Image 1. Mr Chamberlain’s Orchids display at RHS International Orchid Fair, Malvern (2019) Image credit: Marcin Sz.

Matt Westbrook received an Engine Micro Bursary to show his project ‘Mr Chamberlain’s Orchids’ at the International Orchid Conservation Congress at Kew Gardens and the RHS International Orchid Show in Malvern.

Mr Chamberlain’s Orchids was a participatory project that used Joseph Chamberlain’s passion for orchid growing as a means to engage new audiences in broader discussions on his legacy.

The project culminated in the Silent Orchid Festival and Summer School that was delivered online as part of the University of Birmingham’s Art and Science Festival during the COVID lockdown.

Read about how the project was conceived and developed by Westbrook in the online text he has written here

Mr Chamberlain’s Orchids display at RHS International Orchid Fair, Malvern (2019) Image credit: Marcin Sz.


Dudley College students pictured in Chamberlain’s study at Highbury with their orchid vessels. Image credit: Matt Westbrook.


Mr Chamberlain’s Orchids display at the International Orchid Conservation Congress, Kew Gardens (2019) Image credit: Matt Westbrook.


Orchid Plant stands at Highbury Heritage Open Day (2019). Image credit: David Rowan.


Matt Westbrook received an Engine Micro Bursary to show his project ‘Mr Chamberlain’s Orchids’ at the International Orchid Conservation Congress at Kew Gardens and the RHS International Orchid Show in Malvern. Read more here.


I am a freelance professional art technician and art handler. I used to work all over the world for arts institutions of all sizes, private collectors, commercial galleries and directly for artists. On 17 March I found that overnight my complex schedule of work for the rest of the year had been cancelled, my world locked down and I felt a great deal of uncertainty for what lay ahead. Many mention that we are living in unprecedented times but this term just didn’t seem to capture the fear that struck me as I began to realise that my world, life and career would never be the same.


I have been working as a freelance art technician for the past 3 years and have over 12 years’ experience in this field.  My livelihood depends on working on art exhibitions, with art collections and cultural events.  With the closures of cultural venues I became well aware that many of us freelance art technicians were going to experience extreme hardship due to this loss of income and employment.


Sarah Titheridge, Martina Schmuecker and I decided to respond to the Covid-19 crisis by creating the Art Technician Emergency Fund to raise money and provide short-term relief to our colleagues and friends in the industry who had lost all of their work and are suffering financially. Art Technicians are the backbone of the art and museum world. We love our work, and most of us go above and beyond in working for artists and institutions. Due to the precarious nature of the work art technicians do, work is sporadic. Most people work from pay cheque to pay cheque and there is no financial stopgap. Although the government set up some financial aid for the self-employed, this only helped a small percentage of art technicians. Many of us fell through the gaps and were reliant on universal credit or any arts grants that we might be eligible for.


We asked all those back in March who signed up to the fund when they anticipated experiencing financial hardship and the result was staggering.



So we created an online art auction, spent many, many hours contacting artists to collate artwork donations and calling out for freelance art technicians to sign up to receive financial support. The auction was live for 4 weeks during which we did everything we could to raise awareness and help to see the bids roll in. We were fortunate enough to be selected to sell a collection of 2020 Solidarity (12 artist) posters funded by an organisation, Between Bridges, founded by Wolfgang Tillmans. This was an incredible boast to our auction and 4 weeks later we had a huge success.


Article from The Guardian


We managed to raise a total of £26,100 which was paid out to 55 applicants. That means we were able to pay each art technician applying to the fund about £474. Just over 100 Artists – 104 to be precise – donated 145 artworks, and we managed to get 79 successful bids for those artworks. We also had the wonderful support from Between Bridges, and sold 169 2020 Solidarity Posters through the auction at £50 each, and lastly we had 13 individual donations of various amounts, coming to £2115.


We were elated to be selected for this New Art West Midlands Engine Micro Bursary which provided us with £250 to help towards much of the administration, marketing and publicising costs which all contributed to enabling us to raise such a large sum of money to help a great deal of art technicians out.


This collective generosity made a substantial difference to many people who are really struggling right now. It has given our industry as a whole a boost to know so many people were willing to donate to the fund via artwork donations or the purchasing of artwork to support them in this crisis. We hope that this fundraising initiative can in a small way contribute to giving art technicians more visibility in the arts, and show the importance of this profession for the cultural sector.


It will be a long road ahead for a lot of us technicians and art workers, as most of the institutions and galleries we work for are looking to cut costs on all levels. So far most of us have no news of any work available in the months ahead.


Follow us on Instagram @arttechnicianemergencyfund and help us raise even more next time to help support art workers and technicians.

Taz Lovejoy reflects on the progress and success of the Art Technician Emergency Fund started with two other art technicians as a response to cancelled work amid Covid-19. Taz was awarded an Engine Micro Bursary to help support the administration and marketing of the initiative.

Demi Nandhra was recently awarded an Engine Micro Bursary.

Demi reflects here on the experiences of being a neurodivergent artist in a new piece of work described as a manifesto / rant / message / support / solidarity.

Click below to access Demi’s work.

In Defence of the Neurodivergent Artist


Demi Nandhra was recently awarded an Engine Micro Bursary. Demi reflects here on the experiences of being a neurodivergent artist in a new piece of work described as a manifesto / rant / message / support / solidarity.

Joanne Masding was recently awarded an Engine Micro Bursary.

She has used this to begin a new piece of writing to think about ways of knowing the material world when it can’t be met with a body.

Joanne Masding has used her Engine Micro Bursary to begin a new piece of writing to think about ways of knowing the material world when it can’t be met with a body.

Video Still from Extremely Valuable Person

Before the pandemic I was working on an idea with my mother. Part of the process was that we would both share and learn new skills by making a film together. I would learn how to make potato chapattis, to knit and to sew (she makes all her own clothes), and I would teach her how to send and receive photos and videos from her mobile phone. The film was intending to utilise two audio interviews with my mother, with a series of still images only. One interview would be subtitled and translated into English and the other a Punjabi voice-over narration. This is something we are still intending to do post lockdown.


Video Still from Extremely Valuable Person


I was self-isolating in March; I felt I had to stay symptom free in case I was needed in an emergency to help support my mother who lives alone and is classed by the government as vulnerable. I’m always concerned she might fall again or become unwell again and my post- trauma fears of loss, especially during a pandemic were elevated. On Wednesday 8 April, I received a text notification from my GP which read, ‘…identified as someone at risk of severe illness if you catch coronavirus (COVID-19)’. So, I too am grouped as an ‘extremely vulnerable person’ and strongly advised to stay indoors for 12 weeks. Initially I found this extremely upsetting as I would be unable to see my mother until July 1 but over the last few weeks of lockdown my anxiety has been easing. Eventually, I will be able to give my mum a hug – I hope.


When applying to New Art West Midlands for this Micro Bursary I was looking to make dedicated time to focus and to tackle the pandemic anxieties that were building up for us both from a health and well-being approach. After several conversations with my mother I decided to apply with her consent. The main focus was to reduce our anxieties around isolation by having a re-focus on other activity that may benefit us by sharing skills and tasks remotely and documenting this activity by recorded interviews, photos, text and video calls.


Initially the project caused more communication frustration in relation to my spoken Punjabi and my mother’s lack of technical knowledge; even accessing photos on her phone was an issue, and this approach was not helping our well-being at all. So, after the first few days we decided to start off with daily pandemic-free conversations. There were many benefits and good things that came out of this time together, such as understanding each other more, but sharing of skills was limited to the weekly tasks we gave each other. I was tasked to appreciate the garden more. She would say ‘… talk to the flowers and plants you water and they will grow for you’ or ‘… climb the stairs five times a day but remember to hold the handrail and then check your blood sugars afterwards’ and ‘… I task you to send me two Bollywood Song videos a day’. This allowed me to step away from my computer and appreciate the privilege of being outdoors in the garden, to start exercising and to become a researcher for her Bollywood film choices. The tasks I gave her were to take a couple of photos every day, to spend more time in her garden, to recommend her favourite Bollywood films, to watch the news less and take photos of her knitting and dress making.


Over the next four weeks conversations became less about the pandemic and more about my mother’s childhood memories, her sense of identity, and the things we were looking forward to post-lockdown. It was good for us to both make discoveries about each other, about our family, about her childhood memories of her mother, and our love of Bollywood film songs. I asked my mother how she felt the collaboration went and she said, “I am really pleased I can now take a photo and view it. I certainly won’t forget now. It’s made me happy.” I asked her what she didn’t enjoy, and she said, “I don’t understand the art you are doing but if it makes you happy then carry on.”


Photo Credit: Harbhajan Kaur. Title: Me


I’m hoping all the documentation I have gathered over the last four weeks will help me think through my practice from a new perspective and potentially take it into places not previously considered. Certain topics and future possibilities are emerging: my identity in relation to the name I was given, conversations of experiences of our childhood and memories of when she first came to the UK. I am considering new ways of documenting these topics through audio, photography, handwriting and travelling research.


I have titled this project ‘Extremely Valuable Person’ because through all the hardships my mother has gone through, from arriving in this country from the Punjab in 1962 (she remembers how cold, bleak and hostile it felt but she made the UK her home), raising six children virtually on her own, maintaining a difficult factory job for many years and never being late or taking a day off sick – she is just inspiring. Ultimately, we are both discovering more about our relationship, the differences and similarities that are often not talked about, celebrated or accepted.


I asked my mother for her final thoughts. “Although I am happy in the UK, I am really missing India and hope I can visit again and perhaps we can go together for the first time.”

Dan Auluk reflects on his recent Micro Bursary activity – a collaboration with his mother Harbhajan Kaur. He used the project to make dedicated time to focus and to tackle some of the anxieties of this pandemic period.

My 25 year old son Kallum is learning disabled and autistic. His support network, which has been in place for several years collapsed due to the Covid-19 pandemic and as a result he is in a near constant state of distress. The routines that structure Kallum’s week have disappeared. Familiar faces and places can no longer be seen. Unexpected behaviour from those around us such as clapping on doorsteps breaks the usual social rules and creates sensory overload.

I am therefore focussing my attention on helping Kallum process what is happening and to developing coping mechanisms to get through today, tomorrow and the months to come. We are doing this together through art, more specifically through dialogue, collage and assemblage.

Whilst we are all finding lockdown difficult, for people like Kallum who experience life differently it is proving to be a huge challenge which is adversely affecting his mental health, confidence, independence, and wellbeing and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future. Our artwork conveys, in some small way, the experience of lockdown for Kallum.



This work has been supported by an Engine Micro Bursary, designed to document artists’ experiences of the COVID-19 pandemic through new research and making.




A collaboration between Helen Garbett and her son Kallum who is learning disabled and autistic, exploring his experience of lockdown. Supported by an Engine Micro Bursary.

Ania Bas, Reasons, 2020, 2 digital posters, design by Rose Nordin. Commissioned and supported by Heart of Glass and New Art West Midlands.

In the midst of the pandemic I have been continuing to argue with myself: is having a child a selfish choice, the only way to bring hope, a distraction, a solution?

These prints are based on a longer piece of text written during the lockdown by Ania Bas.


Ania Bas, Reasons, 2020, 2 digital posters, design by Rose Nordin. Commissioned and supported by Heart of Glass and New Art West Midlands.


Ania Bas, Reasons, 2020, 2 digital posters, design by Rose Nordin. Commissioned and supported by Heart of Glass and New Art West Midlands.

Ania Bas presents Reasons, a series of digital posters designed by Rose Nordin. The works are taken from a longer text supported by an Engine Micro Bursary.

“I’ve never signed on in my life, and I’ve worked every day since I was 15. I’ve worked more hours in a week than you’ve done in your life”

Spoken as if the words were to lacerate the throat of another, and lasso their tongue before it ran wild with accusations of idleness or dependency. Not all things are said in jest, and not all words were spoken together, yet in unison they speak of father and son.

Hereditary hate hidden here, for anything other than blue, when we speak it’s lain bare. For years the conversations were poorly controlled passes, their intentions always best placed just never received. It was a breakdown in communication and an evaporation of commonality with no real indicator as to its source.

I never felt the need to be similar to the others, but I knew the differences created distances.

“Why don’t you sign on?” seemed like an acceptance of failure, a challenge to my nature. It was never that, but the idea of working every god given hour was indoctrinated into me.

I had to unlearn it, because there was a dissonance that would dissipate.

This work has been made by Adam Neal as part of a Micro Bursary he was recently awarded. The bursaries are intended to share how artists are responding to the unprecedented circumstances of the current Covid-19 pandemic.

This work has been made by Adam Neal as part of a Micro Bursary he was recently awarded. The bursaries are intended to share how artists are responding to the unprecedented circumstances of the current Covid-19 pandemic.

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.

This work has been made by Emily Warner as part of a Micro Bursary she was recently awarded. The Bursaries are intended to share how artists are responding to the unprecedented circumstances of the current Covid-19 pandemic. 

Lockdown has provided ample time to mull over the reasons I want to / need to / oughta quit. Dis-location, mental health, professional pressure, impossible survival. How do you resign, when you’re a freelance artist, and you’ve had enough?

Click image below to access Emily’s response.



This work has been made by Emily Warner as part of an Engine Micro Bursary she was recently awarded. The Bursaries are intended to share how artists are responding to the unprecedented circumstances of the current Covid-19 pandemic.

How to be a Hermit - A Guide for Surviving Lockdown from One Who Knows Hermit: a person living in seclusion; a recluse. hermitic, hermitical, hermitish, hermiticaly, hermit-like, hermitry, hermitship 1 “Some are born hermits, some achieve hermitship and some have hermitry thrust upon them.” (sorry, William) Illustrated with a drawing from a medieval manuscript of a man dressed in a brown shift blowing a musical pipe and banging a drum.Hello you. Welcome to the new normal, this socially distanced, isolated world of stay-at-homes. In recent times you’ve unexpectedly joined the ranks of the contemplatives, the solitaries, the enclosed orders, the hermits; some of you more willingly than others. For some of us, the natural born hermits, this current stay-at-home world of lockdown has been a blessing and a balm. Illustrated with a drawing of a woman’s head and shoulders. She has long hair and red cheeks and is drawn in the style of a medieval manuscript Natural born hermits come in a range of colours and flavours: Some of us are happiest completely alone. Others enjoy a tiny community of friends and family. Still others are quite sociable, but still need a lot of alone time in between the parties. Come with me into the world of the hermit, I hope you may at least be entertained and maybe find empathy for a different kind of mind. Illustrated with a black and white stylised drawing of a woman’s head and shoulders and a cartoon of an animal, possibly a dog. Both are drawn in the style of the middle ages.I want to take a moment to reflect on the awfulness of being alone against your will. For people who are forced into a life of seclusion because of physical illness or injury, poverty, old age and metal ill health, an enclosed, isolated life is not a joy but a torture. I urge you to seek out the involuntary loners, the unwilling recluses, the stay at home sick and give them some love; call them up, let them know you are thinking about them, offer help. Don’t leave anyone alone who needs companionship. Illustrated with a drawing from a medieval manuscript of three kings standing together, each holding a hawk. Two of the kings are holding hands. A Short History of the Hermit There have always been hermits. A Slightly Longer History of the Hermit Throughout history and across the world, people have wandered away from their villages, towns and cities to live alone as hermits. Many moved away to a place of loneliness and silence in order to hear what their God/s is/are saying to them. Others become hermits because they want to test themselves alone in the wilderness, or because they just cannot stand all that damn rackett of people and civilisation any longer! Illustrated with a drawing of a medieval castle and surrounding buildings on a hill. In the foreground a cloaked and hooded figure of an older man sits on the ground reading a book. His feet are bare. Most human beings really love to hang out in groups. It’s probably why we started with a couple of straw huts and now have mega cities. You can clearly see the human need to be with other people if you’ve ever parked in a totally empty car park and your return find one other car has arrived. It’s parked so close to you you can’t get your door open. (Yes this has happened to me. Yes I’m still annoyed about it.) While the hermit, or solitary, has always been looked at with some suspicion by the rest of humanity, like a magnet they have also drawn the crowds. To avoid society, hermits have been walled up in rooms, lived on top of towers, taken to caves in the mountains, but still the press of humanity has come, seeking the hermit’s wisdom,. Illustrated with an Orthordox Christian Icon painting taken from a medieval manuscript. A bearded mans’ head and shoulders can be seen coming out of a stylised tower in the middle of a lake. An white building can just be seen at the side of the lake. The area behind the man is painted gold. During the late 17th century, there arose a fashion amongst the decadent elite for  How to be a Hermit: The Rules (according to me) Number one: Be alone. If you can’t be alone, you’ll hate being a hermit. As a hermit, you must prefer to spend the majority of your time (say, 70%) without other human beings around. However, hermits are permitted (even expected) to keep unlimited company with gods, cats, dogs, chickens, imaginary space aliens, as they prefer. Illustrated with a drawing from a medieval manuscript of a hooded and robed hermit sitting outside his hut looking at a man-shaped beast with the head of a wolf and huge claws on its fingers and toes. The beast seems to be talking to the hermit. Number two: Be interested For many, the whole point of being a hermit is being able to spend as much time as possible pursuing one’s area of interest/s without being interrupted by pesky people. Harsh, but true. Illustrated with a brightly coloured painting from a medieval manuscript of monk scribe seated at his writing table. The background of the image is gold. Number three: Be idle The life of a hermit is a life of contemplation. For religious hermits fervent and continuous prayer is the ideal. For the secular hermit active idleness, contemplative pondering of one’s special interests, should form a significant part of one’s daily round. Idleness and interests go, oddly, hand in hand. Illustrated with a humorous drawing of a sleeping man dressed in medieval clothing. He has his chin in his hand and is wearing long pointed shoes that curl up at the toes. Number four: Be (somewhat) Organised There is a fine line between being a hermit and being completely out of your tree. The demarcation line is to be found in organisation. You cannot, as a hermit, let things go. Managing a diary for your infrequent social responsibilities, cleaning yourself and your hermitage relatively frequently, maintaining routines, these things will keep you on the right side of sanity. Illustrated with a humorous drawing of a half naked man wearing a loin cloth and holding a tree branch n one hand. His other hand rests on a vase which has been upturned and seems to be spilling water or wine. Number five: Be (a little bit) Social People need people. This fundamental rule of life cannot be avoided, even for hermits. No one is 100% self sufficient; the greatest challenge for the hermit is balancing the need to be alone with the necessity to interact with people, to care for family, make a living, navigate society. It’s probably the hardest thing for hermits to get right and society could help by making more home-working available. Hermits everywhere are watching the outcome of lockdown and increased homeworking with deep interest. Being able to earn a living and not leave the home/hermitage would be life changing. Illustrated with a drawing from a medieval manuscript. A woman in nun’s habit is visiting a hermit in his hut by a river. The hermit is dipping one toe into the water.4. Quiet: Hermits value silence. The ideal hermitage is on the mountain top or in the wooded valley. A beach hut in a lonely cove or an island croft. Not only are these places far from society, the intrusive and mechanical noises of modern life are replaced with the sigh of wind and song of birds. (There are hermits who enjoy loud noises and raucous music and the city din. They are rare and peculiar) 5. Noticing the small things: flowers, beetles, the smell of rain, the crusty pleasure of toast, etc. 6. Enjoying the big things: Trainspotting, star gazing, listening to the same song on repeat, talking to gods, sci fi box sets, online bookshops, MMU games etc.7. Simplicity: Shops and hermits don’t mix well, which is good because most hermits are poor. Happy hermits embrace frugality. 8. The uniform: you can wear whatever you like as a hermit, go naked if you prefer! Hang fashion (unless you love fashion) and sizeist judgmentalism; you wear that moth eaten but very soft Captain Picard t-shirt and dinosaur pyjama bottoms as much as you want (but pay attention to Rule Number Four, see above) 9. Being authentically yourself: You don’t have to pretend when you are a hermit. It’s just you (and whatever gods / pets / space aliens you chose to share your hermitage with) so you can sing, dance, flap, rock, warble, put on silly voices, sniff, fart and whistle to your heart's content. Illustrated with a simple decorative border in blue, black and gold taken from a medieval illuminated manuscript. Two greyhounds are chasing a stylised deer along the bottom of the border.7. Simplicity: Shops and hermits don’t mix well, which is good because most hermits are poor. Happy hermits embrace frugality. 8. The uniform: you can wear whatever you like as a hermit, go naked if you prefer! Hang fashion (unless you love fashion) and sizeist judgmentalism; you wear that moth eaten but very soft Captain Picard t-shirt and dinosaur pyjama bottoms as much as you want (but pay attention to Rule Number Four, see above) 9. Being authentically yourself: You don’t have to pretend when you are a hermit. It’s just you (and whatever gods / pets / space aliens you chose to share your hermitage with) so you can sing, dance, flap, rock, warble, put on silly voices, sniff, fart and whistle to your heart's content. Illustrated with a simple decorative border in blue, black and gold taken from a medieval illuminated manuscript. Two greyhounds are chasing a stylised deer along the bottom of the border.


…kruse is a neurodivergent, multidisciplinary artist and current BOM Fellow. …kruse works collaboratively with AuTCRONE, a semi-fictional digital/human cyborg from the year 2120.

Their practice explores the human and trans-human, informed by their divergent neurology, person-hood, gender expression, enhanced sensory input and communication difference.

Themes and interests include the climate crisis, identity, neurodivergence, ageing, disability, gender expression, isolation, communication, solitude and community.


End comment

For many neurodivergent and autistic people the need to stay at home during the Covid-19 crisis may have come as a welcome respite from ‘normal’ life. While we are missing beloved friends and family, we are at least not having to navigate the sometimes confusing and stressful world of work and social obligations that can make life extra difficult for us.

The things that most of my NT (neuro-typical) friends seem to be missing are things that I am greatly relieved to be relieved of; community activities, festivals, parties, shopping, crowds, social busyness. Even if autistic people do enjoy some of these things, they come with extra stressors, sensory and social, that NT people don’t have to deal with.

Conversely, the things that most people find difficult during this lockdown, solitude, isolation, only being able to meet others online, being confined to the home, hours or days spent not talking to another person, may actually make life less stressful for many neurodivergent people.

Personally, I’ve always secretly fancied being a  hermit, in the style of the 19th century garden hermits; wherein an artist, poet or philosopher would live in solitude in a rustic hermitage in the grounds of some aristocrat’s estate, writing in peace and solitude, occasionally visited by the gentry and consulted on matters artistic or philosophical. In recent years I have been working with people and organisations to make workplaces and galleries more inclusive and accessible to autistic people. I believe that there could be some positives coming out of this awful pandemic as organisations and employers see that working online is much more feasible than previously thought. Being able to work, socialise and access arts events online could do a lot to lessen the social stress that many autistic people have to cope with on a daily basis. Access to different working patterns, more flexible work times, homeworking and digital workplaces could all help to make access to work a reality for autistic people, who currently have one of the highest unemployment rates of any socially disabled group.

May 2020

Image attribution for How To Be A Hermit by …kruse 2020

Pic 1: Bear and dancing horse from British Library Royal 20 D IV, f. 237v
Image taken from f. 237v of Lancelot du Lac.
Pic 2: Detail: Marginal drawing from British Library Arundel 413, f. 10
Marginal drawing of of a dog? and a human half-bust figure, in the Sermones de quadragesima. Image taken from f. 10 of Sermones de quadragesima.
Pic 3: Detail: Marginal drawing from British Library Arundel 413, f. 10
Marginal drawing of a human half-bust figure, in the Sermones de quadragesima. Image taken from f. 10 of Sermones de quadragesima.
Pic 3a: Three kings from British Library Royal 10 E IV, f. 258v
Detail of a bas-de-page scene of three kings standing together, each holding a hawk. Image taken from f. 258v of Decretals of Gregory IX with glossa ordinaria (the ‘Smithfield Decretals’)
Pic 5: Image from page 105 of “A short history of engraving [and] etching : for the use of collectors and students; with full bibliography, classified list and index of engravers” (1908) Year: 1908 (1900s) Authors: Hind, Arthur Mayger, 1880-1957 Publisher: London : A. Constable
Pic 7: Luke of the Stylites (Menologion of Basil II).jpg Wikimedia Commons
Pic 8: A Mountainous River Landscape with a Hermit and a Chapel ca. 1570–83
Matthijs Bril the Younger, Met Museum
Pic 10: Devil and hermit from British Library Royal 10 E IV, f. 113v
Detail of a bas-de-page scene of a devil and a hermit outside a hut. Image taken from f. 113v of Decretals of Gregory IX with glossa ordinaria (the ‘Smithfield Decretals’). Written in Latin.
Pic 11: Hermit from British Library Royal 14 E III, f. 6v
Detail of a miniature of the hermit writing at a desk. Image taken from f. 6v of Estoire del Saint Graal, La Queste del Saint Graal, Morte Artu.
Pic 12: Woman from British Library Sloane 748, f. 79v
Image taken from f. 79v of De caelo, De anima.
Pic 13: Image from British Library Harley 2506, f. 42v
Image taken from f. 42v of Phaenomena (also known as the Aratea).
Pic 14: Nun visiting hermit from British Library Royal 10 E IV, f. 130v
Detail of a bas-de-page scene of a nun visiting a hermit. Image taken from f. 130v of Decretals of Gregory IX with glossa ordinaria (the ‘Smithfield Decretals’).
Pic 16: Tournament from British Library Royal 20 D IV, f. 225v
Miniature of trumpeters and jousters at the tournament, with a bas-de-page scene of hounds chasing a stag. Image taken from f. 225v of Lancelot du Lac.


