approach as me. It’s challenged me a lot which is good because I haven’t been challenged much since leaving university I guess.

BG: We’ve all challenged each other and we’ve had intense conversations about our work and politics and process and this has been really productive. I’m experimenting a bit more without having to do loads of theoretical research – I feel I have more of a license to try something maybe even without a really strong reason to do it.

Alice Gale-Feeny and Bryony Gillard. Image credit Emily Warner.

AGF: We’re all on equal footing even though we are doing different things.

AF: Alice, how have you been using the building?

AGF: I’ve been photographing parts of the building mainly focussing on the staircases and aspects of the architecture that suggest movement to another part of the building. I’ve been thinking about how a space is designed for a public and how you get people to navigate a space and building things for different bodies. I’ve taken a lot of slides of stairwells and stair cases before I got here and I want to combine these in a slide carousel with the new ones in a reading and some kind of movement. It’s been nice to have a building to be in and use. I’ve enjoyed being out there and distilling things in here.

BG: We are doing something informal as the residency was programmed without any events. Both Alice and I might be showing some performance and we will be inviting people along.

JFO: I didn’t realise how short a month was. It’s gone so fast.

AGF: I’ve felt like I’ve been on residency even when I’ve not been in this space which has been really useful. Even on the train.

BG: Because none of us live here, everything is new and there is more time and space.

AGF: It’s about getting out of habitual ways of making and thinking.

AF: How much connection have you had with the gallery before?

JFO: I’ve not been here before but I’ve seen lots online. I don’t know why I hadn’t been, I’ve got no excuse. I went to the Leather Museum around the corner – there are places where I live like that that I’d never go to so it’s given me a different approach.

AF: Like being a tourist?

JFO: Yes and trying to research and learn.

AGF: It’s been a way of making the most of a place and the experience.

AF: How much of the place is coming into your research, Bryony?

BG: Nothing I’ve made is overtly related to the building. I’ve been working with dancers while I’ve been here who I’ve found through networks that Alice had. This is a site-specificity because I’m working with people from the area with whom I wouldn’t work otherwise and we’ve been working within this studio and the room next door. The physicality of the spaces have influenced our movements. It’s been obliquely connected to Walsall but not any historical information or anything like that. The residency was about having time and resources for me. I don’t think there are many programmes like this in the UK that are like this.

JFO: I want to make some works with leather, a long list of works that are related to the area but I’ve not made them yet. I wanted to figure out work for a solo show and group shows coming up that I can activate. I’ve made a good list to carry me through the year. I make an endless list and go through this. Alice thinks I’m not interested in process which is probably true and something I need to deal with head on.

AGF: I hope you didn’t take it as a criticism. I noticed our different ways of working.

Joe Fletcher Orr. Image by Alice Gale-Feeny

JFO: I always just want it to be done and do it again – everything else frustrates me. Even if the works made are about Walsall I can still show them elsewhere. I brought some footballs with me. I usually get artists to sign them but I’m going to do it with the gallery staff and leave it here. I was in an exhibition in Rome where all of the artists were quite famous conceptual artists and I took the role of the fan and got them to sign the football. I knew that them signing it would make the value of the work much higher than I could ever make. I’ve been asked to do it lots of times but I’d like to work with the staff. It’s not so much about football as memorabilia, signatures and value systems. I use a plain white football that looks like an art object – there is only one manufacturer of these. Teams are too loaded. I’ve thought about endless works about leather and footballs? I’m attracted to leather for loads of reasons though this is bad. People who’ve signed them usually want them.

AGF: It’s like looking at mirror of yourself.

AF: Can we talk about next steps? You have an open studio upcoming?

AGF: We have been like silent interlopers and we will leave this presentation but have not had so much interaction with the public.

BG: We are putting ourselves under public scrutiny.

AGF: More public scrutiny is good.

JFO: I’d really like to work with Walsall leather. Though it doesn’t matter if it is here and sometimes when I show things abroad and tell them local stories it has more of a mystery maybe. Sometimes it adds to the work if I take it completely far away.

AGF: It’s interesting to think about making something in one place and showing it elsewhere.

JFO: I think the photographs you took, Alice, could be shown anywhere. They are not too loaded with this place.

AGF: I want to take away recognisable features and to be more about public space. I hadn’t really thought about it as a collection that grows – about making something site-specific or general that means it can speak about other public places. I was looking at some of the architectural plans for the building but I like the way that it can be a bit more malleable. I’ve also been filming at a Quaker Meeting House in Bournville. They’ve let me film twice now and I hope that footage can become something though it might not be about Bournville exactly.

