We are delighted to announce the eight artists selected for our forthcoming Active Reality Research Lab, developed by New Art West Midlands, working with Coventry City of Culture Trust, ARUP and artist Simon Poulter.

We received a large number of excellent applications from all over the region. In our selection, we have chosen artists working across art forms including visual arts, graphic design, performance, sound, bio-art and other hybrid forms of practice. We hope that the artists taking part will be able to learn from each other as much as from the activities they undertake and from the expertise of the facilitation team.

The artists taking part in the lab are: Carol Breen, Matt Eaton, Helen Kilby-Nelson, Namratha Jacob, Edie-Jo Murray, Priti Patel, Rosa Postlethwaite and Laurie Ramsell.

The lab will take place online (or partly on-site should government restrictions permit and should artists feel comfortable to be on site in Coventry physically) from 13-17 July 2020.

We are delighted to announce the eight artists selected for our forthcoming Active Reality Research Lab, developed by New Art West Midlands, working with Coventry City of Culture Trust, ARUP and artist Simon Poulter.

Are we really living in a democracy, or a cold war ideology re-imagined?

Georgiou & Tolley’s (Darryl Georgiou & Rebekah Tolley-Georgiou) multi-layered, multi-textured and multi-framed moving image work, Twin Stranger: Entangled State, is currently showing as part of The Twin, at the 2019 Coventry Biennial of Contemporary Art. The work has been situated in The Row, a disused NHS building, and as it turns out, an apt site; a building that had previously been a place where only the most vulnerable of society visited, their secrets laid bare in order to receive the care they needed; consent and control? In keeping with the theme of The Twin and also the 30th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, the work is also being exhibited in the former GDR, in what is a ‘false original’ of the former Hotel Berolina; now a doppelgänger government building, responsible for issuing fines and parking tickets. Surveillance and control in a different guise?

The Hotel Berolina, which features throughout the film, was built in the German Democratic Republic, long before the wall came down. A symbol of opulence and power; a place for sleeping, eating, meeting, playing but with an added punch of surveillance thrown in for free. Was the status of being seen there, worth the price of really being seen?


Who is watching who?’ …

… in the foyer, in the rooms of this Stasi controlled building … opposites and parallels, connections and diversions, play out across the screen as the viewer is pulled into the lobby, suddenly alert to a woman with red hair, a tall man at the elevator, meeting their gaze. A disturbed voice (actor Jack Klaff), asks questions, makes observations and reacts … layered over soundscapes, interviews, conversations, protests. As a viewer the tension becomes palpable, the tempo and the urgency of the dialogue builds, a feeling that you have entered into something very dark and most probably dangerous.

As you start to engage with the work, the many layers begin to make themselves known. Each word, phrase, image and sound is wrapped around double meanings, subliminal messages, hidden text, semiotics, dualities within dualities, juxtaposed against one another. It is an allegorical work that doesn’t take you on a gentle meander but spins you headlong down a fast flowing rapid, heading straight to the open mouth of a monster, that has travelled through time, shape shifting, mercurial and ever present.

Twin Stranger: Entangled State explores the wider themes of Georgiou & Tolley’s previous works: Magician Walks Into The Laboratory, Resistance ’68, and Magician: Walking Back The Cat; regarding mass surveillance, data gathering, paranoia, consent, control, through the lens of both still and moving images, to re-present the past and situate it within the present. In parallel, an associated Twin Stranger Radio Film, to be broadcast on Saturday 16 November, 6-7pm (MixCloud), along with the siting of the work in Berlin, offers a celebration of resistance and revolution against both historical and contemporary Cold War ideologies that lead to the eventual demolition of the Wall. The experimental soundscape: a layering of the moving image, dialogue and location sound recordings, synthesising with the archive material and music of the 1980s.

In addition to Twin Stranger: Entangled State, a ‘sound walk’ entitled, From A to B: Anhalter Bahnof to Berolina, will take place in Berlin on 16 November 2019; passing the site of the former Berolina statue (the female personification of Berolina), that once stood in Alexanderplatz. This sister project and off-site event, will form part of a subsequent limited edition audio work, to accompany the site-specific works in Coventry and Berlin.

How the hell did we get here and why?’

Spend enough time with this work and the parallels with contemporary society become stark and frightening. There’s no need for a Hotel Berolina anymore, there’s no need for a Berlin style wall. Every discovery, every crack in the capitalist right wing armour, is sealed with false originals, wormholes and rabbit holes, and deceptive connections. An invisible panopticon structure that sees all, but remains unseen and untouchable, to all but a few … our digital footprints analysed each time we enter the Hotel Internet, regardless of which room we inhabit.