Multidisciplinary artist …kruse was recently awarded an Engine Micro Bursary. Their piece How to be a Hermit: A Guide to Surviving Lockdown from One Who Knows explores some of the pleasures that lockdown has afforded them as a neurodivergent person and aspiring hermit.

We recently redirected the focus of our next round of Engine Micro Bursaries (a go-and-see resource in previous years) towards evidence gathering around the impact on artists’ livelihoods caused by the Coronavirus outbreak and the unprecedented measures taken to slow the spread of the disease.

We invited artists and arts professionals living in the West Midlands to share experiences of the current situation – case studies and points of view around practice in these exceptional times. The 10 artists selected to receive a Micro Bursary of £250 are:

Dan Auluk

Ania Bas

Helen Garbett

Dion Kitson

… kruse

Taz Lovejoy

Joanne Masding

Demi Nandhra

Adam Neal

Emily Warner

Almost 60 applications were received and the panel were very impressed with the strength and quality of artists’ responses to and stories of the current crisis right across the region. We were by turns moved, saddened and uplifted by what we read and the decisions we had to make were very difficult.

We are grateful to our panel of selectors which included Melanie Pocock, Ikon Gallery; Hannah Taylor, Asylum Art Gallery; Adelaide Bannerman, International Curators Forum; Anne de Charmant, Meadow Arts; John Cussans, University of Worcester; Mike Layward, DASH and Glen Stoker, AirSpace Gallery.

Our website and social media accounts will be places to gather focus points including the impact on studio-based artists, on freelance curatorial activities, on practitioners based in rural contexts, on the student perspective, and on artists and curators who are commonly disadvantaged due to race, class, gender identity, sexual orientation, religion and disability.

Each of the 10 artists will be supported to make and research within this unprecedented context. We will be sharing results of their work – be it video, text, audio, drawings, photography or other responses – on our website and social media channels over the next few weeks.

We recently invited artists and arts professionals living in the West Midlands to share experiences of the current situation – case studies and points of view around practice in these exceptional times. We are pleased to announce the 10 artists receiving support via our Engine Micro Bursaries scheme to share their stories.

Work by Andy Sargent

Engine, the professional development programme run by New Art West Midlands and The New Art Gallery Walsall, partnered with Outside In earlier this year to offer artists living in the West Midlands the opportunity to apply for Micro Bursaries towards bespoke professional development activities.


Outside In is a national charity that supports artists who face significant barriers to the art world due to health, disability, social circumstance or isolation and the bursary was directed to its artists or those artists who meet its criteria.


We are delighted to announce that we have been able to offer three bursaries to artists Corinne, Finn and Andy Sargent, based in Worcestershire, Shropshire and Warwickshire respectively.


From a pool of strong applications, the panel, made up of staff from each of the three organisations, were particularly impressed with the clarity of these three proposals. The impact that the bursaries might make on the development of Corinne, Finn and Andy’s individual practices was evident. The Outside In Engine Micro Bursaries, launched back at the start of February, were aimed at covering the costs of, for example, research visits to exhibitions, festivals or sites of interest, attendance at seminars, workshops and conferences, travel and accommodation.

Corinne, A Bedtime Story #3, 2020


Corinne will use her bursary to attend Friday Morning Pottery and Hand Building Ceramics classes at Worcester Arts Workshop, equipping her with skills in hand building, ceramic and glazing techniques. She views the workshops as research into the use of clay, allowing her to gain skills and develop ideas so that she can build masks to use within her photographic self-portraiture. Find out more about her work on her website here.


Finn, TEXTILE (1)


Finn currently has an Unlimited R&D commission to research haptic art with Coventry University and is creating a life-size fish tank with interactive animated fish that can be felt using haptic sonic sound waves. The bursary will be used to research haptic technology mixed with organic materials.


Andy Sargent, The tale of the horse and the monster


Meanwhile, Andy will use his bursary towards travel to visit galleries, including paintings by Alberto Giacometti for personal research, and to help pay towards travel to meetings, functions and open evenings when they resume. The bursary will help him to meet curators and to promote his work. You can find out more about Andy’s work via his website.


While these activities are of course not possible at the moment, we look forward to speaking with Corinne, Finn and Andy in the months ahead. They will be reporting back on their research and bursary activities for these editorial pages and for the Outside In website.


Engine partnered with Outside In earlier this year to offer artists living in the West Midlands the opportunity to apply for Micro Bursaries towards bespoke professional development activities. We are delighted to announce that we have been able to offer three bursaries to artists Corinne, Finn and Andy Sargent.

New Art West Midlands, Coventry City of Culture Trust and ARUP
Deadline: 5pm, Wednesday 29 April 2020
Lab dates: provisionally rescheduled for 13-17 July 2020
Location: Coventry, site tbc

We are delighted to announce a call out for an artist’s lab developed by New Art West Midlands, working with Coventry City of Culture Trust, ARUP and artist Simon Poulter.

The lab is open to artists from all art-forms including visual arts, photography, theatre, sound, live art, design, digital and any other hybrid forms. It is open to artists at all career stages as a professional development opportunity. You must be based in the West Midlands, within travelling distance of Coventry.


We will be working with ARUP, with input from their Midlands team, based in Solihull. Artists will have the opportunity to explore some of the emerging technologies that ARUP are working with, including LIDAR (​Light Detection and Ranging).

Active Reality is a way of describing site related and site specific public artworks that incorporate a range of elements. We are encouraging participants to think about work that is located in a place, has narrative form, uses episodic approaches (‘releases’), incorporates digital and has live elements. We expect collaborations and new partnerships to emerge from the lab.

What will it be like
These labs are based on a method that Simon Poulter devised in 1997 at Dartington College. They encourage peer presentation, engaging with new processes and taking risks in your working practice. The lab environment is intensive, friendly and encapsulates both practical skills and theory. There will be exploration of Coventry as a city, along with sessions run by other professionals. You will learn new skills and have the opportunity to present your own work to peers. It has been described as ‘like doing an MA in a week’.

If you have any particular needs around mobility or access you can identify these to us in advance, as the lab is built around the participants. If you are accepted onto the lab, we will call you beforehand to discuss the process with you and any particular questions you have.

Commitment level
You have to be able to commit to the whole week. It is not a course, it’s an intensive lab.

Professional Development, food and honorariums
This is a professional development opportunity to develop your practice. However, we acknowledge that equal access support is needed, to make this open to participants on lower incomes. We offer a flat rate honorarium of £300 to every participant. Food is covered for the duration of the lab.

Practice and process
The active reality approach aims to fold live performance, digital outputs and site specific production into new work. Artists are encouraged to work outside of their normal skill sets and consider wider producer models for making new work.

The lab will combine practical input from previous projects, with taught technical sessions. One day of the lab, will incorporate a site based session working with one of ARUP’s team members to see how LIDAR can be used to capture high resolution data and then be manipluated on other media (e.g VR). Alongside this artists are invited to reflect on their own practice and engage in a peer-to-peer environment.

Taught sessions will include an introduction to web based augmented reality using AR:JS, hands on developing with VR tools such as HTC Vive and work with sound. We will look at how to devise projects combining media to create impact and new work.

Artists do not have to have previous experience of technical tools and may arise from any artistic background and skill level.

Other notes
We will provide food but are not offering overnight accommodation for artists. You will be resident in the West Midlands area and able to attend for five days in Coventry.

There are 8 places available for the lab.


To Apply

Provide your full name, email address, telephone number and address.

Provide 500 words about the work you do and the challenges you face in your practice. Tell us about what you have been making in the last year and what you would do if you had the right resources. We are looking for artists at all career stages who want to find some new directions in their work. We particularly welcome applications from diverse candidates, or artists that have not followed a traditional art education track. (You do not need an art degree to apply.)

Places are limited for this lab but in rare circumstances we will consider artists who work as part of a shared practice (up to two people). If you apply as a duo, then provide one application for both people with relevant CV and imagery of shared practice.

Send us some web links or a digital portfolio (up to ten pages as PDF format). Please keep the file size under 15MB.

Please email applications (your 500 words and web links or digital portfolio) as a single PDF document to by 5pm on Wednesday 29 April 2020. Please include ‘Active Reality Research Lab’ in the email subject line.

If you have queries about the lab or application process you can email 

The deadline has now been extended for the Active Reality Research Lab, developed by New Art West Midlands, working with Coventry City of Culture Trust, ARUP and artist Simon Poulter. The lab dates will be rescheduled for later in the year. Dates to be confirmed.

Engine, a professional development programme run by New Art West Midlands and The New Art Gallery Walsall, is pleased to be partnering with Outside In to offer artists living in the West Midlands the opportunity to apply for Micro Bursaries towards professional development activities of your choice. Two artists will be awarded a bursary of £500 each.

The Outside In Engine Micro Bursaries are aimed at covering the costs of, for example, research visits to exhibitions, festivals or sites of interest, attendance at seminars, workshops and conferences, travel and accommodation. (Please note that this fund is not designed for the production or the exhibition of work.)


Work made by Thomas Wynne as part of a period of research supported by an Engine Micro Bursary, 2018.



These Outside In Engine Micro Bursaries are specifically for artists who face significant barriers to the art world due to health, disability, social circumstance or isolation.

You can apply for the Outside In Engine Micro Bursary if you are an Outside In artist and live in the West Midlands region. The bursaries mark the development of the organisation’s programme launching shortly at their Midlands hub at Compton Verney in Warwickshire.

(A further series of £250 New Art West Midlands / Engine Micro Bursaries open to all artists within the region will be launched in March 2020.)

Artist Support Day

If you would like help with applying for this opportunity or help signing up to Outside In you can book onto an Artist Support Day. We will be running this at The New Art Gallery Walsall on Tuesday 25 February, 10.30am – 5pm.

Please contact José Forrest-Tennant, Outside In Midlands Regional Coordinator, to book on to this.


How to apply

You should complete the application form which can be downloaded here:
Outside In Engine Micro Bursary application form.

An easy read version of this information can be downloaded here:
Easy-read-Engine Micro Bursary information

In your application form, please send a link to your Outside In online gallery with the text from your artist statement, 3 images of your work as jpegs, video links or other digital formats which can include audio files. We will also need up to 250 words from you telling us what you propose to use the bursary for, why this is important for your work and a budget detailing your activity.

Please email applications to with ‘Micro Bursary’ in the subject line.

Application deadline: 12 noon, Wednesday 18 March 2020.


If you require this information in alternative formats or any additional information regarding this opportunity, please contact José Forrest-Tennant on 07496 997 333 or  



About Outside In 

Outside In, founded in 2006 at Pallant House, Chichester, aims to provide artists with the support and confidence they need to enter the art world. The organisation’s work covers three main areas: artist development, exhibitions and training. These activities, supported by fundraising and communications, all aim to create a fairer art world by supporting artists, creating opportunities and educating organisations.

Since its inception, the organisation has engaged with more than 5,000 artists traditionally excluded from the mainstream art world, reached a quarter of a million audience members and gained more than 80 partner organisations nationally. It has held more than 50 exhibitions to date and now provides opportunities and support for more than 2,600 artists. In the next three years the charity will work to create a national platform to support the delivery of its programmes. It will do this through working in partnership with key strategic arts organisations across the UK to act as hubs of activity and support.



Outside In, New Art West Midlands and The New Art Gallery Walsall are committed to widening access to our opportunities. Audio or video recorded applications may be submitted via Vimeo or YouTube by those facing barriers in applying. 

If you have any support requirements or would like to discuss this further, please do get in touch with Anneka French, New Art West Midlands Co-ordinator on or 0121 300 4309. 


José Forrest-Tennant, Outside In Midlands Regional Coordinator on or 07496 997 333


Engine is pleased to be partnering with Outside In to offer artists living in the West Midlands region the opportunity to apply for Micro Bursaries towards professional development activities of your choice. Two artists will be awarded a bursary of £500 each.

Work by Laura Dicken

New Art West Midlands, Grain Projects, Aarhus Billedkunstcenter and Galleri Image are delighted to announce that Laura Dicken has been selected as the successful recipient of the International Bursary 2020. Laura will now undertake a period of research in Aarhus, Denmark, in March 2020.


Work by Laura Dicken

Laura’s research proposal was selected by representatives from each of the four organisations from a batch of very strong and exciting proposals. The panel were particularly impressed by the focused, specific approach Laura took to her proposal and by the clear case she made for the impact of the bursary upon the development of her practice.

Laura’s work ‘You Are Another Me’ explores migration through the lens of the female (and female identifying) experience. The project includes portraits and stories of women from a broad spectrum of socio-economic backgrounds and ethnicities who have, for various reasons, migrated alone. By facilitating the telling of these disparate stories she hopes to bring new voices to the migration narrative and to highlight not only the vast differences but to celebrate and illuminate the many similarities. Having worked with participants in Copenhagen, in a pilot of this project, Laura is now able to use her research methodologies to connect with communities in Aarhus, to promote understanding, compassion, international cooperation and collaboration.

Laura’s ongoing body of work is a series of projects which are collaborations with individuals, communities and arts organisations. Through her work Laura hopes to create opportunities for previously untold stories to be shared authentically and with agency. Her process is built around meaningful connection, conversation, workshops and photography. Laura is interested in illuminating the shared human experience and celebrating the extraordinary ordinary.


New Art West Midlands, Grain Projects, Aarhus Billedkunstcenter and Galleri Image are delighted to announce that Laura Dicken has been selected as the successful recipient of the International Bursary 2020.

Engine, the professional development programme for artists and curators in the West Midlands region, begins a new series of events focused on curatorial practice for 2020.

The Curators’ Network (formerly the Curatorial Research Group), developed in partnership with independent curator Lucy Lopez, aims to investigate contemporary curatorial practice and research, as well as championing its development in the region and bringing together art workers across the West Midlands and beyond.

Events will take place at a number of host organisations right across the region. Each will focus on a particular area of curatorial interest, examined through case study presentations, workshops and opportunities for networking. We aim to facilitate an informal and collaborative environment in which to critically discuss work and ideas. We are delighted to launch our programme with talks by curators Ian Sergeant and Sylvia Theuri.


Sylvia Theuri
2pm – 3.30pm
Friday 28 February
Coventry Transport Museum

Sylvia’s talk will explore strategies that can be employed to give space for a wider range of diverse voices in art exhibitions, with the aim of addressing inequalities and exclusions within the existing canon of art history.

Dr Sylvia Theuri is an educator, researcher, artist and curator with comprehensive knowledge and experience in critical arts education theory and practice. Sylvia holds a PhD from the University of Salford, which focused on Black African students’ experiences of higher education art and design. Her research interests include diversity and inclusion issues in Art and Design education; Race, Identity and the African diaspora; Contemporary African Art and the Black Arts Movement. Sylvia is currently New Art West Midlands and International Curators Forum Curator in Residence hosted by Culture Coventry at the city’s Herbert Art Gallery & Museum.

Interventions in The Story of Art – an excerpt taken from my addition to the contents page of E. H. Gombrich’s The Story of Art highlighting the invisibility of Black artists within the history of art. Image by Sylvia Theuri.



Ian Sergeant
2pm – 3.30pm
Friday 20 March
The New Art Gallery Walsall

Visual Representations of Black British Masculinities is an illustrated talk about Ian’s PhD research. It will focus on the methodological approach of ‘cut and mix’, a theory coined by art historian and writer Kobena Mercer in describing the practices of members of the West Midlands Blk Art Group of the 1980s that included Keith Piper, Donald Rodney, Marlene Smith, Eddie Chambers and Claudette Johnson. These artists’ works are central to this research.

Ian will illustrate how adopting a ‘cut and mix’ approach to his practice-based research has enabled him to utilise a range of critical and analytical methods including socially engaged arts practice, auto-ethnography and curatorial praxis to interrogate notions of Black British masculine identities and representation.

Ian is a member of New Art West Midlands Executive Group and Film Hub Midlands Advisory Group. He is a director of performing and visual arts organisation Kalaboration, Vivid Projects a non-profit company supporting media arts practice and artist led exhibition space Ort Gallery.


Photo credit: Marcin Sz – Reimaging Donald Rodney, Vivid Projects, 2016. Curated by Ian Sergeant.




The Curators’ Network activities and events are free and open to anyone with an interest in contemporary curatorial practice.

We will be inviting a number of regional, national and international curators to join us for sessions throughout 2020. Further events within the programme will be announced shortly

For more information please email or telephone 0121 300 4309.

The Curators’ Network launches a new season of activity with talks by Sylvia Theuri and Ian Sergeant in February and March.

Last year James Lomax was awarded an Engine Micro Bursary to undertake a research trip to Madrid. He reports back: 

I was very fortunate to be awarded one of the Engine Bursaries last year which I used for a research trip to Madrid. I had not visited Madrid before. The trip had two purposes; to visit museums and galleries (in particular the Museo del Prado), and to also make new connections in the city.

Madrid is rich with museums and galleries, and the Museo del Prado is at the centre of this. It was somewhere I had wanted to visit for a long time. It is the main Spanish national art museum and is renowned for having one of the finest collections of European Art in the world. It houses work from the 12th to 20th Century, based upon the Spanish Royal collection, and includes both painting and sculpture. Artists in the collection include Francisco Goya, Hieronymus Bosch, El Greco, Peter Paul Rubens, Titian and Diego Velásquez.

My practice is largely installation based, with a focus on print and sculpture, and is often influenced by and in dialogue with painting. I particularly wished to visit the Museo del Prado to experience Francisco Goya’s Pinturas Negras or Black Paintings and Hieronymus Bosch’s The Garden of Early Delights triptych. Goya’s Pinturas Negras consists of fourteen deeply moving paintings which the artist painted in oils directly onto the walls of his Madrid home in the latter years of his life. Not only dark in tone, the paintings are of far darker content, reflecting Goya’s bleak outlook on life – not only his own, but also reflecting the political climate at the time.

Hieronymus Bosch’s collection of paintings in the Prado combine works on board and larger panel works which are two sided, hinged, triptychs. The Garden of Earthly Delights triptych is a three part painting depicting the spherical earth when closed. Upon opening, the panels depict the fall of humanity, starting with Adam and Eve on the left and a descent to hell on the right. The colour and exquisite detail in the painting, undertaken in the late 1400s, is immense and overbearing. The experience of the Prado itself is one that reflect upon often. It was great to be able to witness these paintings in the flesh and to allow them to make their mark upon my own work.

During the course of my four day visit I was able to visit the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía to see Dorothea Tannning’s exhibitions, Behind the Door, Another Invisible Door as well as the museum’s incredible collection. I also made a trip to Factum Arte, a specialist in art conservation and fabrication. Factum Arte seeks to construct a bridge between new technologies and craft skills in the conservation of cultural heritage and in contemporary art. They use their technologies to create identical replicas as well as recordings so that these works could be recreated in the event of being destroyed by a natural disaster etc. As well as this I attended a number of openings over the course of the visit and was able to meet with Madrid based curators and artists.

Last year James Lomax was awarded an Engine Micro Bursary to undertake a research trip to Madrid. He reports back.


Salt Road artist directors Jaime Jackson and Dr Sally Payen received funding support from New Art West Midlands and the Spanish Embassy for Cultural and Scientific Affairs to travel to Bilbao 2-9 May 2019 to develop contacts and make partnerships for Biocity and the Fall, Salt Road’s visual Biophilic art exchange project between the Birmingham and the West Midlands and the Basque Country.


During the visit we meet with climate scientists at BC3 Centre for Climate Change as well as public realm/environmental artist and architects Urban Bat and Jessica Llorente. We also made contact and agreements to proceed with Officers from Bilbao City Council and Vitoria City Council.


BioCity and the Fall is a joint Salt Road and BC3 Centre for Climate Change international visual art relational program. The project focuses on biophilic/biomimicry art to create new toolkits for people to co-create their own biophilic environments. A public realm sited installation, exploring climate change and biophilia.


We plan for the exchange to deliver the following artwork commissions:
– Moving image works
– Co-created globe artworks showcased in public space installations across partner cities
– Internet of Things commission


The project will be inspired by the personal stories of climate change researchers at BC3 Basque Center for Climate Change. We will be creating moving image art by interviewing the researchers to humanise their stories, inspiring our community workshop participants to co-create art. The exhibition in Bilbao will be part of BC3 and the University of the Basque Country Faculty of Arts climate change and art programme June 2020.

Results/agreements for the network follow meetings

BC3 researchers have told us that they have difficulty in engaging the public with the facts around climate change. Future proposed actions:
– We will engage young people in workshops with climate change science the extinction of species and the loss of biodiversity, by co-created globe artwork through relational practice.
– Connect communities from the Basque Country with those in Wales and the West Midlands, through the Welsh Audit Office Mutual Benefits program and the Biophilic City Network (Birmingham and Vitoria-Gastiez).


Workshops to engage communities of young people will take place in Bilbao, Vitoria-Gasteiz, Birmingham and Cardiff. Public realm site specific installations will take place in a public popular park spaces in Bilbao (site to be confirmed), Vitoria/Gasteiz, Birmingham and Cardiff.

– Interviewing BC3 scientists: Summer/Autumn 2019
– Community workshops in UK: Autumn 2019
– Exhibition in UK: Spring 2020
– Community workshops in Spain: Spring 2020
– Exhibition in Bilbao: June 2020 & Vitoria-Gasteiz Autumn 2020


The funding from New Art West Midlands paid for flights to Spain and transport in Spain, which enabled us to develop and secure our network of partners there. With Urban Bat offering to be our gatekeeper into the creative engagement sector in Bilbao, BC3 being our climate scientists and the city councils of Bilbao and Vitoria (Vitoria is the other European Biophilic City along with Birmingham. Project development was funded by the Spanish Embassy Office for Cultural and Scientific Affairs, and New Art West Midlands. Alongside New Art West Midlands, partners include the Spanish Embassy Office for Cultural and Scientific Affairs, New Leaf Sustainability, Welsh Audit Office, Cardiff Metropolitan University, Birmingham City Council, Vitoria- Gasteiz City Council, Birmingham City Council, STEAMhouse and the Biophilic City Network.


The project will link Wales, the West Midlands and the Basque Country. We expect the project will be extended to Oslo and Reykavik in 2021. Further funding applications will be made in each country to deliver the project outputs

Salt Road artists Jaime Jackson and Dr Sally Payen report back from their research visit to Bilbao in May, part funded by an Engine Micro Bursary.

Image: Ian Richards

Image: Ian Richards

Trevor Pitt reports on TRANSMISSION, a pilot project funded through our Engine Micro Bursaries last year.

TRANSMISSION is a pilot project devised as part of my Engine bursary research into setting up a radio platform in Digbeth, Birmingham from which all programmes are made by artists, musicians and composers based in the West Midlands.

In 2018 I was awarded an Engine bursary to support my research and training into radio and online broadcasting with the objective of setting up an arts radio station in the West Midlands. To support the testing out of a pilot and training in audio and radio, I was also awarded a bursary from a-n and support from my Forge commission with Multistory.

The research culminated in the launch of TRANSMISSION, a two week pilot of an online radio station which will ran from 7 – 21 December 2018 on

The radio makers include: Andrew Jackson, Andrew Hamilton, Andy Spackman, Bobbie Gardner, Cathy Wade, Carolyn Morton, Clare Lyndsey, Dan Auluk, George Reiner, Henry McPherson, Ian Richards, Jose Arroyo, Mark Murphy, Michael Wolters, Mike Johnston, Mo White, Paul Norman, Paul Wright, Tolley & Georgiou and Ben Sadler.

The aims were to carry out research into the practicalities of setting up a low cost radio station – evaluate the pros and cons of broadcasting online and via a radio frequency – learn how to use professional audio editing software – learn how to use professional radio streaming software – test out my idea for a dedicated arts radio station broadcasting from the West Midlands.

As part of my research I carried out online research, I visited radio stations, talked to academics and received 1-2-1 and online training.

I used the Engine bursary to visit Sound Art Radio (Totnes), Resonance FM (London) and Phonic FM (Exeter). The bursary has enabled me to gain invaluable advice from those ‘in the know’; Patrick Cunningham (Phonic FM) and Lucinda Williams (Sound Art Radio.)


Review and outcomes of my bursary

The project began in May 2018 with desk-based research into online radio webcasting and over the airwaves radio broadcasting. I looked at the legal and practical considerations of both options.