BG: The work I’ve been doing with the dancers is something new. I’ve never had the opportunity to work with more than one dancer at a time. I’ve used my materials budget to pay them which has felt like an enormous privilege – this has allowed me to improvise, play and take risks. I’ve learnt a lot from interacting, directing and working from them and I have lots of footage and experience to draw on and make something else. This has also been a good chance to push an existing project in a new direction. I wanted to explore my relationship to choreography and performance and this has completely moved things on for me. The dancers I worked with were so brilliant that I’d like to continue to work with them.

I’ve never spent any time in the Midlands before but I feel really excited at the thought of coming back here and developing relationships. It feels like a really exciting place to be. I think this would be great to accumulate and extend networks with Joe in Liverpool, Alice in Nottingham as well as within the West Midlands.

 

Glasshouse 2 will see James Lomax from Birmingham and Tom Verity from Stoke-on-Trent take up residence at The New Art Gallery Walsall from 4 July – 22 August 2017.

Alice Gale-Feeny, Joe Fletcher Orr and Bryony Gillard were selected for Glasshouse, a residency devised by The New Art Gallery Walsall and Eastside Projects, with the aim to strengthen relationships across the country. Anneka French spoke with them.

Sonia Boyce, Eastside Projects, Birmingham. Photo: George Torode; Courtesy: the artist and Eastside Projects

Esther Draycott reviews the recent project Performance/Wallpaper by Sonia Boyce at Eastside Projects and looks ahead to the next one on 7 April.

Boyce is one of the leading figures to have emerged from the British Black Arts Movement during the 1980s. She studied at Stourbridge College and has since exhibited internationally, been awarded an MBE and elected as a Royal Academician.

Boyce’s work forms part of Production Show, running at the gallery until 22 April.

 

Sonia Boyce, Eastside Projects, Birmingham. Photo: George Torode; Courtesy: the artist and Eastside Projects

 

From around 7pm on 17 February I joined a crowd emitting occasional bursts of applause and sympathetic groans as local skateboarders raced around Eastside Projects for a show arranged by artist Sonia Boyce. The main space had been transformed into a skate park for the night as part of her ongoing project Wallpaper/Performance. Some skateboarders – only ever one or two at a time – were playing ukuleles. The score, played by performers seemingly at random and alone rather than in unison, was written by composer Jorge Gomez Abrante. He claimed he had started writing music specifically for playing the ukulele while skateboarding after he was forced to start tuning the instrument while skating his way to music rehearsals. The evening was documented by photographer George Torode. His photographs will be collected and reimagined as wallpaper by Boyce in a process she calls ‘recouping the remains’.

With all that in mind there seems to be a lot to explain but when I ask Boyce to do so she seemed determined to focus on the simplicity behind the performance. “It’s just fun”, she explained. “I have thought a lot in the past about how there are so few ways for people in adulthood to be playful. Initially I wanted to fill a gallery with people skipping, but Gavin [Wade, Eastside Project’s Director] was interested in skateboarding so we decided to go with that instead.”

Boyce was equally keen to emphasise, as she has done frequently in the past, that the performance element of her work at Eastside Projects involved little input of her own other than the bare bones of the idea: Abrante’s ukulele music was his own project, and most of the skateboarders performing visited the gallery for the first time on the night itself with no set choreography or rehearsal. Just like the rest of the audience, her role during the performance was simply to observe what would naturally unfold over the evening.

Instead it is in the transition between the two elements of the entire project – the performance and the wallpapers that are on display – that you get a real sense of Boyce’s practice as an artist. By inviting the audience to reflect on the way she has transcribed the event we observed alongside her into a permanent artwork, Boyce turns what started out as a simple, enjoyable, at points confusing evening into a reflection of memory itself: how our minds tend to distill real events into embellished, reordered, often completely different versions of themselves.

Visitors are welcomed to Eastside Projects on 7 April when once again skateboarders will be descending on the gallery for the evening, ostensibly to do pretty much the same thing. There will be a few minor changes: this time the performance will be filmed, recorded and will play out to the backdrop of the wallpaper Boyce has created from documentation of the previous performance, evoking a strange feeling of déjà vu even for those who didn’t make it to the first event.

Judging by the first performance, I would urge you all to go – but then again it will probably be nothing like how I remember it.

 

Esther Draycott reviews the recent event Wallpaper/Performance by Sonia Boyce at Eastside Projects and looks ahead to the next.

A body of new work by Hardeep Pandhal is the subject of a current solo exhibition at Eastside Projects titled Nightmare on BAME Street. Programmed as part of the two-year project Production Show, his work is manifest via animation, comic, knitwear and music.