Review by Helen-Kilby Nelson


Helen Kilby-Nelson reviews Twin Stranger: Entangled State, a video work by Georgiou & Tolley, currently on display at The Row as part of Coventry Biennial 2019.


Axis Directory member Helen Kilby-Nelson reports back from The Coventry Biennial, a city-wide arts festival taking place 4 October – 24 November 2019, including the work of New Art West Midlands x Coventry Biennial artist Ewan Johnston – via axisweb

Artist Helen Kilby-Nelson discusses her research interests and working methodologies ahead of her exhibition at Coventry’s City Arcadia gallery at the end of August.




How has the residency at Coventry Art Space shaped your work?


My initial proposal for the residency included researching socially engaged art practice alongside developing how my own practice might fit under this umbrella term. As a social housing tenant I founded an action group in my local community in May 2018 and I have wrestled with whether this was something separate from my practice or a part of it. If it is a part of my practice how do I ensure an ethical and transparent relationship with fellow members? The time and support from Artspace trustees helped me to work through these questions and I have found that these two parts of me now sit comfortably with each other and with members of the action group. I finally gave myself permission to allow the socially engaged aspect of my work to grow organically without feeling the need to have a prescribed or time sensitive outcome.


The residency has allowed me to further develop my research-based practice which has manifested in a body of work that responds to stigma based on social housing. These two elements of my practice currently synthesise and weave in and out of each other in a non forced way. The residency has therefore helped shape my practice to incorporate various methods of working. I see my practice as multi-dimensional in terms of approach, process and outcome as I move forward.



What can visitors expect from the exhibition at City Arcadia?


The exhibition includes film, projected moving image, sculpture and text. The combined works are a layering of different forms of language, representing misinformation, learned behaviour, lived experience and the perpetuation of stigma both external and internal. The work focuses on cause, dissemination and effect.


As part of the exhibition I will also be running a workshop on Saturday 31 August, ‘re-imagining Monopoly’, as a creative tool  to address the challenges faced for marginalised groups within a hierarchical society.



Can you tell me more about the title of the exhibition?


A word, an insult I have come across through talking with other social housing tenants and one which I have been called myself is “leech”. There are so many assumptions wrapped up in this single word. Yet the leech is an incredible creature, some of the fascinating facts I discovered are that a leech can adapt to almost any environment, it is gender fluid and that it has 32 brains. It felt appropriate to take this negative imagery and subvert it as well as use a potent, visceral word that hints at supposed intelligent collective behaviours and instigators.



Can you tell me a bit more about your approach to the timely subject of social housing and its myriad political, economic and social associations?


I chose to approach this subject through an autoethnographic process, having been a social housing resident for over twenty years, feeling angry about poverty porn, misinformation about social housing tenants, the loss of autonomy and reduced life chances. Using my own experiences as a base from which to research other artists and collectives who have tackled issues around social housing and open dialogue with others, including housing providers, researchers, community workers, other social housing residents and the wider public. The hardest part has been unpicking the political, economic and social associations and how these all merge. There are elements of all three in the work but the main focus has been stigma and how that is created and the power it has.



How do you conduct your research and how are your works made manifest?


My research is rhizomatic including everyday observations, interactions, feelings and thoughts, conversations with friends and peers, philosophy, critical texts, art-works and artist links. My practice responds through writing and making throughout the process. I make multiple works in different media and the process can appear chaotic, however it creates a visual and written ongoing critical dialogue of itself. These instant responses to external interventions and internal thought processes maintain a state of flux, a constant questioning and production towards more resolved pieces of work.



What will you be working on next and how does this support longer term ambitions for your practice?


My practice will continue to question, respond to and act on issues within society that marginalise, dehumanise and perpetuate inequality and the cause and effect of these hierarchies, language and inequalities within society and on identity and life opportunities. My work in response to social housing doesn’t finish with this exhibition and I will continue to collaborate with fellow tenants in my local area to shift the balance of power. I am also planning a further period of self-guided research into hierarchies, cause and effect.


I have already begun working on an exciting project as part of my professional development with Black Hole Club at Vivid Projects that continues to experiment with language, this time through sound and methods of input.


Myself and artist Adam Neal, who has also been undertaking an Artspace graduate residency and is showing at City Arcadia, are working together on a ‘Graduate Toolkit’ which will add another dynamic to both our practices, as well as planning other collaborative projects.



29 August – 7 September 2019
Arcadia Gallery


Artist Helen Kilby-Nelson discusses her research interests and working methodologies ahead of her exhibition at Coventry’s City Arcadia gallery at the end of August.