In June I set up a series of conversations with experts in the field and talked to them about my idea to set up an arts radio station based in Birmingham from which all the content would be made by artists, composers, musicians and writers. Each conversation was invaluable and helped me to shape my thinking in terms of creating a conceptual framework for the station, and guided me through some of the practicalities of testing out my idea. One of the drivers for the conversations was ‘Should I use the FM broadcasting or an online platform for the pilot?’

My first conversation was with Siobhan Stevenson who is an independent Radio producer and academic who has recently submitting her PhD ‘Discourses of Community Radio: Social Gain Policies in Practice’. I have known Siobhan for many years, so was able to have a very relaxed and open chat. She was very supportive of the idea behind the project, and much of our conversations were about the practicalities of setting up the pilot. She offered suggestions about how it could be sustained in the long term. One of Siobhan’s suggestions was to adopt a subscription model in which there would be a general programme of broadcasting that would be ‘free to all’ accompanied by services that people would pay to get access to. The other area we talked about in great length was the feasibility of broadcasting over the airways using either an FM or DAB signal. She signposted me to further information to research temporary licences and the new opportunities that were in the pipeline for using DAB multiplexes.

My next meeting was with Tim Wall (Professor of Radio and Popular Music Studies, Birmingham City University). He was on Sabbatical from his University, but gave me his time, and we had a convivial chat over lunch in the sunshine. Our conversation revolved around the questions of ‘What is Radio?’ and ‘Why is radio relevant in the 21st Century?’ I always have a very lively and challenging conversation with Tim and this was no exception. Like Siobhan, he was very supportive of the idea to create a dedicated arts radio station in Birmingham, and he thought that I should take the opportunity to experiment with the format.

As part of the bursary I travelled to the South West on a 3 day visit which included meeting with the Director of Exeter Phoenix Arts Centre Patrick Cunningham who set up Phonic FM, and spending a couple of days in Totnes with the Artistic Director of Sound Art Radio Lucinda Guy.

Through the conversation with Patrick, he talked about how Phonic FM evolved from a radio station set up in 2003 to support Exeter’s annual Vibraphonic Festival which ran for one month each year. In 2007, Exeter Community Radio (which broadcasts under the name of Phonic FM) was set up to bid for a full time licence from Ofcom which was granted in late Autumn of that year. Their output is largely music, both live and recorded, focusing on those tunes and genres you won’t often hear on mainstream radio. They support the arts (in the widest sense) in and around Exeter, publicise events and encourage innovation and participation. It is a volunteer run organisation, and Patrick talked about the reality behind the need for all the volunteers to be well trained and feel responsible for the upkeep of the station. As well as talking about the day to day operations, we also looked around the station and talked about equipment that would be needed. What I took away from this conversation was the scale of undertaking the setting up of a fully operational community radio station.

After Exeter I drove to Totnes and spent time with Lucinda Guy. Sound Art Radio is set in the grounds of Dartington Hall.  The station is run by volunteers and supported by a board of directors. It began as an experimental student radio station at Dartington College of Arts, and in 2009 became the community (and still experimental) radio station for Dartington and Totnes, regulated by Ofcom. The visit to Sound Art Radio was key to my research as it gave me an in-depth insight into running a station. As with my conversation with Patrick, we talked about the work involved in supporting a community/artist-led radio venture. Also like Phonic FM, the station began with a pilot project from which the station became fully realised over a number of years. One of the key aspects we looked at together was the pilot that I would undertake, and we both came to the conclusion that it would need to be an online service. Lucinda gave me some practical advice on what I would need and offered to support me through the process. She recommended that I attend the Community Media Association (CMA) annual conference in September which I duly did. Lucinda is the Chair of the CMA, and we were able to catch up again at the conference. She introduced me to some of the key people currently working in community radio which was a great way to expand my network in this new field.

My final visit was to meet with Peter Lanceley at Resonance FM, the UK’s leading community broadcast platform, operating two radio stations across FM and DAB Digital Radio in Central London and Brighton.

Peter is responsible for editorial, web and technical development, fundraising and programme management. Resonance has always been a touchstone for my idea to set up a station in Birmingham, and Peter was incredibly supportive of the idea and even went on to suggest that we may be able to exchange programming. We looked at the technical set up and again Peter recommended going down the online route for the pilot.

Now that I had a clear idea that the pilot would be an online station, I set about researching the various platforms and set up 1-2-1 training sessions with sound engineer Bridge Williams who helped set up systems for Brum Radio.

I was now in a position to set up the station and begin the pilot. My original idea was to subscribe to Airtime Pro ‘Starter Package’ for 3 months and produce a pilot of 12 programmes to be broadcast weekly. After reflection I decided to subscribe to and rather than broadcast 12 programmes over 3 months, to programme 14 consecutive days.

The pilot was called Transmission and was launched at an event on 7 December as part of Digbeth First Friday. Programmes ran from 5pm every day until 21 December 2018.

The programmes were made by 24 artists, musicians, composers and writers and ranged from broadcasting new sound works, newly released works, mixtapes, podcasts and a daily feature of film reviews and documentaries. Full information on

Highlights from TRANSMISSION pilot

Composers Bobbie Gardner, Andy Spackman (Sad Man) and Robin Buckley (RKSS) each presented recently composed works. Artists Mo White, Andrew Jackson and Dan Auluk each presented soundtracks from moving image works they had made. Artist Ian Richards and artist duo Tolley Georgiou each presented dynamic sound collages that explored dark themes.

Composers Henry McPherson, Andrew Hamilton and Justin Wiggan each presented new works. Writer Mike Johnston presented a series of poetic works ‘Four Concatenations’. Artists Cathy Wade, Ben Sadler and Mark Murphy each experimented with the mixtape format in the making of 60 minute programmes. Paris based writer and broadcaster Paul Wright presented a daily edition of Ubanstates that explored art and well-being.

You can find links to all of the artists mentioned on the Transmission website ‘Meet the Programme Makers’:

Composers Michael Wolters & Paul Norman created a 3 hour programme, ‘Difficult Listening with Paul and Michael’ that introduced listeners to their work.

A series of podcasts ‘Eavesdropping at the Movies’ by film scholar from University of Warwick Jose Arroyo and former student Michael Glass were broadcast daily at 6pm, and included discussions of classics such as ‘Casablanca’ and recent release ‘BlacKkKlansman’.

Artist Carolyn Morton made an hour long soundscape ‘Round the World in 60 Clips’ that collaged field recordings made on her travels through Asia and South America

Artist George Reiner and academic Joash Musundi made ‘Aunt Nelly’ a programme that explored the relationship between ‘the diva’ and queer identity.

Over the fourteen days we had a steady level of listeners, and you can see from the below that was that people were listening from across the UK.

Internationally we had listeners from Netherlands, Germany, Austria, Spain, USA, Korea and Brazil.

I’m very excited about the future ventures and plan to launch a 6 month run in 2019-20.


If you would like more information about the future of TRANSMISSION or would like to get involved contact Trevor Pitt –

Trevor Pitt reports on TRANSMISSION, a pilot project funded through our Engine Micro Bursaries to support research and training with a view to set up an arts radio station in the West Midlands.

For ten days in July, Nottingham Trent University’s Fine Art studios and workshops host The Summer Lodge. The Lodge started as a means for busy academic staff to reclaim the experience of experimenting with their own practices without constraints or distractions during the vacation. More than a decade later, it has evolved, providing a collective space for thirty invited artists to undertake experiments, pursue new ideas and allow unexpected leaps of imagination.

There is a strong emphasis on a relaxed social/community environment with regular potluck meals (in fact, the Lodge starts with a shared meal), activities and opportunities for new dialogues and critical exchange. There is also a significant emphasis on research. The first week concludes with a symposium addressing a different topic every year, comprising presentations from a range of invited speakers from international academics to undergraduate students, followed by a panel discussion and participation from the audience. The 2018 Lodge provocation was ‘Autotelic/Toward Play‘ exploring ideas around playfulness and experimentation within artistic practices. We explored parallels between the immersion and absorption young children experience in their play, combined with reflection on our motivations when making work and on achieving a balance between working towards resolution whilst simultaneously leaving things open.

My starting point for the residency was examining the influence science has on the cosmetic dream of youthful and transformed skin – I had planned to make some simple salves (incidentally, the university workshop staff couldn’t have been more helpful and encouraging about my experiments). It’s interesting that the freedom to simply play, with no expectation that you need to make or show anything can result in considerable creative results. Making fairly effective salves is remarkably easy – I had a whole range produced after a couple of days and this actually became secondary to curiosity about the application and transformative effects.


Conversations with other participants prompted me to explore the mythology and plant lore in greater detail – the idea that our faith in the modern science behind cosmetics might be influenced by much older cultural paradigms. I researched and collected wild herbs from the local graveyard and botanical gardens and explored how I might harness their (purported) powers into my range of salves. Lodge members were also surprisingly enthusiastic about trying out some of my concoctions, although we learnt (the hard way) that some of the active ingredients like turmeric aren’t that pleasant on skin … The realisation that I needed a stand-in for real skin led to other surfaces that could be palpated and transformed resulting in some training on a sewing machine, which I had never tried before (alarming!).

Aside from being really enjoyable, the residency had a lasting impact on my practice, both in terms of my willingness to play more within my processes of making and also the range of materials I engage with. Certainly my interest in utilising ‘real’ and living materials in my sculptural and installation work started during the Lodge experience and some of the pieces I made and ideas I entertained during that ten day period continue to morph and evolve today.


Matt Gale reports on his residency at Nottingham Trent University’s Summer Lodge last year.

We are delighted to launch the open call for New Art West Midlands 2019 in partnership with Coventry Biennial of Contemporary Art, Herbert Art Gallery and International Curators Forum (ICF).

New Art West Midlands 2019 is a new model curated exhibition that takes place at Coventry Biennial of Contemporary Art, 4 October – 24 November, across a variety of sites in the city. Applications will be considered in relation to the unique context of the city and to the Biennial.

Coventry Biennial takes ‘The Twin’ as its theme this year. 2019 marks the 75th anniversary of Coventry’s twinning with Volgograd (formerly Stalingrad), Russia. As the world’s first formal international twinning, this is a significant moment which locates Coventry as an international, collaborative city. The Biennial will consider what twinning might mean within the context of contemporary artistic practice, explore the urgency of collaborative and participatory projects, and look at what happens when artists and others come together to make. The Biennial opens dialogues between artworks and place, presenting exhibitions in galleries, historical sites and the public realm in Coventry and its surrounding areas.

Following the enormous success of their Diaspora Pavilion during the 57th Venice Biennale in 2017, we are very pleased to announce that International Curators Forum will select a cohort of 20 emerging artists from diverse backgrounds to exhibit existing work at New Art West Midlands 2019 x Coventry Biennial.

Professional Development
In addition to participation in Coventry Biennial, a smaller cohort of diverse exhibiting artists will be selected to work in partnership with ICF and an appointed curator on a year-long professional development programme. This intensive period will support practice-based skills toward the development of new work for a further curated exhibition at the Herbert Art Gallery (Culture Coventry), in autumn 2020.

Applications are welcomed from visual arts graduates from Birmingham City University, Coventry University, Hereford College of Arts, Staffordshire University, University of Wolverhampton and University of Worcester graduating at BA, MA or PhD level in 2017, 2018 or 2019.

Diversity and diversification are key priorities for New Art West Midlands and our partners. We particularly welcome applications from artists with culturally diverse heritage or who explore diversity in their practice, as well as artists who identify as disabled and/or LGBTQI. Previously unsuccessful applicants are encouraged to reapply.

Applications should be submitted via our online application portal.

Deadline: 5pm, Monday 17 June 2019.





About New Art West Midlands

New Art West Midlands is the Contemporary Visual Arts Network for the region. Our purpose is to strengthen and develop the contemporary visual arts sector in the West Midlands, creating defining opportunities for West Midlands’ artists and curators, and working collectively to safeguard the future of artists and our sector.


About Coventry Biennial of Contemporary Art
Coventry Biennial of Contemporary Art brings critically engaged, high quality contemporary visual art to the city and surrounding area. Celebrating and promoting contemporary art and artists, the festival is equally rooted in the city of Coventry, its history and its future. The first Biennial took place 6 – 22 October 2017 in venues across the city, the centre-piece being the sprawling CET Building, now under redevelopment. 2019 is the Biennial’s second iteration, with the third taking place in 2021 as part of Coventry’s UK City of Culture year.


About International Curators Forum (ICF)
ICF develops and offers professional development opportunities for artists and curators, which include curating exhibitions and events that address diasporic culture in a global context; connecting professionals around the world through organised international networking trips and residencies. Past projects include the 2016-2017 international knowledge-sharing platform ‘Curating the International Diaspora,’ and the 2016-2018 professional development programmes ‘Diaspora Pavilion’ and ‘Beyond the Frame.’


About Culture Coventry
Culture Coventry is the trust that manages three of Coventry’s finest visitor attractions: Coventry Transport Museum, home to the world’s largest collection of British road transport, including the two fastest cars in the world; the award-winning Herbert Art Gallery & Museum, which celebrates the city’s culture, history and arts; and the Lunt Roman Fort, a fully excavated and partially reconstructed turf and timber fort, including the only gyrus in the Roman Empire. Between them, the attractions proudly tell stories of Coventry’s unique history to over 800,000 visitors per year from around the world.

We are delighted to launch the open call for New Art West Midlands 2019 in partnership with Coventry Biennial of Contemporary Art, Herbert Art Gallery and International Curators Forum (ICF).

After graduating from university in 2017 I was fortunate enough to have been awarded a New Art West Midlands Engine Micro Bursary in 2018. The bursary was to allow me to support the development of a major project by covering materials and travel costs, as well as acquiring further research resources.


The resulting project has become known as ‘D.E.F.E.’, a direct reference to the origin of the factual research documents. This award allowed me to purchase copies of declassified military files from the last active year of the Ministry of Defence’s UFO reports desk and hotline (2009). These became the backbone of the work and the thread that weaves throughout.


Upon enquiry at The National Archives, it was revealed to me that the copies that I had been able to download and print were the same versions that were held in the archives – “The digitised files with DEFE 24 relating to Unidentified Flying Objects, UFOs, are redacted documents. The personal information remains closed [redacted] for 30 years from the last working date of the file. Only a digital copy of the correspondence is retained, the original paper forms and correspondence were not retained by the Ministry of Defence.” This somewhat diverted my focus of attention, but also added tinder to the flame of conspiracy.

One of the major costs that the bursary helped to cover was the cost of photographic materials and processing. It was important to me that the project was shot on film because it has a built-in quality of supposed authenticity or veracity; anything on the film must be present to have been photographed. Not knowing what I would capture initially, and potentially chancing on a sighting of my own, I wanted to remove the element of digital manipulation in the initial stages as much as possible. The prolific photograph of the Solway Firth Spaceman, shot on an analogue camera in 1964, best illustrates the element of undeniable authenticity. Such that the film company Kodak offered a reward to anyone who could prove the photo was faked. It was never claimed.

The Solway Firth Spaceman, Jim Templeton, 1964.

As well as material costs, the award went towards travel costs to various galleries across the West Midlands; Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery, The New Art Gallery Walsall and The Herbert Art Gallery & Museum in Coventry to name but a few, not to mention travel costs scouting locations drawn from the DEFE source files throughout the region.


I would also like to use this opportunity to mention that I took a ‘break’ from the project. Having been institutionalised at university and having a predisposed expectation of how a project developed, part way through the project I began to struggle with the anxiety of production. I think it’s incredibly important for both emerging and established artists to be honest and open about mental health in the production process of a project, and if a break is needed to gain a better end result in the long-run, then one should be taken.


Upon re-establishing my own mental health and grounding for the project, I was also incredibly lucky to have been selected for the East Meets West GRAIN projects and FORMAT International Photography Festival Masterclass programme. This, combined with my new sense of rejuvenation really helped the project come to fruition. There were some images that didn’t make the cut:

As well as some more successful images that went on to be apart of the resulting series.


The final series is produced with grateful support from Nicola Shipley, Beth Kane, Katie Peters, Michael Sargeant, Matthew Murray, Andrew Jackson and Natasha Caruana in the form of project and portfolio reviews, as well as all of the other masterclass participants.


As a result of coming to a sense of completion with the project, images have been shown at the RBSA Photo Prize 2019, Format International Photography Festival, Derby Photo Fringe and ultimately resulting in a solo show at Artefact Projects in Stirchley, Birmingham.


The support that the award has offered has been multifaceted yet received with unanimous gratitude.


D.E.F.E. images:


East Meets West Exhibition at Derby Photo Fringe 2019.


















Thomas Wynne reports on his research visits and the development of his work exploring Unidentified Flying Objects.

Kunsthal Aarhus with Jillian Mayer’s ‘Slumpies’ in the foreground

In late 2017, I was selected for research project ‘Traverse’, with New Art West Midlands and Aarhus Billedkunstcenter. This project asked ‘What does it mean to be an artist working outside of your country’s capital region?’, and I was paired up with Aarhus based artist Mette Boel, to discuss our experiences and needs. We spoke at length over Skype and across email, the results of which can be accessed here.

Following this virtual activity, Aarhus Billedkunstcenter (AaBKC) invited me to visit Aarhus, and further develop my relationship with the city and the artists and organisations working there. While in Denmark, I also proposed to visit Copenhagen, as further food for thinking about capital city working and also to maximize the reach of the trip.

My initial plans to spend 3 days in Aarhus turned into a week, and the planned summer 2018 visit turned into April 2019, due to having a baby and taking maternity leave. My partner and baby came too. The week in Aarhus was a mix of visiting its many galleries and museums, meeting with artists in studios and curators, and getting a more general feel for Aarhus life. I was hosted by Aarhus Billedkunstcenter and their International Project Curator, Pamela Grombacher.

Aarhus is Denmark’s second city, like Birmingham, but considerably smaller in size and population. The major art centre there however, is huge. ARoS has 5 floors of galleries and a giant Olafur Eliasson permanent artwork ‘Your Rainbow Panorama’ and feat of engineering that has transparent coloured panels that leak all over the city. Its one of the numerous ways in which Aarhus presents itself as a city that values culture, and this flagship art centre, while I felt it was not particularly loved by artists working in Aarhus, is understood as being a destination for visitors and an advertisement of cultural investment.

I met with Jacob Fabricius, Director at Kunsthal Aarhus, and spoke about the ethos of the organisation and the arts in Denmark more broadly, as well as my own practice and the Traverse research project. I was really excited by the Kunsthal building, which began as a modest space, and has expanded horizontally and vertically at different times. I loved the sculpture garden that surrounds Kunsthal Aarhus, and particularly these fiberglass sculptures by Jillian Mayer.

Kunsthal Aarhus with Jillian Mayer’s ‘Slumpies’ in the foreground


Godsbanen is a production centre for ‘cultural entrepreneurs’, with wood, print, metal, ceramic (etc.!) workshops, offices for creative industries and music and theatre performance spaces. AaBKC have their office in the building, and Mette is starting up a new subsidized studio group with peers on site soon too. This publicly accessible production facility makes it feasible to make a variety of works in the city without needing to travel 4hrs to Copenhagen.

Tina Oxager spoons for sale in Godsbanen


We took a trip to Moesgaard Museum, 30 minutes out of Aarhus centre, which is a museum of Danish archeology and ethnography. It houses a vast amount of stuff, and the experience of displays and interpretation is highly choreographed: galleries have starry night skies, sound tracks, squashy bog-like floors and more. There were many wonderful artifacts and armatures to look at as research for my work.

Moesgaard Museum


The Friday night of my visit was coincidentally a warm evening with an unprecedented number of openings and events. Among others, I visited Charlotte Fogh, one of Aarhus’ commercial spaces with an exhibition by Aarhus based Julie Stavad, and the opening of large group exhibition ‘Tomorrow is the Question’, at ARoS.

Charlotte Fogh Gallery


Mette and I presented the findings of our Traverse project at AaBKC Social event while I was there. We spoke to a group of artists and public in KH7 studios, which Mette cofounded and where her studio is currently based. It was really useful to revisit the data and our findings from Traverse a year later, to check in about how things have shifted. Invited to the discussion were members of the Aarhus artist community who have recently relocated there from elsewhere, as well as longstanding members. Mette and I are now discussing how to further develop and disseminate this research to have a broader reach and impact.

I did studio visits with artists including Anne-Sophie Overgaard, Tanja Nellemann Poulson and Kamilla Jørgensen, and caught up with Mette about her practice. It was a great opportunity to talk practice, career trajectories and to explore whether works by Danish artists could be included as part of my online project Studio Outlet, which sells things made by artists.

Nyhavn, Copenhagen


In Copenhagen I visited Kunsthal Charlottenborg, which was presenting Europa Endlos, a group show about current events in European politics. I was struck by such a historic gallery and art school being so close to Copenhagen’s tourist hotspot of Nyhavn.

I visited artists Jason Dungan and Maria Zahle, who moved to Copenhagen from London five years ago. They have a beautiful home with studios attached, and it was a great opportunity to understand how Copenhagen operates for resident artists rather than the surface that’s experienced as visiting tourists.

While it’s simplistic to think about Aarhus and Copenhagen in a comparison of either this one or that one, and having only spent a couple of days in Copenhagen, it was easily Aarhus that stole my heart and suggested that it could be worthwhile to relocate there. Like Birmingham, in Aarhus I can see how it’s possible to work as an artist and live as a human, with other interests and a family, but Aarhus comes with the enviable Danish quality of life that no amount of artist-run spaces being setup in the grass roots of a city can amount to without top-level investment and provision of infrastructure.

The trip was a great marker of the beginning of my return to work post maternity leave, and offered energizing relationships and reminders of being part of a welcoming global community of artists. I’m looking into ways for my family and I to spend a more substantial amount of time in Denmark.

Joanne Masding reports from her recent visits to Aarhus and Copenhagen, Denmark, the result of an Engine Micro Bursary and the follow up to Traverse #2, a dialogue and research exchange devised in collaboration between New Art West Midlands and Aarhus Billedkunstcenter.

Research by artists Mette Boel (DK) and Joanne Masding (UK)
Organised in collaboration with Aarhus Billedkunstcenter (DK)

What does it mean to be an artist working outside of your country’s capital region? This is the main question behind the second edition of Traverse, Aarhus Billedkunstcenter’s research programme exploring artists’ working conditions across cultures. For this project, Aarhus Billedkunstcenter partnered with New Art West Midlands to consider the impact of peripheral geographies on artists’ working lives. We wanted to know, what challenges do regional artists face? What opportunities arise? How can we better support artists working outside of the cultural centre?

Mette Boel (DK) and Joanne Masding (UK) were selected via open call to explore these and other questions. Over the course of two months, the artists engaged in a lengthy written exchange examining their working lives in depth, considering a range of topics stemming from the theme of periphery. The following excerpt reveals how the twists and turns of their correspondence steer our collective research in unexpected directions.

Mette and Joanne broadened their research by surveying five artists from each of their respective cities, asking the artists to identify how they got their most recent work opportunities. Did the artists develop their own projects, did the projects evolve within their networks, or were they invited to participate in projects unexpectedly?

What structures do you build to facilitate the right headspace and working conditions?

Mette Boel: I don’t actually know if I have a specific way of working. I have both worked on exhibitions having no space to physically work and prepare in and therefore working mostly in my head and then I’ve also had periods of having much more physical space. Both things work for me. I think London for me was very much a very long exercise in adaption, being able to shift and being able to work from the onset of a feeling or mood or desire much more than working through material investigations as an example. After moving to Aarhus I have much more space than I ever had in London, this have prompted me to be more physically involved for longer stretches of time in my research and working process. This is important as I am trying to spend as much time in my studio making work as possible.

Some of the things I do to get in the right headspace is reading and writing and trying to reach an open and intuitive space within myself. I sometimes close my eyes and keep them closed until I can see quite clearly the work I want to create. This doesn’t work all the time. I try and get into where the flavour sits, the gist, the heart of it all. Because I make suggestive work and it for me is more a case of wanting to create a mood or a space, than for instance delivering a message or pushing a point I tend to dwell on things, keep them a bit open. Theory means a lot to me, but its something sitting on my backbone, something that is there as a base for thinking, reflecting and reacting and creating. It is not always predominant in the work itself.

Joanne Masding: To make good work, it’s important for me to live a life where being an artist is my job. I have gradually worked towards being in the position I am now in, where it is my main activity and how I earn a living, and I’m more productive when I can spend a fairly traditional proportion of my week at work. On the whole, this means not working during the evenings and at weekends, and having holiday. Spending the majority of my time in the studio on my own suits me well.I’ve been trying to build a solid studio practice, where I continue making work consistently, rather than making for opportunities when they arise. As part of this, I make the best work when I can allow things to resolve quite slowly. The pressure to know immediately what work is and what it’s doing can be stifling, whereas making room for being playful and unknowing usually leads somewhere more fruitful. Taking on new ways of working, whether process, material or form, takes some recalibration, so for this particularly I need room to understand how various components are behaving.