Pandhal now lives and works in Glasgow, having graduated with an MFA from the Glasgow School of Art in 2013 with the support of a Leverhulme Scholarship award. He was selected for Bloomberg New Contemporaries (2013), the Glasgow International Open Bursary (2013), the Catlin Art Guide (2014) and the Drawing Room Bursary Award (2015). Recent shows include a solo show Hobson-Jobson at Collective Edinburgh (2015) and groups shows The Vanished Reality, Modern Art Oxford (2016) and Nothing Happens, Twice: Artists Explore Absurdity, Harris Museum, Preston (2016).

Anneka French spoke to the artist to find out more about his practice and influences.



Your work is deeply invested in issues of identity, social realism and translation. How did your early childhood in Birmingham shape your practice?

I went to an all boys school made up mostly of Afro-Caribbean and South Asian boys. The bouncers on the school gates during lunchtime were agreeable, so it was easy to truant. I used to soak my conkers in vinegar and heat them in the microwave because I thought this would make them stronger. I used to play snooker after school, I got a 33 break when I was 13. Teachers got punched in the face, my best friend got stabbed right next to me over a dispute over a girl. It was a distracting and disorientating experience.

I hope the language in my work can communicate being un-cocksure or a state of undifferentiated chaos. It’s like the idea of being caught between conflicting values at home and at school, or like having a double consciousness.

One formative moment was my first family trip to India, which we recorded with our first camcorder. I have been editing some of this material into my moving image work in various ways. I am thinking about the work of ‘Cultural Studies’ on mimicry and acculturation when I look back at my personal archive.

At the moment I am trying to convey the effects of cultural repression. There’s also something to be said about the role that poetic irony and parody play in performing acts of reclamation or empowerment as part of my method to making.

How is the city of Glasgow shaping your practice?

Glasgow feels like a secure place to live and make work. There is a nice community of artists based there and lots of influential people visiting. It also gives me the necessary distance to undertake the subjective thought-work in my work.

Can you tell me more about the collaboration with your mother? How does she feel about being part of your work?

When I think about making work, I try to start from an uncomfortable place. We share a language barrier so I cannot be sure how she feels about being part of my work. The knitted garments have images of heads stitched onto them. The effect of the stitching leaves the garment ‘puckered’, the heads bulge outwards in a manner that I thought was fittingly jarring, considering the nature of the collaboration. The relationship is forced in some ways but can also feel seamless too. It takes place in the domestic setting of the family house. It seems to make better sense as artwork upon reflection, retroactively. There is very little instruction or discussion surrounding each piece. Unlike the processes I undertake in other media, knitting and stitching in this way is linear – we set out to achieve what we initially decide and then the finished thing emerges after a couple of months. In that time I’m usually making other work away from home. Figuring out the distinction between being ‘performative’ and doing ‘performance’ also becomes hazy and therefore useful to think about. In a way, the meaning of the artwork is located in the production process – the exhibited object and exhibition scenario signifies the death and need of renewal of this process.

I am learning how to stitch my own designs on to the garments. Hopefully this activity will lead me to other threads

The phrase Nightmare on BAME Street brings with it a whole host of direct political and social issues. How did you arrive at this title?

‘BAME Street’ is an imagined place based on Dudley Road, the main road near the house I grew up in. My idea for the title did not arise in any clear systematic way. I wanted it to sound like a title for a rap mixtape. Also, I haven’t finished it! I often find myself in situations where the title for a work is required or made before actually finishing it or thinking through the ideas properly. It’s like a way of covering enough of the bases that I think are important or challenging for me to pursue in my work. In this case, I am developing my ongoing collaborative work with my mother by adopting some of her skills and I am reflecting on the area of Birmingham that I (somewhat reluctantly) identify with, which is largely made of migrant communities. Perhaps this ambivalence is a symptom of being socially mobile, or practising participant-observation in my work, or perhaps it’s a sort of perverse fantasy that has something to do with my own self-preservation?

What can visitors to the exhibition at Eastside Projects expect?

Visitors can expect to see some knitted work and a new animation, with my own music in it.

It feels more experimental or less pressured. The framing of Production Show has encouraged me to pursue some of the more overtly propositional aspects of my work. There’s multiple starting points, improvisation, half-sketched ideas and lots of unresolved thinking at this stage. Once the animation is complete we will edit the still frames into a book to take stock of what it is.

Pandhal’s solo exhibition Nightmare on BAME Street is showing at Eastside Projects until 22 April 2017.

A new body of work by Hardeep Pandhal is the subject of a current solo exhibition at Eastside Projects titled Nightmare on BAME Street. Anneka French finds out more.