What is the best starting point for building a show?

Mette Boel: When I do my large total-installations, the space is crucial to me, the way it looks and feels. I like a closed space, so the mood does not seep out through cracks and doorways. I like things to be contained. I do not come along these spaces too often, which means that I only do large-scale installations maybe once a year. I feel like a big show a year is a good amount for me. I always need some time to contemplate my decisions and the shows general feel. And of course, it is always a quite costly affair to put on these shows, so it is important that there is enough time, to get the funding for realizing the show.

Another thing is time. Time is very important; to have time enough to develop the work so that it becomes something that takes up a place in my consciousness as something, which was really there, which existed. Something that stretched above the work and the space and the time it was on display. Potential for expansion, is very important to me. I like it when a work or a show leads to something new. For instance new collaborations, extensions of existing work ore new thoughts and ways of working.  This is why collaborations are important. To work with good people, and people whom I trust and who trusts me. The work must also demand its space, it need to be emphasized by a necessity to become. To be brought into the world so to speak.

Joanne Masding: The most successful shows that I’ve made have had a long lead-in time. As I’ve said, making new things is usually slow, and I often work with the materiality of the exhibition space, which also benefits from a longer timeframe. It can be challenging to talk about new work when I’m in the midst of it, and I’m still working out how to use curatorial/organisational support during this part of the process. Collaborations in this sense can be fruitful, but I build relationships slowly and it takes a lot of time before I can communicate easily. It’s ideal when I feel trusted to do what I do, and supported without too much need for tying things down early. Making shows is a really exciting part of being an artist, and the point when I properly get to experience the work for the first time. This is a high-risk scenario! I enjoy installing work, and in a dream world would have time to sit quietly with the work while I’m making an exhibition. Working with tech teams is relatively new to me, and I’m still practicing being decisive out loud.

What does recognition mean to you?

Mette Boel: Recognition is a funny one. I am all right with saying that I want the recognition. Its a bit of a high for me, its my drug. I’m addicted to it a little bit. And all addiction is bad in a way. I wouldn’t say however that recognition is the biggest driving force but like all other jobs, it’s great to do well and to be recognized for the work you do.
I sometimes come across people who have this idea that artists are doing art because they can’t help it. Like it’s some divine power running out the arm and into the hand, gods send in a way. That might be true for some artists, that it is a type of calling. To me it’s very much a decision. This is my life; this is what I enjoy the most. I put all my energy into it because I want to succeed. Creativity is probably an urge, like an itch, you have to do it. But to do it professionally, that’s a decision.

Joanne Masding: We quickly enter into psychological territory when talking about making work! Being an artist is a strange job. I’m making progress when it comes to the mental impact of being critical of your own activities – being regularly rejected and seeing peers go along their own trajectories – but it’s still hard. There is usually a voice wondering whether it’s enough, or good enough, and it can take effort to hear the other voice that knows you’re working hard and doing what’s needed. The critical voice can be useful to a point for being spurred on, and receiving recognition from elsewhere can too. I try not to compare recognition I receive – feedback, show invites or reviews – to what anyone else is getting. Instead I try to put effort into keeping my focus on where I’m at, what I want to happen next, and what I’m enjoying, rather than getting sucked into assessing myself against other people’s CVs. I’m not looking for an astronomical rise and celebrity art career. If I can keep making work, keep working as an artist and keep progressing, I think that will be recognition enough.

How do you have critical conversations about your work and how are they critical to your development?

Mette Boel: Since being out of education I haven’t had as many critical conversations as I used to I guess. But I think it is a good thing. Instead of constantly being asked critical questions and being asked to position myself against other artists or ways of being an artist, I have more focus on my own work. However, that is not to say that critical conversations are not important to me. They are hugely important, but the situations in which I have these conversations must be real. Not awkward and superficial. I prefer a good old one to one conversation. Maybe it has to do a little bit with being in control. If I want to, I can ask an artist or a curator to come for a studio-visit. I can choose who and when and I really appreciate not having to talk about my work at stages where it is not ready to be talked about.

Joanne Masding: Always needing to translate things into language can be tricky. I put pressure on myself when I’m making anyway, so I’ve been trying to find the best ways to get critical input that’s also supportive. I’ve recently been a participant in alternative post-graduate education programme School of the Damned, which involved lots of group crits in the same vein as art school. It’s through experiences such as this that I’ve been working out what I need and what I respond to best. I don’t like having to justify work to a group, and compete against big personalities for air space. Instead I love one-on-one conversations that are critically supportive and energizing and that send me off on new tangents and with more thoughts. I’m trying to build genuine relationships with people who I share common interests with, then I can have supportive conversations reflecting on work that are both useful and enjoyable, and don’t cripple confidence.Working in a fairly small community of artists in the city, I have friends and peers who have an understanding of my practice and who I can talk to about making and work quandaries. While I love working alone, knowing that I’m part of this group is reassuring.

What does ambition mean to you? How do you feel about being ambitious? How are you ambitious? How does ambition affect the work?

Mette Boel: To be ambitious is not something I feel like I choose to be. It is something that is just there as a premise and a need for being able to work the way I do and with the things and people I do. Whether or not it is healthy to be ambitious is another thing. For me it is definitely important to be clear on for whom I am ambitious. Is it for myself and is it a drive that I need to keep my practice running or am I ambitious because I need recognition from people outside of myself, and my practice. I try and channel my ambition into focus on my work and the things that happen in my studio. At times I try and keep a bit to myself, to just work and not look to hard at what everyone else around me are doing.

Joanne Masding: I feel conflicted about the idea of being ambitious. In one respect I agree with needing drive to push ideas, develop and shift out of getting too comfortable, but in another I’m conscious of ambitious being a stand-in for bigger, louder, harder, and this doesn’t fit well with my personality and the tone of my work.I’m also aware of the pressure to be ambitious, and hear it talked about particularly in relation to younger artists. It’s a quality that I feel that I’m judged against, and I think this can lead to feeling as though there’s a rush to achieve certain things, such as a first solo exhibition, rather than being able to focus on making the best work.



Notes on tactics and things that have worked for others

  • Expand network by working as technician/exhibition photographer
  • Have a specific way of working/area of interest and be a good fit
  • Apply to open calls when friends are judges
  • Keep up long relationships, get another show when curator moves
  • Initiate through network of contacts – use network pro-actively
  • Invite people to the studio
  • One show leads to another – invite curators to meet in the show


See the artists’ original survey data here.

Research by artists Mette Boel (DK) and Joanne Masding (UK), organised by New Art West Midlands in collaboration with Aarhus Billedkunstcenter (DK) on working outside the perceived centre and what that means for practice. An Engine professional development opportunity.

Andrew McNiven: Untitled (Belgian Autoroute Services), 2018. HD video, multi-channel audio (work-in-progress)

My application to New Art West Midlands’s Engine Micro Bursary scheme was to support research within Northern Europe in which I visited a number of significant museums and galleries to make video and audio recordings and photographs, generating source material for a new project.

Provisionally entitled ‘Hum’, this new project uses video in which sound is the primary source, in this case the sonic environment of the museum. This work will be audio described in a new collaboration with Dr Louise Fryer of University College London, BBC Radio 3 and the National Theatre, in which we aim to experiment with and examine the potential of applied audio description in relation to visual culture, as both a way of increasing access, and to explore the experimental use of audio description forming part of the works’ content, as a creative contributory element itself. To Dr Fryer’s and my knowledge this has never been explored previously.

Andrew McNiven: Untitled (Belgian Autoroute Services), 2018. HD video, multi-channel audio (work-in-progress)

The Micro Bursary enabled me to extend an existing trip for pre-planned projects at Greylight Projects in Brussels and NP3 Artspace in Groningen and spend several days researching filming, photographing and sound recording in museums and galleries in Belgium, the Netherlands and France. These included the Mauritshuis, Museum Boijmans van Beuningen (Rotterdam), MHKA (Antwerp), Musee des Beaus Arts Lille, and others. Many of these were previously visited as part of my AHRC-funded practice-led PhD almost a decade ago, examining the conditions of display in the museum. I was able to generate a significant amount of research material with which to further develop my work.

In addition to the planned museum visits, there were also useful, and perhaps productive ‘collateral’ opportunities – filming and recording a Belgian motorway from the service area provided the source material for a potential work with a Ballardian sense of place; the seaway entry to Rotterdam’s Europoort offered a kind of ‘hum’ and scale hard to find anywhere else in the world.

Caravaggio: Boy Bitten by a Lizard, 1594-1596. Installation at MHKA (Antwerp) as part of exhibition Sanguine/Bloedred


Ed & Nancy Keinholz: Five Card Stud, 1969-1972. Installation at MHKA (Antwerp) as part of exhibition Sanguine/Bloedred (originally inc. in documenta 5 in 1972 before disappearing for nearly forty years).

I was also able to encounter previously unseen works: Ed & Nancy Keinholz’s rarely seen ‘Five Card Stud’ (1969-1972), originally part of documenta 5 in 1972 before disappearing for nearly forty years, and one of two versions of Caravaggio’s ‘Boy Bitten by a Lizard’ (1594-1596) from the Fondation Roberto Longhi in Florence – the other being in the National Gallery in London – both part of ‘Sanguine/Bloedred’, Luc Tuymans’ vivid exploration of the baroque at MHKA in Antwerp.

Being awarded the Engine Micro Bursary has also been useful in providing leverage for funding the wider ‘Hum’ project, and I have been successful in securing a significant award through the Kerr-Fry Bequest from the University of Edinburgh towards this.

That the bursary supported both the planned and the unplanned is significant. In allowing an artist time, opportunity, new experiences and encounters, the potential for new ideas is supported. The value of this is huge.

Andrew McNiven used his Engine Micro Bursary to visit a number of significant museums and galleries in Northern Europe to generate source material for a new project. He reports back.

In June 2018, I had the opportunity to experience the 10th Berlin Biennale We Don’t Need Another Hero for the energetic, coffee/kebab fuelled, gloriously sunny opening week.


This was my first experience of this renowned biennale and my second time in Berlin. I went to consider the themes posed by the curator Gabi Ngcobo, with a curatorial team made of Moses Serubiri, Nomaduma Rosa Masilela within the biennale’s context of Berlin. It was described in the press release as “explore[ing] the political potential of the act of self-preservation, refusing to be seduced by unyielding knowledge systems and historical narratives that contribute to the creation of toxic subjectivities”. The biennale title – a Tina Turner song – indicated to not finding answers. Rather, the curators invited “contradictions and complications” of “willful disregard for complex subjects”, typified by this funny, assertive and lyrical title.


Over the past couple of years, I have learnt that art fairs and festivals are a time for quiet contemplation and an opportunity to see a huge amount of art. I was profoundly moved by two works in the biennale, which I saw at the KW Institute for Contemporary Art. Firstly, Liz Johnson Artur’s video work “Real…Times” (2018) and secondly, the mixed-media exhibition “Untitled (Of Occult Instability) [Feeling]” (2016-18) by Dineo Seshee Bopape, that included works by Jabu Arnell, Lacell Workman and Robert Rhee. Dineo Seshee Bopape’s practice has been eloquently described by curator Osei Bonsu as “So complex are the fragile constellations … [they] evade the easy didacticism of a casual description.” Which I can only say from my experience, is true; this exhibition was an exceptional experience. The sounds of Nina Simone’s live 1976 performance of Feelings played around the amber-orange, industrial, dilapidated landscape as water droplets fell from the ceiling into buckets that were strewn across the floor. Each artist inhabited their own part of this environment, cumulatively creating an environment that invited exploration.


Dineo Sheshee Bopape, Untitled (Of Occult Instability) [Feelings] Other works on view include: Jabu Arnell, Discoball X (2018); Lachell Workman, Justice for___ (2014); Robert Rhee, EEEERRRRGGHHHH und and ZOUNDS. Photo: Timo Ohler


Liz Johnson Artur’s exhibition, showed work from her Black Balloon Archive that includes photographic representation of people of African descent. I watched her video work “Real…Times”, which lasts just over 15 minutes twice fully, and would have watched a third time if it were not for the queue that formed behind me. The work was filmed in London and showed a man preaching in the street and being arrested, women presenting on the radio, a young man – these are part of the visual components of this work that faded between each scene as a montage – moments in time that were overlapping one by one. The work felt so honest, hand-crafted and deeply personal – it is one of the best pieces of moving image I had ever seen and I look forward to watching it again to fully explore this work. Liz Johnson Artur has her first solo exhibition at South London Gallery opening in June 2019 which I am very excited to see! Also, Dineo Sheshee Bopape has an upcoming exhibition at Towner Art Gallery in Eastbourne, opening in June this year which I am looking forward to if anyone would like to see these artists work in the UK.


Liz Johnson Artur, Real…Times video from Black Balloon Archive, 1991–ongoing, installation view. Image courtesy of Berlin Biennale. Photography by Timo Ohler.


In a biennale context, spending an unusually long period of time with an artist’s work and to not quite know why is a great feeling – usually emotional – as you start taking your questions and thoughts around the festival with you, gauging a deeper sense of the biennale themes. It felt as though these artworks were here for me as they offered some meaning or truth. Of course this is not the case but with an overwhelming amount of art to see, these moments are precious and long-lasting. Another work that consumed all my attention was Mario Pfeifer’s film “Again / Noch Enimal” at Akademie der Künste – a feature length 60-minute work. The luxury of having so much time to give to each exhibition was an absolute joy.


Whilst in Berlin I visited artist collective Lou Cantor and discussed their work with them, which was an academic, insightful and fun conversation. We discussed the internet, AI and lots of other topics, including their recent publication Intersubjectivity Vol II – Scripting the Human (2018). I had the delight of working with Lou Cantor on my Masters project in 2017 and it was great to finally meet them face-to-face. Serendipitously I became friends with Scottish artist Caitlin Hyne who was studying in Germany whilst I was in Berlin. Her work and company was/is most stimulating. It was useful to meet other curators and artists whilst in Berlin – a couple of whom I have kept in touch with. Another artist’s work that I had the pleasure of seeing was Sam Samiee’s exhibition at ZK/U, which is a “production site” for research and artist residencies. I found the forms in Samiee’s work inviting and curious, and on reflection I wish I had written about this work in-situ as I feel I would have gained a lot out of this process. I follow Samiee on Instagram and always look forward to seeing what he shares (@aarsaam). Following these artists on Instagram is a useful way to “follow” the many artists you come into contact with in fleeting moments – whether it’s productive is a concern for another day.


Sam Samiee, The Unfinished Copernican Revolution (2018). Mixed media. Exhibition view: We don’t need another hero, 10th Berlin Biennale for Contemporary Art, ZK/U – Center for Art and Urbanistics, Berlin (9 June–9 September 2018). Courtesy the artist. Photo: Timo Ohler.


Biennale themes, titles, guest curators, branding, catalogues, the parties and even tote bags can be indicative of that year’s particular objective – one driving theme. Yet, as a visitor, when in the midst of a biennale, the expansive programme spread across many venues isn’t a succinct experience to take in during one week. Therefore the curator’s approach, drawing to the fore the complications and contraindications of socio-political issues worked well, as it wasn’t a didactic programme – it was expansive. I enjoyed that I didn’t leave with a singular opinion but left grateful to the organisers for sharing artists and exhibition possibilities that were previously unknown to me.


Thank you to New Art West Midlands for providing me with a Micro Bursary which was hugely helpful for this trip. I am grateful for non-tangible research outcomes. My current area of interest is thinking about festival models and curation, and having the opportunity to see the 10th Berlin Biennale was an enriching experience that feeds into my developing curatorial practice. I am delighted to say that I will be visiting the Venice Biennale (for the first time ((and my first time in Italy!)) and this trip has been supported by the Art Fund’s Jonathan Ruffer Curatorial Grants. Going to a festival for research is an incredibly exciting opportunity and valuable for developing curatorial methods, and specifically, developing ways to engage with visitors.


Laura O’Leary is Programme Assistant at QUAD, Derby and a freelance writer.

Curator Laura O’Leary used her Engine Micro Bursary to visit the Berlin Biennale back in June 2018. Read more about her research here.


Back in July 2018 I got the opportunity to visit Berlin for the Berlin Biennale. Despite previously visiting Berlin on multiple occasions, this year sparked my first visit to the Berlin Biennale. Being in its 10th year as an arts festival across Berlin this felt like an important year to visit as they take the time to reflect on how they have developed and look forward to their future as an arts festival in this ever growing and vibrant city. We don’t need another hero is the title for this year’s Biennale and it had the art scene standing at a cross roads for both contemplation of historical moments and the possibility for new and future political action. As an anniversary for the Biennale it was interesting to see how the organiser’s used this milestone to their advantage or disadvantage and hopefully set the tone for the next few years of the festival.

As a visitor I was approaching the Biennale wearing two hats, my about-to-start-final-year CSM-Fine-Art-student hat and my just-worked-as-production-manager-at-the-new-Coventry-Biennial hat. With these two perspectives in mind I had a very interesting and quite critical experience. I found it very valuable to be in this position, looking both for inspiration and references for my practice and dissertation research as well as also viewing the exhibitions and overall experience from an arts professional viewpoint.

I gave myself a healthy four days to visit Berlin as this gave me enough time to enjoy each of the four venues that the Biennale had to offer. As soon as I arrived I headed off to the first venue which was the Akademie der Künste, the Fine Art Academy in Berlin. For me this space, exhibition and overall feel was not to my liking and somehow I felt like this might have set the tone for the rest of my visit. Having shows in university buildings are always a challenge, fighting against the institution’s architecture and trying to separate itself from any feeling of being a degree show. I also couldn’t help but notice that it had a similar wooden block floor to ‘the street’ in CSM that has been breaking apart for years. However, when taking in the works there were a couple that really stood out for me. One video piece that immediately caught my eye was all voices are mine (2010) by Basir Mahood. Having not much budget and only one day to shoot, the video created comprised of poses and actions alongside other actors. Mahood sees this work as a collaboration between himself and his fellow actors which I feel sits perfectly with the overall concept of the Biennale and also sits well with my own collaborative practice. In contrast to that approach I was also very interested in the work of Sondra Perry and her video in the Biennale, IT’S IN THE GAME ‘17, looks at the forces that control space and analyses its sometimes problematic ways of classification and reading.

As the main venue for the Biennale, the KW Institute for Contemporary Art did not disappoint. Spanning the whole of the gallery, KW managed to engulf me into its many spaces and house me for a few hours. Showing artists that have helped define what this institution is was a powerful way to set the tone for the show and created a rich selection of artists for the Biennale. Personal highlights were Fabiana Faleiros’ Mastur Bar – a travelling bar that offers an extended programme beyond the walls of the Biennale. From celebrating female masturbation through music and a social space to performances looking at the use of our fingers and gestures, the multi sided project within the mini basement area of KW acted as a curious oasis within the show.

The venue that has stuck with me since my visit has been the Volksbühne Pavilion; an interesting glass construction situated next to the Volksbühne Theatre. Having a rich history of housing previous artists’ projects and performances, this space housed Las Nietas De Nonó’s interactive installation for the duration of the Biennale, opening up the space for performances and participation. As an installation in itself it felt very intriguing for such a small space and almost acted as a little utopia. It gave off similar feelings to Post Modern Plant Life, a 1 week artist residency I took part in housed in an artificial hot house in Leamington Spa; especially with its use of portable technologies, plants and cooking tools. Despite visiting the space when no event was happening, I felt that this space acted as the centre of many discussions within the Biennale and that by being located in this space that the future was ready for us and we were ready for it with camping stoves and selfie sticks.


My final day saw me getting the tube over to ZKW-Center for Art and Urbanistics to catch the last show of the Biennale. Using the 10th Biennale as a moment to re-establish connections with collectives that previously used the space felt very potent and this could clearly be felt in the works exhibited. Even though initially I felt as though I’d entered a political underground Berlin club in the middle of the day when absorbing work, when it came to seeing Heba Y. Amin’s project rightly named Anti-Control Room I was left blown away. Unnervingly blurring the lines between history, present day and the potential futures, Amin created an incredibly in-depth project that explores utopian visions and alternative political worries. The multi-channel video left me both in awe and in turmoil being faced with an alternative reality that in many ways we are already playing out in our own parallel universe.


Coming away from Berlin and my first Biennale visit I was left with an interesting mix of opinions and feelings. As a visitor coming at a quiet time in their public programme I peacefully made my way around the venues alone taking in the shows and exploring Berlin, which made my visit very subdued and flat. However, what came from uncovering the subtle decisions in selection and curation of the different shows built up a much more lasting effect on my Biennale experience that I would not have previously expected. Building on previous relationships, expanding programmes and addressing political issues collectively with new and exciting artists, the Biennale, despite feeling quite tame on first meeting, tackled some very important issues and have set themselves up as an arts festival for an exciting few years ahead. We definitely don’t need another hero, we just need a lot more cooperation.

Engine Micro Bursary awardee Emily Roderick visited the Berlin Biennale back in July 2018. She reflects on the trip here.

The Manifesta Hub

The Manifesta Hub

Earlier in the year Selina Oakes visited Manifesta 12 in Palermo, Sicily with an Engine Micro Bursary. She reports on her trip and the effects of the roving Biennial on the city.

Palermo is a confluence of migratory flows. Positioned at Europe’s Southern tip and Northwest of the Middle East, the Mediterranean city’s identity has been shaped by a plethora of civilisations: traces of Greek, Roman, Norman, Arabic, Byzantine and Ottoman influences reverberate through the street, fusing with contemporary narratives to make for an intoxicating destination. In 2018, Palermo is placed under the gaze of Manifesta. In the words of many locals, “What is Manifesta?” It’s neither an exhibition, a performance, a festival nor a conference, but all and more combined. It’s a roaming, nomadic, contemporary, at times collaborative and explorative platform; one which showcases predominantly new work by artists residing in or responding to Europe.

With the support of an ENGINE and New Art West Midlands Micro Bursary, I travelled to the Sicilian capital to better understand Manifesta 12’s curatorial trajectory of “cultivating coexistence” amidst Palermo’s vivacious cultural fabric. As a visitor, I cannot say that, after five days, I know Palermo intimately – far from it. Its winding streets, frequently interrupted by boisterous scooters, led me off-course on an hourly basis. It’s a feisty city with a millennia-old history and a population who is equally dismissive and proud of their nationality. For decades, Sicily has followed its own trajectory and, until recently, Palermo has been heavily influenced by the Cosa Nostra. In navigating the town, a prevalent street art movement weaves its way between UNESCO heritage buildings, while unbeknown alleyways are studded with blue-LEDs in preparation for the Feast of Santa Rosalia. 

After reading Mayor Leoluca Orlando’s statement that “Manifesta 12 is not a foreign body fallen upon the city like a meteorite but the result of sharing and fostering visions, aspirations, projects and dialogues,” I was intrigued to understand how a nomadic Biennial could connect with and build a legacy in this Palermo in such a short space of time? And what type of legacy does it wish to leave behind? “You think you’re going to come to Palermo and not have problems? Think again,” commented an invigilator, whom, regardless of her remark, saw Manifesta in a good light; “it’s changing the city – bringing money and employment.” But are these changes down to Manifesta? Palermo is also Italy’s Capital of Culture 2018 and already has a burgeoning artistic scene.

Maltide Cassani, part of Tutto, Palazzo Costantino

Much like its host destination, Manifesta is complex. It works bilaterally between Palermo and Amsterdam – it has two teams, one based in Sicily and another in its Dutch offices. For the first time, Manifesta hit the ground running two years before the main event; it has also recruited a group of Creative Mediators to develop its 12th edition concept, The Planetary Garden. Cultivating Cooexistence. Taking its title from Gilles Clément’s The Planetary Garden (1997), Manifesta 12 updates the book’s portrayal of the Earth as a garden that is tended to by the human gardener by infusing it with Palermo’s horticultural jewel, Orto Botanico, and Francesco Lojacono’s View of Palermo (1875) – a 19th Century painting which illustrates the city’s multi-national plants species. Collectively, The Planetary Garden is a poignant reminder, in these xenophobic times, of the diversity that exists in what we perceive as being “native.” 

On paper, Manifesta’s curatorial concept makes for a crucial antidote to Europe’s closing-borders. One of its three sub-sections, Garden of Flows, pursues the notion of a “transnational commons” through explorations of “toxicity, plant life and the culture of gardening.” The second sub-section, Out of Control Room, examines “power in today’s regime of global flow,” identifying the migrant crisis and data privacy as two major players, while the third, City on Stage, incorporates Palermitan dialogues into a global context. As a whole, visitors are given the opportunity to reassess contemporary themes from a Mediterranean perspective. In speaking with Chiara Cartuccia, M12 Curatorial Coordinator, she worded it as “everything is looked at through the lens of Palermo. That’s the original thing – the gaze, the eyes that you are adopting.”

And it’s true: the vibrant flora, the exotic smells from Ballaro’s markets and the heat from the cobbled pathways, all influence your understanding of the works exhibited. In many ways, I engaged with sites and concepts that would, ordinarily, not be on a tourist’s itinerary. Far from ‘alternative-sight-seeing,’ Manifesta’s use of otherwise covert buildings enable audiences to access a different version of Palermo. The Biennial Hub, staged inside Teatro Garibaldi, marries deck chairs and topical books with terracotta walls and rustic alcoves. In our conversation, Cartuccia highlights these invaluable choices: “The decision not to use institutional spaces was a brave one. While it’s been a struggle in terms of bureaucracy and architectural implementation, hopefully, with regards to this theatre, it is just the beginning.”

Gardener Tour, Orto Botanico

Orto Botanico, one of Europe’s oldest and largest botanical gardens, is another example of Manifesta activating unusual spaces; albeit it is already a thriving and much-loved destination. In an ornate greenhouse, Alberto Baraya playfully assembles 21st century herbariums from fake flowers: he connects with Palermo in an excursive manner, paying attention to the floral offerings at its numerous votive shrines. Nearby, American artist Michael Wang‘s The Drowned World (2018) examines the cyclical nature of plant toxicity: firstly, through a bubbling bed of algae and secondly via a forest of ferns grown in the ex-AMG gasometer site. While these works are in-situ, there’s an innate sense that they are insular and do not necessarily coexist with their fellow Garden of Flows exhibitors.

Fallen Fruit, Palazzo Butera

Negating this doubt is Leone Contini‘s allotment – the result of 10 years of collecting seeds and narratives from farmers in Sri Lanka, the Philippines, Turkey, China and beyond. Inside, a Sicilian cucuzza thrives alongside its international relatives – a prime illustration of the ‘coexistence’ of plants, cultures and nationalities – while the allotment’s positioning in a former colonial section further upends historical hierarchies. In Palazzo Butera, LA-collective Fallen Fruit presents Theatre of the Sun (2018), a dazzling enclave of citrus and flora-patterned wallpaper. As though to update Lojacono’s View of Palermo, the piece details the edible fruit growing in Palermo’s urban landscape – it’s accompanied by a Public Fruit Map of Palermo to encourage visitors to seek these out for themselves. Continuing with the theme of “growth,” Cooking Sections‘ interventions at Giardino dei Giusti and Spasimo use dry watering techniques to cultivate plants in parched climates. 

Much like the plants that inhabit Palermo, Manifesta’s artists are predominantly multi-national: but, here, a lack of Palermitan creatives is noticed. The positive in this is that it invites practitioners to introduce concepts which are not automatically evident in the city’s everyday workings. Out of Control Room – perhaps the more sombre of the three sections – looks outwards, incorporating works which assess the flow of “global powers,” i.e. people, data, goods, plants, microbes and money. At Palazzo Forcella de Seta, Europe’s migrant crisis surges to the fore in Forensic Oceanography‘s research into the Mediterranean’s militarised border regime. The first of four works, Liquid Traces (2014), reveals details of the “left-to-die boat” case in which 72 migrants drifted for 14 days during NATO’s military intervention in Libya in 2011. The film’s narrator candidly describes the boat’s fatal journey as it drifts past nearby vessels and military-controlled zones.

Peng! Collective takes a different approach and subtly slams the EU’s border control policies by inviting members of the public to become “Escape Agents.” Become an Escape Agent (2015) uses short videos to promote the idea of helping refugees across internal EU borders – in one film, a German couple, returning from holiday, lend a hand to a refugee. The tongue-in-cheek piece is accompanied by a live website with details on how to proceed and a Crowdfunding campaign to assist Fluchthelfers now facing legal prosecution. These are concepts which affect the whole of Europe – including Palermo, which finds itself at the edge of where Europe meets with Africa and the Middle East.

Though the representation of Palermitan artists is low, Manifesta does pay attention to its current location. I spoke with a ‘Gardener’ (a Biennial Guide) about M12’s relationship to Palermo: “Manifesta has reopened important venues to the public and it is challenging the city’s former association with criminality. All of Palermo’s local problems are now part of a global community.” In our conversation, the Gardener refers to artistic interventions at Pizzo Sella and ZEN as “amazing projects which address parts of the city that have been erased from the memory of our citizens. We, as Palermitans, used to see these places in a negative light – as immovable or unchangeable.”

The ZEN Neighbourhood

Manifesta seeks to reactivate these sites, some of which were disrupted by the Sack of Palermo – a collective term for the post-war construction boom from the 1950s to the 1980s which saw unregulated buildings replace architectural gems and green belt land. At a time when 14,000 people were left homeless and Mafia-connected officials were monopolising building permits, projects such as Pizzo Sella and ZEN (Zona Expansione Nord) were hastily erected – the former incomplete and abandoned; the latter constructed without public parks, schools or local amenities. Rather than dwell upon historical events, Belgium-collective Rotor – known for its interest in material flows – encourages audiences to rediscover Monte Gallo (the site of Pizzo Sella) through an alternative narrative.

Da quassù è tutta un’altra cosa (2018) is, in equal parts, a workshop, an intervention, conversation and an excursion, which facilitates a shift in Pizzo Sella’s reputation as a ‘poster child of real estate corruption.’ The poised, concrete skeletons which lay, stacked on the hillside, remain physically unchanged by Rotor: instead, the collective recalls the bygone goat paths leading up, towards the neighbouring Capo Gallo Nature Reserve. This narrative reintroduces Pizzo Sella as an observatory for viewing the cliff, ocean, city and aborted building site beneath – it’s subtle and low-key. But, I wonder, how many spectators see the documentation at the city centre’s Pallazo Costantino and subsequently visit the Pizzo Sella itself?

Having wandered as far as Mondello, I could see the ghost-village looming overhead; without an organised tour it is difficult to engage with the work itself (*Gardener-led excursions have since been facilitating this process.) But there’s also an unease in observing these places as part of an ‘art pilgrimage.’ Coloco & Gilles Clément‘s Becoming Garden (2018) shines a light on the ZEN housing project, but there’s a risk that people’s personal lives, rather than the city, are the ones being placed on a stage. Still, good intentions can be found in the creation of a community garden – the result of group workshops and discussions on the importance of caring for a space.

Undoubtedly, the resounding question in people’s responses is: what’s next? What comes after Manifesta; what will be left behind? In speaking with Rossella Pizzuto, M12 Education Coordinator, it became clear just how important Manifesta’s Education Programme is in building this so-called legacy:The Education Department was the first to start work here in Palermo, two years ago. The team worked with social and cultural professionals, asking them what they expect from Manifesta – and we are continuing with this process. We’re trying to understand how Manifesta can be sustainable for them after it ends.” As a native Palermitan, Pizzuto is keen to reach out to communities: “People are used to staying in their own neighbourhood – so it’s great that we have an Education Hub in the form of a bus to travel and bring Manifesta to them.”

Pizzo Sella

Pizzuto mentions Pizzo Sella and ZEN, “Pizzo Sella, is always in people’s minds as a shame – it’s better that people don’t see it; something related with the Mafia and exclusivism. Rotor literally opened up this location. The work in ZEN is also about education – to educate people on how to be, once again, part of a community.” The notion of establishing a sense of community is something which is applicable worldwide. Manifesta’s commissioning of a Palermo Social Innovation Map has sought to emphasise the importance of community by identifying ‘spaces of culturally-driven social innovation.’ It highlights local initiatives already in place in six geographical areas: Ballaro, Cantieri, Culturali alla Zisa, Costa Sud, Ex manicomio, Sferracavallo and ZEN. It’s a map that opens Palermo up; sadly, its existence is not widely advertised.

The Palermo Atlas is perhaps a more prominent document – one which, in my mind, is more valuable than the Biennial guide itself. In the build-up to Manifesta, the Office for Metropolitan Architecture was commissioned to analyse the city from multiple disciplines, with research undertaken across the realms of architecture, archaeology and anthropology. It proposes a new research model for the Biennial – and the resources gathered will outlive the festival itself. But, there are limits to how much two-years of research within Palermo’s 2,700 year-old history can cover – and this is felt by communities of local practitioners.

In truth, there are only two Palermitan artists in the Official Programme – when asked about this, the Curatorial team answered “We researched, went out to meet people – but you should be allowed to branch out, to find people who are engaging with the topic in the best way.” It’s also fair to add that Manifesta is first and foremost a Eurobiennial, not a Palermitan-biennial. It does, however, seek to cultivate a coexistence – which from an outsider’s viewpoint, is not achieved in the Official Programme. Manifesta’s press release reads: “Closely collaborating with Palermitans, M12 co-habits Palermo as an ideal place to investigate the challenges of our time, and to experiment with traces of possible futures.”

Examples of the Biennial’s collaboration with organisations, universities and collectives show that yes, it works collectively to investigate and experiment. But, Manifesta remains a non-organic entity in the city’s fabric. In meeting with Gabriella Ciancimino, I garnered a sense that Manifesta and local practitioners were not necessarily in harmony: “There are people, who for years, have been making art. I don’t understand why this part of Palermo didn’t come out in Manifesta’s research. They focused on a particular reality of Palermo – and missed out on others. You can’t escape the young artists practicing here.” And it’s true: there’s little mention of the Pizzo Sella Art Village established by Fare Ala, nor are the city-based photographic collective Minimum or Botanical curatorial project, Radiceterna, in the Official Programme (though they are part of M12’s Collateral Events.)

Gabriella Ciancimino, detail from In Liberty We Trust

Palermitan and Sicilian artists have a greater representation in the Collateral Events. Cartuccia comments: “We had over 700 applications, mainly locals, for our Collateral Events. The city is so alive, you can really tell, especially from the kind of discourses that they were bringing.” But there’s also a sense that Ciancimino’s solo show, In Liberty We Trust at Palazzo Ziino, gained its Collateral Event accreditation after the exhibition was in place. Organised by the Accademia di Belle Arti di Palermo, In Liberty We Trust invites viewers into a monumental jungle of in-situ drawings which bind together botanical décor with political iconography and symbols of liberty – notions in-line with Garden of Flows.

Perhaps what Ciancimino says is true, “It was too fast. They [Manifesta] didn’t go deep enough.” Others too, agree that Manifesta doesn’t really know the city – “one or two years is not enough to build a relationship,” says Giulia, a Palermitan Law graduate, “Manifesta was unprepared for Palermo and vice-versa – it’s its own city with a very, distinctive character.” Later, I spoke with Palermitan-born Kaya at Galleria Franco Noero‘s Simon Starling presentation, whom offered another perspective: “Manifesta brings fresh air from Europe[..] there are people who complain that it is not perfect; life is like this.” Moving onto the topic of the future, Kaya adds, “A lot of people are asking what is going to happen after Manifesta. I tell people to calm down, let’s work on it [..] Others say, we were already here. It’s complex. I say, you need to change this town – you need to go into the community.”

As an outsider, I was privileged to have these conversations: they provided me with an insight into the city’s relationship with Manifesta. Upon reflection, one of the most valuable experiences was meeting with artists at a Radiceterna opening at Orto Botanico: here, I understood something about how Palermitans make and converse – albeit, no different from practitioners back home. Still, it was in talking to Ciancimino and visiting Ignazio Mortellaro‘s (Radiceterna curator) studio that I began to engage with Palermo and its people – something organic which no Biennial can produce; yet, one could argue that it was Manifesta that took me to Palermo.

Street Snails, Kalsa, Unknown artist

I think back to the Kalsa district’s street art: two snails face each other, one shell adorned with the words Case x Tutti. It’s not part of Manifesta, but holds a message that rings true through the lives of many Palermitans and connects with today’s global challenges of migration, power, gentrification and ecology. M12 achieves in-part its desire to “explore forms of politics based on cross-pollination and on the coexistence of what is different” (from Garden of Flows, Map.) through its portrayal of cultures coming together in one form or another. The plants in Orto Botanico prove that coexistence can be “cultivated,” but years of nurture have gone into achieving the cohabitation of plants – the same could be said of people and artists alike. Time is needed tell whether Manifesta is veritably invested in Palermo and not merely positioning itself in a rotation of timely places.

Manifesta 12 runs until Sunday 4 November 2018.

Earlier in the year Selina Oakes visited Manifesta 12 in Palermo, Sicily with an Engine Micro Bursary. She reports on her trip and the effects of the roving Biennial on the city.

The Curatorial Research Group is organised by Lucy Lopez (Eastside Projects) and and Kim McAleese (Grand Union), supported by New Art West Midlands. Meeting approximately once every six weeks, the group brings together art workers from across the West Midlands for reading, discussion and critical feedback. All activities are free, and range from member presentations, to reading groups, to public sessions with invited speakers. If you would like to come along, or to host a session, please contact Lucy at

Information on this week’s session can be found below:

Can the museum be a site of change? With Aliyah Hasinah, Abeera Kamran, Shaheen Kasmani and Sumaya Kassim. 

Thursday 21 June 2017, 10.30am-12pm. Eastside Projects

Following the co-curation process of The Past Is Now: Birmingham and the British Empire, we reflect on institutional resistance and the possibility of transformation. We will consider the process chronologically, exploring differing expectations between the co-curators and institutional actors. We will also reflect on our negotiations with the institution and the museum’s colonial archives (significantly through language and writing the interpretation), and the aftermath of the exhibition.


Aliyah Hasinah is a poet, producer and curator based in Birmingham whose writing focuses on personal understandings of history, politics and culture. Aliyah recently co-curated The Past Is Now exhibition at Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery and produces for Apples and Snakes and Heaux Noire. She is also part of Art against the grain collective and 1/3 of the podcast Who Got the Juice? on Newstyle Radio. Aliyah’s poetry is published in several zines, a colouring book and most recently, in Saqi Book’s anthology “The things I would tell you:” Muslim Women Write as edited by Sabrina Mahfouz.

Abeera Kamran is a visual designer and a web-developer based in Birmingham and Karachi, Pakistan. Her creative practice is research-based and lies at the intersections of design, archiving practices and the internet. In collaboration with Shahana Rajani and Zahra Malkani, she designs and publishes Exhausted Geographies, a publication which critically engages with the politics of representation and map-making. She co-curated an exhibition in November 2017 at the Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery called The Past is Now: Birmingham and The British Empire which interrogates Birmingham’s relationship with the British Empire and attempts to decolonise some of the museum’s colonial collection.

Shaheen Kasmani is an artist, curator and creative producer. Her background is in language, literature and education, and she has always had a love for the visual arts. Shaheen has a MA in Visual Islamic Traditional Arts, and she specialises in using traditional patterns and motifs, in both conventional and contemporary contexts. Shaheen’s work tells a story; it could be celebrating something long forgotten, exploring a theme or idea, or a reclamation of the narrative from those who have hijacked or imposed their own upon others. Her work is about history, heritage, culture and conversation, and she strongly believes in the power of learning and education. Shaheen is a co-curator for The Past is Now exhibition at Birmingham Museum Art Gallery, and has exhibited all over the UK and taught in museums in London and Italy.

Sumaya Kassim is a fiction writer, speaker, and independent researcher. She is one of the co-curators of The Past Is Now at BMAG, and wrote The Museum Will Not Be Decolonised to chronicle the co-curation process. Her interests include cultural memory, secularism, and the politics of emotion.

This Thursday’s Curatorial Research Group, reflects on institutional resistance and the possibility of transformation with the co-curators of ‘The Past Is Now: Birmingham and the British Empire,’ currently on at Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery.

Dolly, National Museum of Scotland.

Exploring what it means to be human, Laurie Ramsell‘s cross-disciplinary practice investigates themes of the perceived natural and unnatural experience through the use of biological material, often using his own body. In our latest round of opportunities Ramsell was awarded an Engine Micro Bursary to visit ASCUS Art & Science in Edinburgh to develop a greater knowledge of bioart communities working within the UK. He reports back on his trip: 

New Art West Midlands awarded me a micro bursary to travel to Edinburgh, where the only publicly available laboratory with a genetic engineering license is currently run by ASCUS Lab. ASCUS is based at Summerhall Place, an Eighteenth Century brewery turned University Veterinary College, which today has become a hub for artistic and creative organisations involved in animation, jewellery design, theatre, print, and other visual arts.

ASCUS have run events for ten years, hosting guest speakers in Summerhall’s anatomy lecture theatre; public science experiments in the old veterinary dissection room; and curated exhibitions of artists working in the fields of art and science within their own gallery spaces. Two years ago it opened ASCUS Lab with funding from the Wellcome Institute, and since then have run open lab days Thursdays and Saturdays for artists, students, and the public to conduct their own research or experiments, with inductions in microscopy, microbiology, and DNA analysis. Since 2018 they have ran several courses and workshops including ‘The Art of Tissue Engineering’, ‘The Physics of Pigments and Paints’, and ‘Model Organisms: Making Mutants’.

ASCUS Laboratory, Summerhall Place.

On my visit to Ascus Lab I met with lab technician Dr. Jiří Jirout who showed me around the lab and their equipment, donated from the University of Edinburgh. Dr. Jirout introduced me to the range microscopes they currently had set up, and the various techniques used when looking at different specimens, such as darkfield microscopy, which angles the light source beneath the specimen away from the viewing lens, illuminating the specimen whilst keeping the background blacked out. I was told about the various projects arts students from the university were working on; sculptors and illustrators viewing their work under magnification, and textile artists growing pellicles of bacteria cellulose for textile swatches. One member who had interned with ASCUS lab had grown crystals from chemicals she found in the lab; a sample of Vitamin C was on show, the forms and colouration of which was currently being used as inspiration in a new work by members and visitors.

Later on I continued my way through Summerhall Place to see the work included in the Synthtica Exhibition, co-curated by Edinburgh International Science Festival, Summerhall, and ASCUS Art & Science. The contemporary art exhibition showcased work by internationally renowned bioartists Marta de Menezes, Oran Catts, Ionat Zurr, Tarsh Bates, and Ting Tong Chang. The exhibitions aim is to show “through works derived using the tools, techniques and often living tissues of scientific research… [we can] explore how our notions of the natural and the artificial may need to change in an era in which hybrid and synthetic life forms have come into existence.”

‘The Pig Wings Project’ – Oran Catts and Ionat Zurr

The first room I entered held on display in a cabinet The Pig Wings Project (2000) by Oran Catts and Ionat Zurr. The work consists of three variations of wing design – seemingly mammalian (bat), aviary (bird) and reptilian (pterodactyl) – which have been grown using cells harvested from pig tissue – the first ever of their kind. For me the title of the project plays on the phrase “when pigs fly”, relating to a concept that will never happen or come to fruition, yet here it has happened. The project demonstrates that we now live in a time where humans have mastery over cells themselves, something which in previous decades would have never been thought possible. It also hints towards the use that pig cells have for humankind. Biological material from pigs used in xenotransplantation surgeries, pig heart valves to replace damaged human ones, and pig to human blood transfusions, are all possible due to the evolutionary similarity and inheritance homo sapiens share with the sus genus, or pig family tree. Very small and delicate in appearance, these organic models appear almost embryonic, as if hinting at the shape of things to come within the future of human animal hybrids.

Crossing Kingdoms (2018-) sees Oran Catts and Ionat Zurr in collaboration with Tarsh Bates on the pig wings project’s spiritual successor, which looks at how not only mammalian cells from pigs may be fused with human ones, but cells from entirely different kingdoms of life. “The work raises questions, through actual manipulation of life forms, about the practical and ontological nature and identity of novel organisms that fall outside of scientific and cultural classification systems”. The moral questions concerning this kind of research are some of the greatest we now find ourselves responsible to answer, and what Catts, Zurr, and Bates have done is taken that research out of the lab and put it on public display, forcing us to begin having those conversations in open spaces.

‘P’eng’s Journey to the Southern Darkness’ (2016) Ting-Tong Chang.

Across the hall in a second room is an installation of works by Ting-Tong Chang, titled P’eng’s Journey to the Southern Darkness (2016). The work opens up with a video interview between the artist and Simon Schaffer, professor of History of Science at the University of Cambridge. Schaffer has written on, and appeared in documentaries which examine the history of automata, and humans relationships to them. Schaffer looks at the robotic works by Chang as artefacts which not only entertain and intrigue us, but also offer a mirror to us about how we as a species deal with perceived intelligences. In the wake of artificial intelligence, the work begins to ask us how we feel about a possible future where humans share the planet with an intelligence equal to, or greater, than our own.

In the adjacent room four taxidermy crows sit atop plinths of increasing size. They audibly click as they bow their heads and raise their folded wings, constantly drawing your attention to them as they move into new positions out of the corner of your eye. Playing through a speaker a robotic voice reads aloud emails and letters of rejection addressed to the artist from open calls to exhibitions for his work. Chang explains that “the number and type of bird signify death in Chinese traditions…” and announced failures “…playfully question the proliferating bureaucratic art world in which contemporary artists find themselves in.” The fact that the circuitry which animates these crows is so obviously on show is a testament then to how easily it is still to rouse suspicion in the mind of its human viewer, is it alive, dead, or somewhere in between? The darting movements and nods of the head still evoke a fascination, and fear, of what this ‘living’ creature might do next, or where it sits in our understanding of the natural world. The fusion here of nature and machine points not only to the death of such binary terms; natural, artificial; living, dead; but of a rebirth of the two, not speculative but happening right now, in bionics and synthetic lifeforms.

‘Truly Natural’, Marta de Menezes.

Contributing to this dialogue is the work found in a brief retrospective of Marta de Menezes, in the piece Truly Natural. “The society of today is increasingly concerned with the distinction between what is natural and what is modified…However, as human creativity has been developing increasingly powerful tools to control nature, it is becoming difficult to discriminate the natural and the artificial”. On display are two houses for mice, one which has supposedly been genetically altered, and one in which a genetically altered mouse has had the modification undone, thus becoming ’natural’ again.

This work evokes the many moral dilemmas which persist in the minds of the public concerning genetic modification, and which become the narratives of some of the most enduring and vivid novels, films, and artworks dealing with genetic modification technology, such as Frankenstein, Blade Runner, and GATTACA. The issue then presents itself, how do we discern what is real, and what has been made/altered? This fear is rooted in a long history of human storytelling which reinforces the idea that what is natural is inherently good, and what is artificial is inherently bad, handed down from biblical parables to contemporary news headlines. However, we live in a world built on artifice of our own making; animals and plants selectively bred, landscapes urban and rural shaped to our own needs, and virtual environments where humans can lose themselves in. Menezes’ work reflects these truths back to us.

Dolly, National Museum of Scotland.

The creativity of human engineering and the blurring distinctions between the natural and artificial is apparent when you visit the National Museum of Scotland. There, behind plexiglass, in an artificial environment complete with natural hay and sheep droppings, is Dolly, the first ever cloned mammal. Dolly the Sheep was my first introduction to bioethical debates around genetic engineering. For me, Dolly became the root of my interest around the real and the artificial, about whether such distinctions mattered anymore, whether we needed the artificial because we had already destroyed the possibility of the natural to survive. Years later, I found about a group of transgenic goats, known as spider goats, because their genome contained a gene from a spider which meant that the goats could have spider silk extracted from their milk. The image of such a creature conjures in the mind an eight legged mutant goat, but the spider goats look like any other ‘natural’ (domestic not wild, thereby not truly natural) goat. Images on the internet of spider goats do sometimes have pictures of eight legged goats with the sensationalist captions we expect to see from news headlines. However, these are natural mutations, parasitic twins.

Bionic Handling Assistant, FESTO.

Is it then a moral responsibility to use genetic modification to undo the damage that natural biological mechanisms cause? Historically we know that humans have used such arguments to commit atrocities in the name of eugenics, and how this technology could be used in future is definitely a concern. What I believe these artists are doing by taking the work of biologists and scientists out of the lab and into the gallery is to engage the world, through novel, political, and beautiful artefact, so that everybody may have the chance to understand, discuss, and voice their opinion on its use. Companies like FESTO are demonstrating the value of this collaboration, using mechanisms from nature, such as the maneuverability of the elephants trunk, to help designers find new ways of automating everyday tasks in factories and workplaces, “safe and efficient human-robot collaboration”. The rate of innovation in these collaborative fields is unlikely to slow down, and with technologies such as 3D printing now starting to print biological material, the next industrial revolution seems set to be biological.

Exploring what it means to be human, Laurie Ramsell’s cross-disciplinary practice investigates themes of the perceived natural and unnatural experience through the use of biological material, often using his own body. In our latest round of opportunities Ramsell was awarded an Engine Micro Bursary to visit ASCUS Art & Science in Edinburgh to develop a greater knowledge of bioart communities working within the UK. He reports back on his trip.

Nnena Kalu. Work in Progress

Nnena Kalu. Work in Progress

In April, artist Jane Thakoordin visited Glasgow with an Engine Micro Bursary. As well as Glasgow International Festival, she visited former colleagues at Project Ability, a visual arts organisation that creates opportunities for people with disabilities and those with lived experience of mental ill-health.

My arts practice is participatory, which means that without people other than me, my art work would not exist. My career path has been a pretty winding road, and I have combined professional roles as a mental health social worker, manager, university lecturer and artist over the past 30 years.

As a socially engaged artist, I am drawn to working in partnership with people who are marginalised, often disenfranchised and often “othered” by society. Collaborations with people seeking asylum, women, looked after children, people labelled with mental health difficulties and learning disabled people have resulted in authentic friendships and professional relationships, with the added bonus of some great art created along the way.

I am currently developing work with artistic collaborators who have a diagnosis of psychosis, as part of my performative arts project The Black and Blue Collective.

It was this that lead me up to Glasgow in April to visit my old colleagues at Project Ability. A fully equipped set of studios, professional “white wall” gallery space and experimental spaces mean that Project Ability sits head and shoulders above so many other “inclusive arts projects” that I have been involved with. Learning disabled artists and artists with lived experience of mental health difficulties are supported by a range of knowledgeable, experienced, valued based volunteers and workers (many of whom have lived experience themselves) to create and express in a way that reflects art school practices. Throughout my career in mental health services, I have become disillusioned by services that proport to promote creativity with arts groups. Further enquiry elicits that this has usually meant a metal cupboard (often locked in between classes) full of the cheapest, utilitarian bulk purchased pencils, felt tip pens, photocopier A4 paper, pom poms, sequins, googly eyes….and so on it goes!

Project Ability values people as artists first and foremost, and supports them to develop, interrogate and explore ideas in a creative environment that oozes experimentation and risk.

Nnena Kalu at Project Ability

As part of GIF 2018, the gallery space had been occupied by London-based learning disabled artist Nnena Kalu. To create her work, she binds and layers materials to create large, colourful structures that wrap themselves around the gallery, reacting to the size, shape and environment of each new setting.

Bright colours and textures adorn her wrapped installations and “they grow from a small curious object in the space, into a large, immersive presence which transforms the gallery into a vessel for these organic forms to inhabit.” It was mesmerising to watch the film of Kalu’s 4-day residency in the gallery as her work became reality. Nnena does not use words to communicate, and the space is filled with the sound of cellophane being stretched and wrapped, gaffer tape being unrolled as she methodologically wraps her constructions.

The space and facilities at Project Ability contribute to ensuring the project and the artist members are perceived and promoted as artists. The recent Creative Health: The Arts for Health and Wellbeing Report 2017 states that “art can make a significant contribution to addressing …issues faced by our health and social care systems.” This is never so needed as now. I know from my experiences both within the mental health services as a professional, and externally as an artist and lecturer, austerity has had a devastating effect on many services that have played an essential part in people’s recovery and community support. Project Ability has managed to weather the funding storms by evolving into an inclusive, artist-focussed environment.

It was a pleasure and a privilege to spend time with the artists and volunteers, creating work collaboratively and talking in the immersive energetic and dynamic exhibition space created by Nnena.

To ensure I got maximum benefit from my Micro Bursary, I went to as many GIF exhibitions as I could. 15 shows and one seminar in one day – surely that’s a record?


In April, artist Jane Thakoordin visited Glasgow with an Engine Micro Bursary. As well as Glasgow International Festival, she visited former colleagues at Project Ability, a visual arts organisation that creates opportunities for people with disabilities and those with lived experience of mental ill-health.

We are delighted to announce the latest recipients of Engine Micro Bursaries. Bursaries of up to £250 were up for grabs for artistic and professional development.

A record 67 applications were received in this round, with only 16 bursaries awarded.

The successful recipients are:

Sean Elder, Jaime Jackson, James Lomax, Joanne Masding, Andrew McNiven, Mairead McVeigh, Brian J Morrison, Edie Jo Murray & Rosa Francesca, Selina Oakes, Laura O’Leary, Trevor Pitt, Laurie Ramsell, Harriet Rickard, Emily Roderick, Matt Westbrook, Thomas Wynne.

The recipients will be sharing their stories, experiences and journeys with us over the coming months.

We are delighted to announce the latest recipients of Engine Micro Bursaries. Bursaries of up to £250 were up for grabs for artistic and professional development. A record 67 applications were received in this round, with only 16 bursaries awarded.

Finished tea towels, Sarah Taylor Silverwood

At Wolverhampton School of Art there is a huge range of both traditional and digital printing facilities. I was interested in developing my printing skills, particularly on fabric. I also wanted to interrogate how traditional printing methods can translate a hand drawn image in different ways.


Image by Sarah Taylor Silverwood


I met early on with Maggie Ayliffe (Head of Visual Arts, Course Leader Painting and Printmaking, and Sculpture and Environmental Art) and Dr Simon Harris (Senior Lecturer in Fine Art) to talk about how the residency could work. They helped work out what print method would work best – I was exploring how to find a traditional, hand produced method that would allow a quick turnaround of a large print run, but still retain the qualities of the original ink drawing. I decided to work with screen printing.

Art schools and art education are constantly under pressure to justify their existence and as an artist and occasional lecturer I was interested in what it meant to be an artist in residence within an art school, and what conversations this position might allow me to enter into. I was interested in ways of conveying collective voices through un-‘institutional’ methods (and by chance the first lecture I visited was on Institutional Critique). When I was at primary school we made those tea towels where everyone draws their face on a small circle of paper, and the tiny sketches are made into a tea towel as a memento for each year. I decided to use the framework of a mass print run of a participatory artwork as a starting point for the residency.

I set up an online form that was circulated to staff, students and alumni, where they could submit 200 characters of text below the question ‘What is an art school?’. This is a question that came up in conversation with Maggie and Simon during our early plans for the residency. During the residency I had a studio in amongst the students, and I visited various lectures and tutorials. Within two weeks I had 80 responses. The responses that came into my inbox varied from the political to the personal: for example, ‘RADICAL DEMOCRACY’, ’the best version of yourself’ and ‘no discrimination’.


Work by Sarah Taylor Silverwood on acetate


These submissions were the starting point for a large ink drawing incorporating the text and imagery described in the responses. In order to prepare this for print, I scanned the drawing and transferred it to a clear acetate film. Then I took the acetate to the traditional printing department to begin the screen printing process with Andy Roberts (Print Technican), who helped design a set up and production schedule for the two week residency. Andy built two custom sized screens at the size of the tea towels (one for each colour), then exposed them. These were fitted to a rotating printing station. One screen was used to print the red part, and the other for the black part, using specialist fabric ink. A group of students with an interest in screen printing volunteered to help with the print run during career development week.


Sarah Taylor Silverwood’s printing process


We printed 200 tea towels during the residency. Like the original school portrait tea towels, they act as an archive of a particular time and place. The design and production of this printed work were collaborative. Everyone who left a submission on the online form was given a free tea towel, along with staff and students who were involved in the production.


Finished tea towels, Sarah Taylor Silverwood

Sarah Taylor Silverwood reports back from the Engine Micro Residency she undertook at the University of Wolverhampton earlier this year.

Grand Union’s Curatorial Curriculum is an alternative learning programme for emerging curators, consisting of intensive workshops led by internationally-renowned practitioners. The workshops are held over four weekends annually, exploring different forms of curatorial practice.

The course is aimed at curators at the beginning of their careers, to offer an alternative programme to costly postgraduate study in a slightly less formal environment.

The sessions will be as follows:

25–27 May: Curating in Birmingham led by Birmingham-based curators, organisations and artists

August: Curating in Conversation led by Sophia Yadong Hao

September: Curating in Learning led by Janna Graham

October: Curating in Publics led by Annie Fletcher

We are looking for individuals with a working knowledge of contemporary art and some curatorial experience to take part. The course costs £275, with lunches included, and participants are responsible for their own travel and accommodation.

To apply, please download information here.

Application deadline: 8 April

We are delighted to be offering 4 bursary places through Engine for West Midlands curators to attend Curatorial Curriculum. 

Beatfreeks and ASTONish are additionally supporting bursary places.


Grand Union’s Curatorial Curriculum is an alternative learning programme for emerging curators, consisting of intensive workshops led by internationally-renowned practitioners. The workshops

We are once again offering artists, curators and art writers living in the West Midlands the opportunity to apply for Engine Micro Bursaries towards artistic and professional development.

Bursaries of up to £250 will be available towards the costs of, for example, research visits, attendance at exhibitions and conferences, travel and accommodation.

If you would like to apply for a Micro Bursary, you should send a summary of no more than 300 words outlining what you plan to do, where the activity takes place, and how you feel it would help to support and develop your practice. Please also submit your CV, 3 images of your work, your website address, postal address and an itemised budget for your proposed activity. Please submit the application as a single PDF document.

We are happy to consider the support of any specific access costs outside of the £250 limit. Please supply any relevant information to support your application.

Please send an application with ‘Micro Bursary’ and your name in the subject line to Anneka French at

Application deadline: Thursday 12 April at 12 noon.

We regret that we will be unable to accept late applications.

We are once again offering artists, curators and art writers living in the West Midlands the opportunity to apply for Engine Micro Bursaries towards artistic and professional development. Application deadline: Thursday 12 April at 12noon.

Studio Space, Suzie Hunt, University of Worcester

Artist Suzie Hunt recently undertook a two-week Engine Micro Residency based at the Garage Studios at the University of Worcester. Following her recent graduation from Birmingham School of Art, Birmingham City University, the residency offered her the opportunity to transfer her practice back to her home city, allowing her to make contacts, learn more about the Worcester art scene and bring her knowledge of Birmingham in exchange. 

Arches Prototype piece, 3 A0 Digital Prints, Suzie Hunt, University of Worcester

The purpose of the two-week intensive residency was to engage with the university’s staff and students, working alongside the interests of the Fabrication Research Group to develop work and ideas whilst offering guidance and advice to students about to take a similar route into the art world.  For me, the residency was a chance to make and develop new pieces in my area of interest – our urban environment, its objects and our behaviour within it, as well as how narratives are constructed. The short intensive period greatly encouraged the experimentation and innovation of my practice, offering a limited time to solely focus on my work’s development.

In preparation for the residency I communicated with S Mark Gubb (Senior Lecture at the University of Worcester) who invited me to a pre-meeting at Garage Studios, offering the chance to introduce myself to staff members, explore the facilities and to see the studio space I would be based in. This allowed me to get a clear picture as to how I might use my time at the university to the best of my ability.

Week 1

At the beginning of my residency I met with Technicians Dan Roach and Hannah Davies for an induction into the Garage facilities. Here I was given health and safety training, inductions into each of the workshops and provided with an ID to enable me to access the equipment and facility. Dan and Hannah were exceedingly helpful during my time at the residency, providing me with all the support I needed when learning new equipment and processes such as sound recording. We also frequently communicated during my time, discussing our practices with each other, offering me an insight into both them and their career paths while I shared techniques I have used in my own practice.

With students not present during the first week, I decided to use this time to establish myself at the Garage by putting up work in the studio space for students to observe. This display included examples of past works from an array of projects, including: screen prints, photo etchings, CMYK prints and digital prints. Alongside this I also exhibited my journals from each of these projects, offering students a chance to see the progression of my pieces – how the ideas began, which artists in particular inspired the piece, and how it changed over time. With this in place the studio space became an open sketchbook, allowing students and staff members an insight into my practice but also providing relevant source material to those interested in a similar concept.

Studio Space, Suzie Hunt, University of Worcester

I used the remainder of my first week to generate ideas and research allowing the second week to be site based and to be available for student support and guidance. To start this off I digitally documented Worcester, allowing myself to build a body of material to explore during my time at Garage Studios and re-engage with the city. Within my practice, I document in order to de-contextualise, then reconstruct my surrounding space. This allows me to separate the work from the constant influx of information, and processes it into a readable format, leaving my work open to exhaustible invitations of deduction and speculation.

From doing this initial research it started to become clear to me what aspects in Worcester I was particularly drawn to. Thinking in terms of the Fabrication Research Group, one object of Worcester I was particularly drawn to was the public bench and the whole idea that surrounded it. A bench is a seat situated in a number of areas, to which people come, rest and witness life’s passing parade. It is placed and bolted to the floor, to view what is deemed desirable or worthy of looking. It intrigued me how this could vary from place to place, so I decided to make a piece dedicated to the Worcester benches. As a starting point I documented the view from every single bench in Worcester city centre (170 benches) and whilst I did this my second idea came about.

Documentation Sample, Bench, Suzie Hunt, Worcester

From living in Worcester and working in Birmingham, I frequently commute from Worcester Forgate Street. One structure that supports this movement is the Worcester Viaduct. What drew me to the viaduct was that from the underside of the arches you can see a split of colours varying in pattern, dependent on each arch. For me, the spans of the viaduct arches reflected this activity of interchange that took place within the commute, with the colours (commuters) meeting, crossing over and exchanging with each other between points.

Documentation Sample, Viaduct, Suzie Hunt, Worcester

Using the facilities at the Garage I began to experiment with how these ideas could be showcased, separately researching the objects themselves, learning of their functions, associated words and how the showcasing of the work could reflect that, building visual mind maps in the studio space. Thinking in those terms, I used this first week to explore layered image stills, video, installation and sound. The facilities and projection spaces especially helped with this experimentation during my time, as the main issue I have found in my artistic career is often not having a space to exhibit/experiment within. By having this and the equipment to assist the process, this encouraged and aided how quickly these pieces developed. Without being able to see how the work would look in different styles I would not have been able to come to a point of near resolve in the second week, ready to exhibit to students and staff members where I could receive feedback allowing me to push these further post residency.

Week 2

I used my second week to exhibit my produced/developing works; allowing myself to engage in conversations with students and staff members, holding open studios and talks on my career and practice.

I exhibited three prototype pieces based on the benches and viaduct of Worcester at the Garage and produced two prototypes for the bench.

Benches Prototype piece 2, video projected still, Suzie Hunt, University of Worcester

Prototype one is a photographic installation of 170 images with one viewing bench. The photographs are views from every bench in Worcester. The bench is an invitation to stillness in a fast world. Similarly, photos are a neat slice of time, invitations to deduction and speculation.

​Prototype two is a video projection with one multi-layered slide/still, lasting ten minutes. Combining the view of every bench in Worcester, you are offered the opportunity to observe/witness the everyday. Each trace shows evidence of what has taken place, the essence of the city, created through the repetition of images. These provide an account of the movement of the similar but busy everyday, with projection offering a moment in the surrounding noise.

Arches Prototype piece, 3 A0 Digital Prints, Side View, Suzie Hunt, University of Worcester

Each prototype offers the contemplator the option to pause, sit and breathe, observe the world as a still image, a projection of reality whilst the noise and busyness of the passing parade continues on around them.

With the viaduct I produced a single prototype: three A0 digital prints on matt paper. These three large digital prints feature the underside of the viaduct arches, looking up from ground level inside the arch. When exploring the city, the viaduct bridge is a noticeable part of Worcester. A bridge, a series of arches, linking the city, myself and others, a point of intersection. These spans, supporting the distance between this point of interchange, are a junction where two points meet, crossover and exchange with each other.

By holding an open studio with these new and old works on display I was able engage with staff and students on a daily basis. I held conversations with members of the Fabrication Research Group, including S Mark Gubb and Richard Allen. Through this there was a constant ongoing exchange of information and ideas, providing feedback and helping me to inform and improve my practice.

From the brief it was clear that student engagement was a core part of the residency. This was something which I particularly looked forward to participating in. Having held workshops and discussions with students and public in my previous residencies, the opportunity to further expand this was exciting. Thinking about this and holding conversations with lecturer Maureen Gamble early on, we agreed to give a talk on my practice to the final year students. In this talk I discussed my life as a recent graduate, how my artistic career had changed, the difficulties I faced and how I pushed forward, obtaining opportunities that would enhance my career. Following the talk I answered questions and provided a tour of my exhibited pieces for those intrigued. Overall I felt the talk was well received with students engaging with myself and my art work, providing them with knowledge and preparation for their next steps and myself with useful feedback on how individuals responded to my pieces.

Over the two weeks I developed three prototype pieces. The staff and facilities at University of Worcester were amazing. Every day I was able to further push my work and communicate and learn new and exciting things from others, as well as provide my own support to others around me. I am thrilled with the outcome of the residency. My time here has re-energised my practice, opening me up to alternative ways of working with digital documentation, and has given me the confidence to push my career further. I look forward to up and coming opportunities.

Benches Prototype piece 1, 170 photo installation, Suzie Hunt, University of Worcester



Artist Suzie Hunt recently undertook a two-week Engine Micro Residency based at the Garage Studios at the University of Worcester. Here she reflects on her experiences.

Riverhouse: Kingston, Jamaica 2017 © Andrew Jackson

Following the success of last year’s Accelerator talks, we are pleased to three offer further opportunities to find out about what the West Midlands has to offer to art students and early career artists and to learn from artists practicing in the region and beyond.

Hardeep Pandhal, Pool Party Pilot Episode, 2018, 4K animation, 8 mins 15 seconds, digital still


Deborah Robinson, Head of Exhibitions at The New Art Gallery Walsall (lead partner, Engine) and Anneka French, Project Coordinator of New Art West Midlands, will outline the programme and opportunities offered by Engine, New Art Midlands’ professional development programme for artists and curators. We will also hear from artists and curators at different stages of their careers about the development of their practice across all three Accelerator talks.


Following our first session at Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery, on 8 March with Andrew Jackson, Leah Carless and They Are Here, a collaborative practice steered by Helen Walker & Harun Morrison, we are delighted to announce the speakers at the next two sessions to discuss their practice:


The Herbert Art Gallery & Museum
Wednesday 25 April, 2-5pm

Faye Claridge
Keith Harrison
James Lomax


Staffordshire University
Friday 27 April, 2-5pm

Hardeep Pandhal
Sarah Taylor Silverwood
Grace A. Williams


Through case studies from these fantastic speakers, we will explore a range of topics such as initiating projects, finding funding, the importance of networking and sustaining your practice. We will also explore collaboration, residency and international working. There will be opportunities for questions and further discussion.


This event is targeted at art students and early career artists.


Please book your free place by emailing Anneka French at by Wednesday 18 April.


Keith Harrison. Commissioned for Jerwood Open Forest, supported by Jerwood Charitable Foundation, Forestry Commission England and Arts Council England



Read more about our next series of Accelerator talks taking place in March and April at Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery, The Herbert Art Gallery & Museum and Staffordshire University.

Nicole Mortiboys, No Title. Photograph Gavin Rogers


It was an unusually pleasant summer’s day in July 2017 on which I first set foot inside the cool, cavernous interior of the former Coventry Evening Telegraph building. I was being shown around by Coventry Biennial director Ryan Hughes, as I had recently been selected for a New Art West Midlands Curatorial Bursary to work on the biennial and also because ‘The CET’, as it has affectionately become known, was to become the site of the biennial’s principal group exhibition. At that point, a not-inconsiderable feat of imagination was required to see how this could be so. The building had, in eight or more years, been used only for self-guided heritage tours that did not even nearly cover its entire footprint. There were whole floors without power and many rooms blanketed with the assorted detritus that is left behind by a down-sizing company which neither intends to return nor expects anybody else to. Deeper inside the building, the initial cool gave way to a chilly cold as that cavernous lobby, by turns, contracted to become claustrophobic office space and then expanded to become truly massive in the former print rooms. Those who visited the building during the biennial will know that what looks, from the street, to be a handsome, but fairly unprepossessing, mid-century office block becomes, upon exploration of its interior, a veritable warren of spaces encompassing the domestic, the commercial, and the industrial in a complex of connected buildings covering almost an entire city block.


Nicole Mortiboys, No Title. Photographer: Gavin Rogers


The Biennial’s theme, and the title of the exhibition in the CET building, was ‘The Future’. The irony does not escape me that, as I write, ‘The Future’ is now in the past. But any conception of the future is always inextricably bound up with the past from which it springs. The biennial’s exhibition at the CET always acknowledged its place in a historic building in Coventry and sought not to predict the future but to thread art through that historic building in a manner which united old and new for a vision of the possible futures which might await us all.


My principal concern and the focus of my work, however, lay in the question of quite how, even with around 60 artists planned to be shown, we were going to fill the almost endless available space. During my time with the biennial, I visited artists in their studios as far apart as rural Yorkshire and urban High Wycombe. I had the privilege of being invited generously into the practices and thought processes of many artists, having discussions that helped to evolve my understanding of how their numerous practices with varying starting points could be situated, within the exhibition, to invite each work into a lively discourse with the others and to generate a hearty artistic and intellectual feast for visitors.


Bermuda Collective, Alcoholism ’65. Photographer: Gavin Rogers


On the more pragmatic side of affairs, I supported volunteer recruitment events, worked closely on the design direction of the Biennial’s printed programme and led on the coordination of the VIP and Professional’s Preview Day. During the biennial itself, I led curator’s tours for members of the public, as well as colleagues in the arts sector. Part of the potential of any biennial lies in its ability to habituate itself to its host city, finding moments of encounter that grow out of, respond to and transform the spirit of the city. To this end, I used the curator’s tours as an opportunity to discover and discuss other people’s reactions to the exhibition and the artworks in it, as much as to share my own knowledge and opinions. The biennial was a truly collaborative, city-wide project and I was delighted to also be asked by biennial partners Scratch the Surface Festival to lead a conversation with the artists of their END//BEGIN-Dialogue exhibition, on the topic of how art making can intersect with, express and sometimes provide relief for artists with mental health issues.


We did, ultimately, fill the CET with art and, in my entirely biased opinion, we did so quite admirably. During my time with the biennial, I developed my project management, networking and research skills. I also gained a great deal more experience of working with artists at various stages in their careers. The experience has already led to my being given a place at artist Jamboree 2018 and I am now greatly looking forward to spending a summer’s weekend in the glorious Devon landscape surrounding Dartington College, which is of course very different from the urban landscape of Coventry that I spent a lot of time in during the course of the biennial. But, once again, I will have the privilege of sharing discussions and debates about the practices and processes, this time, of 150 fellow artists and curators. Whatever that may lead to, whether exhibitions or other forms of dissemination, I hope to experience again the genuine and enthusiastic public support that people from Coventry and beyond lent to the biennial. For after all, as my experiences with the biennial reaffirmed, art needs people just as much as people need art.

Engine Curatorial Bursary recipient Jonathon Harris reflects upon his experiences of working with last year’s Coventry Biennial of Contemporary Art.

Sarah Taylor Silverwood, STS Signmakers, Photo Credit: Ian Edwards 2016

We are pleased to announce the artists selected for our two Engine Micro Residencies taking place this year.


Sarah Taylor Silverwood, STS Signmakers, Photo Credit: Ian Edwards 2016

Birmingham-based Sarah Taylor-Silverwood will undertake a residency for two weeks in February at the University of Wolverhampton exploring printmaking, while Worcester-based Suzie Hunt will spend two weeks in January and February in residence at the University of Worcester.

The panel were impressed by both Sarah and Suzie’s approach to the briefs set, specifically the ways in which they proposed to make work and research ideas using the facilities unique to each site. The strengths of both artist’s applications were also found in the ways in which they intended to meaningfully and critically engage with the student communities based at the two universities.

Suzie Hunt, UNIVERSE OF ODDITIES (PLANET), video projection on 5ft plaster dome

Applications were shortlisted by a panel including Deborah Robinson, Head of Exhibitions, The New Art Gallery Walsall, Anneka French, Project Coordinator, New Art West Midlands, S Mark Gubb, Senior Lecturer, Fine Art, University of Worcester and Maggie Ayliffe, Head of Visual Arts, Course Leader Painting and Printmaking, and Sculpture and Environmental Art at University of Wolverhampton.

We are pleased to announce the artists selected for our two Engine Micro Residencies taking place this year.

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

In autumn 2017 we offered artists and curators living in the West Midlands the opportunity to apply to receive a studio visit from an arts professional. Nine artists from across the region have been selected and will have the opportunity to discuss work and to seek feedback and practical advice on their practice.

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

Artists Amelia Beavis-Harrison, Anna Katarzyna Domejko, Ian Giles, Andrew Gillespie, Kate Green, Kurt Hickson, James Lomax, Mark Murphy and Corinne Perry based have been selected from Warwickshire, Shropshire, Worcestershire and Birmingham. These nine ambitious artists were selected from a pool of strong applications thought sought to develop new connections and new conversations about their practice.

These artists will be visited in the coming months by arts professionals working both inside the region, nationally and internationally: Irene Aristizábal, Nottingham Contemporary; Lana Churchill, Bosse & Baum; Anne de Charmant, Meadow Arts; Seán Elder, Grand Union; Ryan Hughes, Coventry Biennial of Contemporary Art / Office for Art, Design and Technology; Milika Muritu, Cell Project Space.

Applications were shortlisted by a panel including Deborah Robinson, Head of Exhibitions, The New Art Gallery Walsall, Zoe Lippett, Exhibitions and Artists’ Projects Curator, The New Art Gallery Walsall and Anneka French, Project Coordinator, New Art West Midlands.

The successful artists are announced for the most recent phase of our Engine studio visits.

France-Lise McGurn, Rabbit, 2017, installation view at Recent Activity

In July, I undertook a trip to Glasgow to meet young artists and connect with artist-run spaces. I currently have two strands to my practice, making work and organising exhibitions for others through Recent Activity, a curatorial project I run with Andrew Lacon. Earlier this year, we opened a project space, providing a fixed location to our previously itinerant activity. Visiting Glasgow, I hoped to meet artists with a similar balance and range to their practices.

France-Lise McGurn, Rabbit, 2017, installation view at Recent Activity

Michael White, an artist who also runs Gallery Celine was extremely insightful. Unfunded and independent, the gallery operates from a living room in shared flat. The energy and ambition of Gallery Celine is exhilarating and such an urgent attitude to staging exhibitions would hugely benefit the artistic Birmingham.

David Dale Gallery revealed a different model – a larger gallery space with connecting studios. It was useful to see how a space might develop. An outdoor courtyard had been activated as a site for showing work and making pizzas in a clay oven. This resourcefulness and fluidity was interesting to see and particularly relevant to my work with Recent Activity.

Matthew and Jessica from The Good Press were also very interesting to meet. Formed in 2011, The Good Press provides a platform for the production and sale of independent publications, as well as a site for exhibitions and projects. Their range of activities and open approach to collaboration is compelling and has inspired some new conversations about the possible direction of Recent Activity.

I visited France-Lise McGurn in her studio prior to her exhibition at Recent Activity. It was great to discuss her developing work and talk more broadly about the artistic landscape in Glasgow. Having returned to Glasgow after time in London and Berlin, it was useful to talk about her relationship with the city and the changing roles of galleries and artist-run spaces.

Steven Claydon’s exhibition at The Common Guild was a highlight of the trip; the collision of materials, imagery and forms was really exciting to see first hand. Claydon’s broad range of cultural references and the overall composition of his exhibition made a huge impact on me.

Andrew Gillespie

Andrew Gillespie reports from his research trip to Glasgow last summer, made possible via an Engine Micro Bursary.

Jesse Jones, Tremble Tremble (2017) production image. Photo Ros Kavanagh.

Another milestone: my first trip to Venice. Before this summer I had never made it to the Biennale, and so, for many reasons, I was delighted to be awarded an Engine Bursary from New Art West Midlands which covered costs of accommodation as well as entrance tickets to the Giardini and Arsenale.


Anne Imhof, Faust, 2017 at German Pavilion, Venice Biennale, 2017. Courtesy: the artist and German Pavilion 2017. Photo: © Nadine Fraczkowski

We had four days to explore and get lost amongst the winding, cobbled and often disorientating streets of Venice. I had been warned that there was a lot to see but nothing actually prepared me for the scale and spectacle of it all.

Of course you’re only ever going to get that ‘first time’ feeling once, and for me this trip was an intense but glorious experience. Quickly I had to accept that there was no way I was going to get to see everything and so instead I decided to try to focus on the things that I knew I really wanted to see, as well as leaving some space for unknown and chance encounters.

Whilst exploring I confess to feeling wearied at times by the fast pace, and was self-conscious of my occasionally passive staring, but equally, I felt deeply moved by some of the works and the spaces for engagement, contemplation and reflection that they afforded me. And of course there were times when the pavilions and locations of installations themselves were as interesting as anything that might be going on in and around then.

Some of my personal highlights:

Germany’s Faust by Anne Imhof was entirely unsettling and I don’t think the vertigo it gave me subsided at all. In stark contrast, Austria’s Brigitte Kowanz’s architectural works with light and mirrors were beautiful and Erwin Wurm’s One Minute Sculptures were in some ways light-hearted, encouraging visitors to get (literally) inside and grab hold of props for a minute, enough time to pause for reflection and pose for a photograph.

I spent a long time in the Finnish pavilion, and really enjoyed the collaboration between artists Nathaniel Mellors and Erkka Nissinenpiece. Their video projections, objects and animatronics called upon shared interests in comedy, to contemplate Finnish national identity.

France’s Studio Venezia, which saw the pavilion transformed into a recording studio and performance area generated mixed responses from people I’ve chatted to since. Inspired by the radical educational principles of Black Mountain College, and an overwhelming desire to create a space for experimentation, Xavier Vailhan’s work featured floor-to-ceiling wood panelling and a soundproofed interior. It was designed to provide a space for music of all genres to be performed and experienced by audiences. Equally, revealing some of the mechanics of the recording studio itself created a durational and immersive environment within which visitors are complicit to what they see and hear; visual and sonic collaborations. It was designed to give musicians free reign as to what they produced when working in the space, and to breakdown hierarchies (perceived or otherwise) between professional and amateur musicians.

In the Arsenale, I was transfixed by Kader Attia’s installation, Narrative Vibrations (2017) which explored music and the human voice of and within North African and Middle Eastern cultures. The work led you down a corridor along which hung an array of historical source material comprising photographs, drawings, medical illustrations and publications exploring sound, electronics and acoustic theory. Amongst this ephemera are LPs and tape cassettes featuring the voices of famous female singers Warda Al-Jazairia and Umm Kulthum – their voices significant musically and politically, notably they were both ‘outspoken’.

Narrative Vibrations (2017), Kader Attia. Photo: Italo Rondinella, courtesy La Biennale di Venezia

In the middle of one of these collections was a first edition: an English translation of Treatise of Acoustics by E.F.F. Chladni, the German musician and composer whose experiments and observations with sound and vibrations profoundly influenced the development of the scientific field of acoustics. A number of his diagrams had been reproduced in the next space: a darkened room containing a series of sound sculptures and circular metal trays containing dried, loose couscous encased by clear glass domes. They sat atop speakers where intermittent bursts of female singing could be heard. The vibrations from the human voice caused the grain to move, forming patterns that echo those of the diagrams.

Jesse Jones, Tremble Tremble (2017) production image. Photo Ros Kavanagh.

Jesse Jones’ Tremble Tremble was also a highlight. I had to sit and watch it twice. Its title is taken from a women’s movement protest in Italy, from the 1970s, which called for wages for housework. It was orchestrated by the feminist academic Silvia Federici, whose book on the patriarchal appropriation of women’s bodies in order to fuel the capitalist system with workers and soldiers has had a major influence on Jones’ work.

Throughout the piece actor Olwen Fouéré is projected onto giant screens, her body highlighted against a largely black background. Sometimes she appeared to float in the space itself and other times was peering into the space, giant and staring. The space itself was dark and dramatic, comprising a bench, two projected film works and two transparent, giant curtains printed with outstretched, beckoning hands and arms. These are pulled along giant tracks suspended from the ceiling at various times during the work in order to demarcate the beginning and end of various ‘acts’, the rasping sound of their opening and closing adding further drama to this piece.

There’s nothing quite like a trip with others to be challenged (in a good way), to really think about personal research and enquiry and to unearth some of the ongoing values that underpin our practice. In my work I return again and again to people and place; to hosting and engagement; and increasingly to the visceral, transformative power of music.

Thank you again to Engine for their continuing commitment to providing invaluable opportunities for artists and curators within the region. This opportunity was, for me, both a way of spending time alone and with peers, really looking and really thinking.



Alongside various freelance work Kate Self is currently Producer for Radar: Loughborough University’s contemporary art programme, commissioning artists to engage with academic research. Her current programme (re)composition is exploring the relationships between music and place alongside academics from Geography and artists Sam Belinfante, Evan Ifekoya, Rebecca Lee and Xana. In January Kate joins Capsule as Executive Producer.

Kate Self reflects on the Engine visit to the Venice Biennale back in September.

Image by Pete Ashton

In September, artist and photographer Pete Ashton visited Ars Electronica, a media arts festival in the Austrian city of Linz with an Engine Micro Bursary. Here he reflects on his experiences in the context of international festivals and the impact these might have upon artists within their locale.

Image by Pete Ashton

Ars Electronica is a large media arts festival and as such it functions like most large industry gatherings, albeit with a less rapaciously commercial imperative. It takes place in the city of Linz, the third largest in Austria, roughly two thirds the size of Wolverhampton, give or take.


Ars Electronica (commonly shortened to Ars, which makes smutty British people snigger at your visiting Arse) was founded in 1979 and is based around the Ars Electronica Centre, a science museum for future technology manifesting as a glowing cube of flashing lights on the banks of the Danube. It appears to house very little art, which is a bit confusing when visiting during the festival, but uses what you might call a cultural mindset to frame the exhibits on show. There’s also a strong emphasis on pixels and screens – lots of VR goggles at the moment alongside their much vaunted “8K Deep Space” room where multiple high definition projectors fill the wall and floor like a slightly more immersive IMAX. Like most “big telly” spaces in cultural institutions, the challenge seems to be figuring out what it’s for. Maybe it’s just a big telly.


This “future technology” thing sometimes makes the place feel old fashioned, a problem futurism has bumped into in recent years. As we fumble our way through the end days of neoliberalism it’s harder and harder to imagine a future that isn’t part of our tattered reality tunnel, so futures that wish to avoid doomed dystopic nihilism have to remix the past, only smaller and faster and with more pixels. Ars gamely tries to bring earnest social concern to their tech evangelism but to these jaded eyes it feels a bit naive. Still, it’s refreshing to see a European take on what has become dominated by The Californian Ideology.


While the centre runs all year, the festival takes place for a week in September, and in recent years has completely separated from the mothership, occupying Postcity which is not a new space for exploring post-city ideologies and is actually an empty disused post office sorting depot. This is oddly refreshing, like discovering something called an Innovation Centre was actually used for innovation, which never happens.


The space is vast, covering three massive floors, some still kitted out with conveyor belts and mail sorting chutes, down to the ominously named Bunker complex which feels like a cold-war installation. It’s on a scale with a convention centre, but without any of the facilities. Ars brings it to life once a year, filling it with industrial fittings to create stalls, booths and workshops while decorating the concrete with potted long grasses. The end result evokes a post-industrial takeover by a tribe of techno-futurists, especially when all the Media Artists arrive with their fashion clichés and quirks.


You enter at the top floor via a sweeping service road built for lorries and collect your badge, although this is not technically needed for the top floor which is open to all. This floor is roughly divided into two areas. First is what I call the Tech Demos, works by artists that show their workings more than their meanings and which might lead to greater things in time, and demonstrations of cool technologies with no pretensions of artistry.


The former included most of the Artificial Intelligence which, to my mind, still hasn’t produced a great work yet. They’re using an artistic approach to poke at this relatively new technology and reveal some of its weirdness, and that’s great, but I doubt any of the artists involved are satisfied yet. There’s more work to be done. The latter reflects the main Ars centre. Lots of mind-control headsets, lots of robot arms, all very wow but of very little substance. But that’s fine. We don’t always have much wow in our lives. Often wow is enough.


Downstairs is what you might call the real art. Threaded through the maze of tunnels are installations and curated exhibitions, some commissioned by the festival along with collections from commercial galleries across Europe. Developing the market for digital art, often by definition intangible, is one of the strands at Ars.


The art on show was of a very high standard. I was particularly impressed the following:


– Stefan Tiefengraber’s Delivery Graphic
– Gaybird’s Fidgity
– Akinori Goto’s Sculpture of Time
– Gil Delindro’s (Un) Measurements
– Robert Andrew’s Data Stratification
If the upstairs was a fun-house of excitement the downstairs more than made up for that with plenty of space for contemplation.


Of course, one man’s impression of a massive event like this is going to be subjective and informed by my state of mind. While I had the eye of a practitioner I also had the attitude of a tourist, so I was interested in how the locals felt about this whale of a festival landing on their town.


Last year I was in Linz for a residency run by qujOchÖ, a collective of local artists that’s been working in the city since 2001. When I said I would be returning for Ars, one of the founder members, Thomas Philipp aka Fipps graciously said I could stay with him. This, coupled with my introvert approach to mingling, meant I followed qujOchÖ members around like a lost puppy, giving me something of a grass roots view of the whole affair.


Austrians, it turns out, are famously cynical and grumpy (their term “sudern” is hard to define but is rather like a Gaelic shrug soaked in nihilistic disappointment) so it wasn’t too much of a surprise to hear the local artists bitching in the bars late at night about programme changes and managerial incompetence. And I’m sure you’d hear that in any city – big events are hard and toes will be trodden on.


But I was surprised as the lack of impact on the local scene. I would have thought this would be their tentpole event, a chance to show off local work to a visiting global audience (and Ars is truly a global affair). But the impact was negligible. A lot of people got technical work, of course, and one of the shows at the main art museum was by a dystopian docklands by local collective Time’s Up (which had an oddly English vibe I felt), but this was an anomaly and where the Linz scenes were represented it was on the unofficial fringe where business was as usual.


Maybe the effect of Ars happened years ago and the city is now sustainable without it, allowing the festival to become a transnational entity, bringing inspiration in rather than exporting it. The local artists are complacent about it because it’s normal. Surely every city has a massive, international, popular, thoughtful and, most importantly, competently run arts festival? Sadly, they don’t.


If Birmingham had the equivalent of Ars Electronica (ignoring for the moment that this city is currently financially, ideologically and structurally incapable of such a feat) it would change everything for the artists working here. Not just from the sense of having an infrastructure or an income but from shifting our horizons and giving us a global perspective on our work.


Interestingly, a couple of months after Ars, Coventry had its first Biennial centred on an exhibition of contemporary art in an empty newspaper print-works. Despite the grand name (Biennials make one think of Venice) it was a totally grass-roots, shoestring budget affair, utterly hooked into the local art scenes. It was fired not by routine or remit but by a passion that, f*ck it, this needs to happen and we can make it happen. The Coventry Biennial, should it continue and grow, will bring stability and continuity to a community of artists that will raise their game. And should it succeed beyond their wildest dreams, those same artists will kick against it, sneering at its conservatism and conformity, at its inability to react and embrace what’s happening in the city it helped to transform.


And that’s exactly the way it should be.

In September, artist Pete Ashton visited Ars Electronica, a media arts festival in the Austrian city of Linz with an Engine Micro Bursary. Here he reflects on his experiences in the context of international festivals and the impact these might have upon artists within their locale.

Work by John Waters. Photograph by Vicky Roden

Venice is what the world would look like if art was the universal number one export. It’s oddly unnerving to see a city so accommodating to artists and so willing to be used as an extension of the canvas – in the everyday wall-side shrines, the extraordinary architecture and also in the playful interventions such as Lorenzo Quinn’s Support, rising from the canal and echoing the similar masonic bodge-jobs that keep the city’s buildings standing.

Hew Locke, On The Tethis Sea. Photograph by Vicky Roden

It should then be no surprise that the scattering of Pavillions across the city seemed to succeed or fail dependant on how they used their relationship with Venice and the buildings who were hosting them. In some, the works were completely overshadowed by the sumptuous environment they were presented in. However, the Diaspora Pavilion had no such trouble. The exhibition worked with the surroundings to the benefit of both. Hew Locke’s On The Tethis Sea, a flotilla of ostentatious model boats suspended in mid air, contrasted wonderfully against the stark walls of the buildings ground floor. The more domestic spaces were elegantly utilised including an excellent presentation of Yinka Shonibare’s British Library.

The most perfect example of the symbiosis between project and place had to be the Scottish Pavillion and Rachel Maclean’s Spite Your Face. A large-scale projection in the proportions of a smartphone video, this was a modern version of the Pinocchio fable complete with the juxtaposition of obscene luxury and abject poverty. Characters were literally gilded and jewelled while others fashioned Venetian carnival masks from battered baseball caps. The single screen in an otherwise sparse and dark church was an extraordinary experience, with the film endlessly looping and Pic’s rise and fall assiduously assured.

This was my first time at the Biennale and my first time in Venice, and the reviews and photographs in no way prepared me for the experience. Pictures don’t show the tiny fish and tendrils of plan-tlife that swarm around the wrists of Quinn’s work. A write up cannot prepare you for the sudden submersion in the contemporary art playground that is the Giardini. An absolute art theme park, the national Pavilions were a feast of often exceptional works but it was South Korea which particularly stood out.

South Korea Pavilion, Giardini. Photograph by Vicky Roden

At once poignant, tender and crass we are drawn into the South Korea Pavilion with neon signage promising peep shows, orgasms and pole dances. There’s a joyfulness in the work (including a version of Rodin’s ‘The Thinker’ executed in lavatory paper and pepto bismol) but it’s the handling of a found archive detailing the life of ‘Mr K.’ which was most entrancing. Following one man who lived through Japanese annexation, the Korean War and the subsequent north/south division it highlights the effect global events have had on individual lives and futures. The acquisition of the archive itself, bought in a probate sale following the death of the protagonist’s wife, makes it particularly bittersweet. That which we dedicate our lives to preserving is not necessarily considered important enough to retain by the next generation.

Lee Mingwe, The Mending Project, Arsenale. Photograph by Vicky Roden

The Arsenale was another exhausting cultural submersion – possibly as a reaction to this, one of my favourite works was simple and immensely touching, together with having a deeply human connection. Following the 9/11 tragedy Lee Mingwei coped with the immediate horror of the impact of losing many friends and colleagues by mechanically mending the pile of clothes which he’d been ‘planning to get around to’. The Mending Project invites the audience to bring in their broken textiles to be mended in gaudy silk thread while sharing a conversation with the artist or his assistant, and seeks to find positive connections from the ashes of a terrible experience while serving as a memorial to those the artist lost on the day.

Work by John Waters. Photograph by Vicky Roden

My final word has to go to John Waters and his series of signs encouraging us to ‘Study Art’. Executed in classic 1950s style in the shape of brushes and palettes we are invited to study for a variety of reasons including ‘Fun or Fame’, ‘Pride or Power’, ‘Breeding or Bounty’ and (my personal favourite) ‘Prestige or Spite’. Dotted around for the audience to encounter, it relates back to a similar sign Waters saw inviting students to study art ‘for profit or hobby’. The subversion of this into reasons which can be all too painfully accurate for many attendees is peculiarly satisfying.

Awesome in the most literal sense of the word, completely overwhelming and utterly inspiring, Venice and the Biennale have already had a noticeable effect on my own practice. It may have been my first time there, but I’ll be damned disappointed with myself if it’s the last.

Artist Vicky Roden shares her experiences of visiting the Venice Biennale. Her trip was supported by an Engine Bursary.

Joanne Masding, New Rehang (series 3), 2016 Pages from book 'The British Museum', sparkling laser hologram clear rhino skin car wrap vinyl, plaster

Aarhus Billedkunstcenter (Denmark) and New Art West Midlands Engine* are delighted to present the second edition of Traverse – Connecting International Art Communities. Traverse is a research programme that promotes critical dialogue about artists’ working conditions through long-distance communication between visual artists and arts organisations from all over the world.

Joanne Masding, New Rehang (series 3), 2016. Pages from book ‘The British Museum’, sparkling laser hologram clear rhino skin car wrap vinyl, plaster


Artists Joanne Masding (UK) and Mette Boel (DK) have been selected to begin a dialogue exploring the impact of peripheral geographies on artists’ working lives. The selection panel were impressed with the strength and curiosity of their proposed approaches to the topic and the fruitful research possibilities that these conversations might offer.

Like the West Midlands, the city of Aarhus in Denmark’s Central Jutland region, is geographically removed from the country’s cultural capital; Copenhagen boasts a higher concentrations of artists, arts institutions, funding pools and other vital resources. Over the next five weeks, Masding and Boel will discuss these issues online and in person, asking if and how working outside of the capital as cultural hotspot might offer up different opportunities for local artists.

Mette Boel ‘Simulacrum (Artist Portraits)’ 2016, kh7artspace. H: 400 cm x B:100 cm x 5. Digital collage on Tricot, metal pipes, yellow nylon string, metal hooks.


For more information on Traverse and Aarhus Billedkunstcenter, please visit


*Engine is the artist and curator professional development programme led by New Art West Midlands and The New Art Gallery Walsall.


We announce the artists selected for Traverse: Connecting International Art Communities – Joanne Masding (UK) and Mette Boel (DK).

Susan Pui San Lok at the Diaspora Pavilion. Photograph by Rohanie Campbell-Thakoordin

Rohanie Campbell-Thakoordin reports from the 57th Venice International Art Biennale, with a focus on the Diaspora Pavilion curated by David A Bailey MBE. Her visit was funded by an Engine bursary.


Susan Pui San Lok at the Diaspora Pavilion. Photograph by Rohanie Campbell-Thakoordin

During September, I was selected for the opportunity to attend the 57th Venice Biennale, alongside other artists and curators based around the West Midlands. I was the only applicant accepted that is still undertaking undergraduate studies, which invoked simultaneous pride and immense imposter syndrome.

My main draw to the Biennale, aside from its obvious significance in the fine art world, was the inclusion of the first ever Diaspora Pavilion, conceptualised and curated by Midlands based curator David A Bailey.

The Biennale has come under scrutiny in more recent years for its arguably outdated structure regarding nationality and nationalism. The Diaspora Pavilion entirely questions the organisation of artwork into countries of origin (which is again debatable within the main Biennale event, as an artist does not have to be from a country in order to represent it). The Diaspora Pavilion instead celebrates and discusses the constant merging and shifting definitions of nationality; and gives a platform to the people whose nationality or ethnic identity does not fit concisely into one category (a celebration of people of mixed descent is how I read the Pavilion, which as someone who is mixed, I took to be an incredibly exciting thing).

Walking into the gallery, we were met by a wall of gold tinsel – the work ‘Untitled (Pavilion)’ (2017) by Susan Pui San Lok – which immediately evoked the fear of whether an interactive-looking artwork is actually interactive, and whether the viewer is actually entitled to interact with it. After watching other people wade through it, and pensively observing – once the leap is made into the work, the resulting feeling is incredibly disorienting, and also incredibly beautiful. When reading the accompanying programme notes to the exhibition, ideas of immersiveness, dream-space and ‘a theatre within a theatre’ are discussed in relation to the work. However, what stuck out for me was the incredibly unpretentious nature of the piece. The simplicity and aversion to take itself too seriously – a feature I felt was slightly too prominent in some of the other, larger scale works in the Biennale.

Barbara Walker, Transcended, at the Diaspora Pavilion. Photograph by Rohanie Campbell-Thakoordin

Other works in the Pavilion that caught my eye, included Barbara Walker’s drawing installation, ‘Transcended’ (2017), depicting soldiers from the Commonwealth, who fought in the First World War. However, due to the fact they were West Indian and not British, the roles they were actually permitted to undertake were the menial, manual tasks assisting the British soldiers. I first saw Walker’s work at mac birmingham, wherein a large part of the exhibition was the artist’s systematic removal of the drawings through the show’s duration; leaving smudged clouds of blurred charcoal. Seeing Walker’s work at the Biennale, and myself hailing from Birmingham, there was a certain sense of pride. The Diaspora Pavilion as a whole felt thoroughly curated. Aside from the placement of a couple of sculptures, that felt almost as though they were an afterthought, the space (a beautifully old Venetian building, the sort you would expect a live-in museum about the city’s history to be exhibited at) was entirely encapsulated by the distinct work of these diasporic artists. It was a beautiful sight to see said old Venetian house filled with the bright, clashing fabrics of Nigerian artist Yinka Shonibare’s installation ‘The British Library’ – an ode to immigrants to the UK and the contributions they have made.

Jordi Coloner at the Spanish Pavilion, Giardini. Photograph by Rohanie Campbell-Thakoordin

Outside of the Diaspora Pavilion, the work that made a significant impact on me was Jordi Coloner’s ‘Únete! Join us!’ representing Spain. An immersive “installation of installations”, the Spanish Pavilion at the Giardini depicted a utopian, borderless landscape, in the form of a socially functioning, community-based series of projects. Again, for me the entire lack of self-importance, or least the self-awareness present meant this work was encapsulating and highly engaging.

This time, the invitation to sit on the wooden, sports stadium-like stands was clear at the entrance of the work, and so no reluctance to sit and watch the work was had. Instead, a way of exhibiting video work in a way I have never seen before – moving around the space, crouching on one wooden stand and then on to another, with the overall space creating the piece once each screen has been seen.

The spectrum of work seen throughout my few days in Venice, especially from a curatorial perspective, was highly insightful. Both pavilions featuring incredibly sleek and expensive work with high production value – as well as the smaller, lower key works, that provided interesting discussion points. I found travelling with the Engine team to attend my first Biennale, to be a hugely useful and engaging experience – being able to attend and interact with the work, and more importantly to be able to discuss and share ideas, and crucially, with those within the sector I hope to pursue after studies. Gaining an insight in to the practical and administrative aspects of art exhibitions was a major highlight of visiting the Biennale.


Rohanie Campbell-Thakoordin reports from the 57th Venice International Art Biennale, with a focus on the Diaspora Pavilion curated by David A Bailey MBE. Her visit was funded by an Engine bursary.

Image by Sarah Taylor Silverwood

Engine, in partnership with the University of Wolverhampton and University of Worcester are offering micro residency opportunities in January and February 2018 for artists based within the West Midlands.

Image by Sarah Taylor Silverwood

5 February – 16 February 2018

Wolverhampton School of Art: Print Residency
University of Wolverhampton

Engine, in partnership with the University of Wolverhampton, is offering an artist the opportunity to be in residence at the University of Wolverhampton for an intense two week period. Taking place from Monday 5 February, the residency is based at The Wolverhampton School of Art.

The selected artist will be based in a studio in the purpose built Fine Art studios on 7th floor of the School of Art boasting breath-taking aerial views of Wolverhampton and beyond. Access would be during normal university hours (Mon -Fri 8.30am – 8.30pm).

The residency is aimed at a printmaker with an interest in working experimentally between and through our extensive traditional print making studios and the digital printmaking facilities that sit across the School. We are looking for an artist who can make links between the old and the new, and work creatively with the range of facilities to open up a dialogue for students, staff and visitors.

Printmaking facilities include:

Screen Printing Studio
Woodblock/Lino Studio
Intaglio Printing Studio (large press for drypoint/etching)
Large format digital printers – print on paper/fabric/vinyl
Riso printer
Large heat transfer beds – fabric/carpet/ceramic/glass
CNC cutters
Laser cutters
3D printers
Glass and Ceramic Studio
Photographic darkrooms (colour and Black and white)

All these facilities are supported by technicians and academic teams

Week 1: You will have time to explore and test the facilities.  You will have access to facilities and technical support.
Week 2: This week is a University wide Career Development Week. A small group of students will be selected to work with you.

The artist will be paid a fee of £1,000 plus a further £500 towards travel and materials

Accommodation and subsistence costs are not provided.



22 January – 2 February 2018
The University of Worcester

Engine, in partnership with the University of Worcester, is offering an artist the opportunity to be in residence at the University of Worcester for an intense two week period.  Taking place from Monday 22 January to Friday 2 February, the residency is based at The Garage, Hylton Road, Worcester.

The selected artist will be based in a self-contained studio of approximately 5 x 5m (c400 sq ft) in size.  Access would be during normal university hours (approx. 8.30am  – 6.30pm).  There is potential to work over weekends by special arrangement with technical staff.

The university can offer the following facilities:

Well equipped wood workshop with vacuum forming facilities
Large woodblock printing bed and acid-free etching facilities
Mac suite with all current Adobe Creative Cloud software
Photocopying/printing facilities
Access to advice and support from technicians, based permanently on site
Access to AV equipment including projectors, digital sound-recording equipment, DSLR cameras etc.

Week 1: The students will not be present and the artist will have full access to facilities and technical support.
Week 2: The students will be back for week 2 and it is anticipated that the selected artist will be able to interact with students. Full access to facilities and technical support will still be provided.

The selected artist can work in any medium but applicants are invited to engage with the research interests of the University and more specifically the Fabrication Research Group.  More information can be found here.

“The Fabrication Research Group originated from the Department of Fine Art at the University of Worcester in 2015 to explore questions and ideas relating to practices and processes of fabrication. The group brings together artists, academics, designers, material scientists, digital theorists, engineers, architects, and craftsmen to develop questions about the nature of fabrication in an attempt to establish connections between the making of material things and the social, cultural, political, economic and environmental ecologies in which they are implicated. To fabricate is to make something or to make something up, it concerns both the making of objects and the making of fictions, the construction of things and the narratives told about them.”

The artist will be paid a fee of £1,000 plus a further £500 towards travel and materials. The selected artist is invited to give a presentation on their practice as part of the Garage Lecture Series of public talks delivered in collaboration with Meadow Arts.  An additional fee will be paid for this.

Accommodation and subsistence costs are not provided.




To apply for either residency, please send a summary of no more than 500 words on why you would like to be considered for this opportunity and how it will benefit your practice.

Please send this with a CV, 3 images of your work and your website address if you have one to 

Applications should be sent as a single PDF file. Please state in the subject line which of the two residencies (University of Wolverhampton or University of Worcester) you wish to apply for.

Applications are only open to artists who are based within the West Midlands region.

The deadline for applications is 12noon, Friday 17 November 2017.

Engine, in partnership with the University of Wolverhampton and University of Worcester are offering micro residency opportunities in January and February 2018.

New Art West Midlands / Engine visit to Venice Biennale. Sculpture by Lorenzo Quinn. Image by Alex Billingham

Artist and curator Alex Billingham offers up his personal reflections on the Venice Biennale.


New Art West Midlands / Engine visit to Venice Biennale. Sculpture by Lorenzo Quinn. Image by Alex Billingham


Egg gods/
David Oooooo yerh/
Water sports/
Finland! /
Nose masturbation/
Bum caravans/
Archives /
Thread /
Animatronic Penguins … STOP My head hurts!

This September New Art West Midlands very kindly let me come to the Venice Biennale with them. It was my first time out of the country in ten years and what a way to start. Monarch kindly deferred financial collapse by a week to get us out and back.

It was wonderful to be with such brilliantly friendly people full of ideas and mixed interpretations of the work. It was refreshing to see how others approached viewing work.

The most influential lesson I ever got was when my elderly teacher took away my rubber. She said I had to learn from my mistakes. This has guided my approach to how I make and view art.

You only ever get one first impression of a piece, make the most of it. I never take information about art until after I’ve experienced it in the raw. Great work doesn’t rely on writing to be readable.

On to the damn ART already.

Where to start? SCOTLAND!

Possibly because of its isolation from the main bulk of work but I suspect because of the commitment both of scale and effort involved in it the Scottish Pavilion stands out as one of the most interesting pieces. A 20-foot vertical screen dominates a blacked-out church. Mirroring the themes in the piece the beauty and scale of the setting only becomes apparent once your eyes have adjusted. It’s a gloriously textured piece looping back in on itself elegantly melding Facebook symbols, myths and modern morality.

Battle of the titans: Arsenale vs. Giardini

These two monstrous beasts are of very different flavours.

Welcome to Giardini land, how may I help you today?

Initially it has the feel of being a Disney Land for people who like to say they’re in the arts but beneath the theme park layout and selfie advertising there’s a wonderland of work replete with jabberwockies and trolls.

Russia was disturbing and disappointing, played as a send up of the country’s military heritage. But neither vicious or damming enough to be real it felt much more like a display of Soviet might and total control.

Canada’s Geoffrey Farmer, however, was brave, daring and playful and by far and away my favourite piece (I returned 3 times). I was lucky enough to come upon it from the back entrance via England as you walk through the door to a shattered and gutted pavilion open to the skies. Strewn with playful wreckage using water to react to the presence of visitors, culminating in a ravaged fountain at its heart.

Guan Xiao, David, 2013, three-channel HD video installation, color, sound, 4 minutes 43 seconds. In “Viva Arte Viva” in the Arsenale.

How Bloody Big is the Arsenale?

This was no tourist playpen but a fully formed gauntlet of art gladiators stretching on into a parallel dimension where a giant kitten was terrorising art critics to get to the biggest balls of twine in the multiverse – just me there? Sorry.

A complete clusterf**k cacophony of cultural Kunst. Ok so I had a beast of a cold starting as I went through the belly of this beast so I kinda experienced it in a somewhat dreamlike state. While there were pieces which succeeded and others that failed, for me it was the experience which stuck with me, a million myriad ideas jostling for dominance of my attention constantly trying out do one another.

D. A. V. I. D. by Guan Xiao was probably the piece we most bonded over as a group, a prince charming nestled half behind warehoused vulvas.

Spain must take the prize for most fully realised idea – a dystopian nightmare laboratory – and China for worst pavilion, reading like a garbled mess presented by half-arsed 2nd year student. At least the Venetian pavilion had the grace to honestly be an advert for the Tourist Board.

Geoffrey Farmer, A way out of the mirror, 2017. Installation view at the Canada Pavilion for the 57th International Art Exhibition – la Biennale di Venezia, 2017. © Geoffrey Farmer, Courtesy of the artist. (Francesco Barasciutti)

Beyond The Thunderdom … Erm Venicdome?

A thousand thoughts fled through my mind as I raced up to Manchester for a performance the next day. Egg gods of Finland, upended trucks next to caravans with bumholes.

Curators struggling with performance. There’s still no resolved answer for me but it’s finally permeating into the landscape of these beasts. The bizarre way many of the pavilions used English as the primary language frankly shocked me. A hangover from colonialism is one of the running themes in the Arsenale. Research was presented as work sometimes so lazily that it made me question why it was in an art setting at all, at other times it was beautifully handled and worked over. This was the year of the archivist at the Giardini.

Mainly it was the more delicate and subtle works that stuck with me. Israel’s mouldy empty room hiding a great nebulous cloud, the music box desperately screeching away in a corner, the assistant endlessly nattering away while repairing clothing.

But mostly it was the bravery of Canada. Childishly totalling their pavilion to make a joyous piece of work.

Thank you, New Art West Midlands and the people, on the trip it was fantastic!


Our second report from the New Art West Midlands / Engine visit to Venice. Artist and curator Alex Billingham reflects on the trip.

Rachel Maclean, Spite Your Face, 2017, digital video (still). Courtesy the artist. Commissioned by Scotland + Venice

In the first of a series of reports from 57th Venice International Art Biennale, artist Thomas Kilby reports on his moving image highlights. 

Rachel Maclean, Spite Your Face, 2017, digital video (still). Courtesy the artist. Commissioned by Scotland + Venice


I was very fortunate to attend the 2017 Venice Biennale with the Engine team from New Art West Midlands and New Art Gallery Walsall earlier in the year. I was interested to see what current practices look like in artists’ moving image. In this article I will highlight some of the more interesting work that I found there.

The Scottish Pavilion was showing the work of Rachel Maclean, ‘Spite your Face’ a new video work projected in portrait format, which dominated the space of Chiesa di Santa Caterina, the Church of St Catherine. Reminiscent of Tacita Dean’s 2011 35mm film ‘Film,’ shown inside Tate Modern’s Turbine Hall, here Maclean’s work interacts with the space. Dimly lit to the left of the towering projection is a classical female sculpture, which during the video becomes a goddess type character. Maclean seems to be interested in the very format of filmic space, the works world shifts on its axis, as Pic, the protagonist, falls horizontally and vertically, down and out into a second reality. The world moves around him to unveil a new land where he can become who he desires.

Fairytale myths and futuristic dystopian worlds have been an ongoing thematic trait in Maclean’s work; engaging with popular culture adverts, such as perfume, has been established in her film ‘Germs’ (2013,) but here Maclean develops this concept alongside votive offerings, Venetian masks, and a radical colour palette of blue and gold, to create a work that fits inside its setting, and talks of contemporary issues. Pic enters a Faustian pact to make his wishes come true. He is gifted ‘Truth’ the new perfume that magically heals his credit card induced capitalistic self-harm slashes. After an awkward phallic-nose rape scene, we learn ‘all that glitters in not gold.’ There is no set start or end to the work it is a filmic loop. Pic will continue to fall from grace and be reborn.

Whilst pushing my way through the long drag of the Arsenale, which encounters curated topics such as climate change and tradition within contemporary art, the work of Guan Xiao was a welcome hilarious relief.  ‘David’ (2013) is a music video for Michelangelo’s high art sculpture of the beautiful young man. Its format is a three-part HD video installation, the work lists the ways in which society interacts with David and reproduces him. The hook, or chorus, of the song keeps insisting ‘we just don’t know how to see him.’

Palazzo Gundane (homage to the myth-maker who fell to earth), 2017 installation view
Courtesy: the artist. Photo: Simon Vogel

Samson Young represents Hong Kong this year with his filmic installation ‘Songs for Disaster Relief’’. There are three sections to the work, the most interesting being the second, which you enter through a velvet curtain that hangs a foot or two off of the floor, you enter into Lynchian living room-type environment with two monitors, representing fire places, with sofas and a coffee table in front. One monitor shows a CGI kilted figure on a chroma green backdrop rolling around; the other shows a drummer boy breakdancing over a purple screen. The soundtrack mixes a cover of Band Aid’s ‘Do they know its Christmas,’ with occasional trumpeting sounds, reminiscent of David Bowie and Bing Crosby’s ‘The Little Drummer Boy’. Dislocation is the pervading theme of the work. We hear the Hong Kong Federation of Trade Unions Choir sing ‘We Are The World’ in a hushed whisper. All of this is familiar but rendered through a foreign frame, as Young says, an ‘out-of-timeness’.

Whilst exploring the Giardini, a secluded garden with house-like museums, I found the unassuming pavilion of Finland. They were showing the collaborative work of Nathaniel Mellors and Erkka Nissinen, titled ‘The Aalto Natives’. It took the form of ‘an installation with video and animatronic sculpture’. The first thing that strikes you is the huge egg-like figure with a projector strapped to its head, opposite this is a smaller cardboard box with eyes, also with a projector attached. They have a dialogue with the video work projected in the far corner. The work is a hilarious mix of drawn stop frame animation, HD video and complex CGI, its story follows a god and his son coming back to the Finland they created centuries ago. The humour in the absurd satire catches your focus to look at larger issues of religion and bureaucracy.

Installation view of Nathaniel Mellors and Erkka Nissinen’s ‘The Aalto Natives, 2017’ at the 57th Venice Biennale. Courtesy Frame Contemporary Art Finland.

Søren Engsted’s video ‘Levitation’ 2017, shown within the Central Pavilion inside the Giardini, takes the form of a performative talk, with Engsted seated on an Indian levitation chair. Floating in midair Engsted tells the audience several facts and anecdotes around the theme of flying. Whilst viewing this video you are seated on a chair made from molded concrete, heightening your own feeling of corporeality.

Overall there can be teased out some common themes to the moving image work at this year’s Biennale. Humour is always a thread that attracts me to a work, and as I found out for most of my other colleagues on the trip too. The work felt light, welcoming and generous. Especially in a context like Venice, where you are bombarded with work, pieces that require time and reflection. These moving image works were a way of engaging with the viewer, to trick you, into looking harder at the layers behind. Lucky that I like to be tricked.

In the first of a series of reports from 57th Venice International Art Biennale, artist Tom Kilby reports on his highlights. Tom was one of the artists selected for an Engine bursary to attend the Biennale along with the New Art West Midlands and Engine teams.

Nevermind performance, Sophie Huckfield


Artist Sophie Huckfield reflects on the Summer Lodge she attended this summer at Nottingham Trent University. Her participation was funded by an Engine Micro Bursary.

Nevermind performance, Sophie Huckfield

Summer Lodge’ is an annual event hosted within the Fine Art Studios at Nottingham Trent University. Over 10 days in July the studios and workshops host a gathering of thirty diverse artists, consisting of current NTU staff and selected artists working nationally and internationally.

The ethos of Summer Lodge is to provide a unique space without constraints.  Artists can use the space in whichever way they choose, using their time to undertake experiments and pursue new ideas. It is an opportunity for artists to use their time freely, relieving the pressures of developing a set outcome.

Commodities, Sophie Huckfield

Each year the Lodge adopts a theme, this year’s theme was ‘Deceleration’. Which culminated in a symposium at Nottingham Contemporary, with invited academic speakers to respond to how we can combat a hyper-accelerated culture and encourage artists to take on ‘deceleration’ as a mode of artistic practice over the course of the residency.

Rather than ‘slow down’, deceleration was an invitation to rescind from the process of production, exploring alternative modes of dislodging  from the pressures of an accelerated culture which demands us collectively to do more and more. This underpins our culture of immediacy and superficial engagement, which in reality has resulted in less and less. An accelerated society pushes immediate gratification as opposed to delayed and more meaningful outcomes. The residency invited an alternative, contemplative mode of artistic practice.

Contemplation time, Sophie Huckfield

Throughout the two weeks, I found that adopting the philosophy of ‘deceleration’ cultivated and increased my creative output. Working in a dedicated space which invited experimentation and risk taking, but at your own pace, was freeing. The works I had initially proposed, became a secondary concern, as I used the workshop facilities to explore new materials and processes and dedicated time to meaningful conversations with the other residents around our practices.

The residency gave me the opportunity to work with a range of materials, processes and concepts. I spent time in the ceramics studios, where I was able to make a collection of sculptural objects. Using crude methods, I pressed clay into tools, machines and handheld technologies. The impression of the object is taken but also the impression of the hand which holds and interacts with it. The clay acts as an intermediary between our interaction with the object and the hand.  I wanted to create a self-awareness of the material nature of the objects we use and convey the universal gestures of the hand in relation to these things.  The residency was also able to provide a space to curate the works in different display settings, experimenting with colour and lighting effects.

Commodities, Sophie Huckfield

I also staged a performance piece, which revolved around sculptural performative objects I made in the mould making workshop. I vacuum formed various handheld technologies in foam, to produce yoga mats. A yoga session took place, with performers following a YouTube yoga tutorial played from a Macbook pro. I was able to explore different mediums. I had never incorporated performance into my practice before and the residency enabled me to discover a new dimension to my practice.

Working alongside the diverse pool of artist practitioners, whose practices encompassed different modes of production, was inspiring.  Each day new events were staged, such as an invitation to twist one morning.  Fellow artists were continually invited to collaborate. I participated in a performance piece with artist duo Timber and Battery, who curated the event ‘Radio Play’. A studio was turned into a radio station with invited artists given 45 minute slots to use in whichever capacity they choose. I used my time to explore how my experimental writing practice could be performed. Alongside inviting fellow resident Collette Raynor to have a conversation around writing as material.

Nevermind performance, Sophie Huckfield

The residency was invaluable to my practice and I was able to move outside my comfort zone. I explored different processes, collaborated with other residents and pushed my practice into unexplored realms.  I worked with a variety of materials and processes, from clay, foam, writing and performance. I made lasting friendships and have continued to work with artists following the residency.  Summer Lodge was able to provide me with a test bed to imaginatively experiment and engage with a community of artists, who were open minded and able to provide critical feedback and discussion on how to develop work during and following the residency. The residency gave me a space without constraints to freely explore. It has pushed and continues to push my practice.






Artist Sophie Huckfield reflects on the Summer Lodge she attended this summer at Nottingham Trent University. Her participation was funded by an Engine Micro Bursary.

To register your attendance for any of our Curatorial Research Group events please email Lucy Lopez


Curatorial Research Group
Monday 23rd October
Grand Union, Birmingham

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

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.

Exhibition catalogue

This report is an account of my participation in the international printmaking exhibition 3rd Global Print located in the Douro region of Portugal which ran from August – 30 September 2017.

Effects of forest fire between Porto and Alijo

The Douro region is famous for wine production and the vineyards dominate the landscape, climbing the hills and punctuating the ochre ground with green. The region has also been designated UNESCO World Heritage status.

The exhibitions were spread across six towns and eight cultural venues, containing the works of 543 artists from 67 countries. 19 artists represented the UK (although this should read 20 since, upon wishing to add breadth to their global reach the organisers placed me as the sole representative of Hong Kong, my place of birth). Interestingly the country with the highest number of participants was the US with 105 artists, whilst Portugal only had 16 artists.

These events are organised by artist/curator Nuno Canelas and his compact team and participation is through invitation-only. This offer extends to showing consecutively at the 9th International Printmaking Bienal Douro in 2018 with Global Print being the smaller of the two. Not surprisingly, with the number of works and artists in the show, the quality and mastery of technique, themes and approaches was great and breathtaking, demonstrating that printmaking is vital and alive in the world.

Due to a combination of wide distances between venues, the irregularity of local transport and available time after installing my work, I was only able to visit four of the eight venues. However these shows have been documented by the organisers with the images shared on their Facebook page @BienalDouro. The venues were:

Alijo – Biblioteca Municipal (Library of Alijo) / Piscinas Municipais (Municpal Swimming Pool)
Chaves – Biblioteca Municipal (Library of Chaves) / Centro Cultural (Cultural Centre)
Favaios – Museu do Påo e do Vinho (Bread & Wine Museum)
Foz Coa – Museu do Coa
Regua – Museu do Douro
Martinho de Anta – Espaço Miguel Torga (Miguel Torga Cultural Centre)

My visit occurred from 28 July – 4 August, flying from Birmingham airport, landing at Porto in order to take a two-hour bus ride to Alijo. This seemed to be the ‘centre of operations’ since it is the home of Nuno Canelas and where many of the overseas visiting artists stayed. Whilst all the other artists chose to stay at the main and much more luxurious hotel in Alijo, I stayed at the youth hostel – the Pousada da Juventude de Alijo which was clean, quiet, spacious, en-suite and came with a continental breakfast. This was booked for me weeks in advance by the organisers and at a reduced rate.

It was at the Biblioteca Municipal where I installed my work, a public library with an exhibition space and serving as one of the venues for Global Print. I arrived in Alijo slightly unprepared due to the fact that my email requests for images and dimensions of the cabinets that my work would be shown in were not sent prior to my arrival. Fortunately, and surprisingly Alijo has a shop that sells all manner of goods from China and it was here where I was able to purchase and adapt the necessary items for my installation.

Adrift on the Sea of Fertility, 2017
sanded Vogue magazine, print residue, kidney stone, polyester fabric

Titled Adrift on the Sea of Fertility my installation was housed in two glass cabinets. One cabinet contained a Vogue magazine, all the images of which had been sanded off its pages to leave dusty vestiges of ‘beautiful’ figures. The other cabinet housed the semblance of a lunar landscape comprised of the residue from the sanding process. Rock-like, a single human kidney stone sits alone within this scene.

Adrift on the Sea of Fertility, 2017
sanded Vogue magazine, print residue, kidney stone, polyester fabric

Coincidences abound in life; like bringing a work that resembles a barren lunar landscape, to a place that is flanked by the charred remains of recent forest fires. But unlike my work, there are signs that life is just beginning to push through the deathly black, re-greening the hills and valleys.

Extract from my travel notebook

Growing out of our conversations, this coincidence had also worked its way into the thinking of Nuno Canelas who had chosen my work to represent Global Print, being the sole image used on the promotional posters and banners as well as the front cover of the exhibition catalogue.

Exhibition catalogue

The exhibition opening was held at the Museu do Coa, an hour and half mini-bus ride from Alijo. Sited on top of a hill over-looking vineyards and the Douro river, the museum is of an uber modernist construction and located in the Coa valley, world famous for its paleolithic rock engravings. Much of the museum is dedicated to visualising and disseminating the research from this activity to the public.

The opening was attended by artists from South Korea, Switzerland, UK and Portugal. It began with a guided tour by one of the museum’s archaeologists who gave a fascinating and deeply-insightful talk on the meaning behind the images made by the paleolithic peoples followed by speeches from the museum director and Nuno Canelas. Further into the evening a delicious 3-course meal was also arranged at a very reasonable rate in the Museum’s restaurant. It was an opportunity for discussion, networking, and relaxation after the heat of the day.

On the bus ride to Museu do Coa I sat next to Silvestre Pestana, a prominent Portuguese artist who was showing solo at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Santa Barbara, USA. An artist of later years he is a wealth of knowledge and experience of an understanding of art history ‘on the ground’ and it was fascinating and an education conversing with him on the journey. I hope to develop further exchanges.

Reflecting on the text written by Nuno Canelas that prefaces Global Print I sensed an anxiety towards the status of printmaking, in its complex relations to other art-forms, a disappearance of its autonomy;

… Printmaking’s hybrid nature … spanning the realms of ‘high’ art against its more utilitarian uses in everyday life. Something is lost in these overlaps, or rather printmaking recedes, a subsummation of one into the other. There is a print-consciousness within my own practice – in my relations with materials, the nature of my bodily engagement between the physical and the visual. Unfixed and mutable, artists call on print when their formal medium of choice is rendered speechless. Printmaking is intimately informed by the historical, by chemistry and the technological. Highly adaptable to requirements, its presence infiltrates our visual world, whilst being hidden in plain sight.

extract from my travel notebook

Despite the advancing breadth of printmaking techniques, practice and thought I felt the exhibitions did not stray beyond the known and uncontested parameters of contemporary printmaking culture. Perhaps this was due to logistics and what was practical to send work across the world. Whilst, in relation to the time, man-power and resources available it was sometimes in the hands of the gods as to how and where your work would be exhibited, with variable degrees of care and attention. Although this did not make the experience any less enjoyable and captivating. In its myriad of visual forms and themes, physical approaches and just sheer quantity, Global Print was able to offer a sense of how printmaking is being lived in the world today, and it’s Body Mass Index indicates good health. For me, looking at prints is something of a forensic activity. Eyeballing the marks both intentional and incidental, registration, plate tone and how the paper receives the ink, straying from print’s reproductive strangle-hold, there is much to enjoy in such inconsistencies. Then there are the actions performed to construct the print – dusting, smoking, eroding, cutting, pressing, wiping, gouging … a dance takes place with the (print)maker in the mind of the viewer. Roll on 9th International Printmaking Bienal Douro 2018

In Porto

Two days were allocated towards exploring the independent art scene of Porto. However many of these galleries were closed for the summer. This was especially true of the R. Miguel Bombarda, the street famous for being lined with independent galleries, here deserted save for a few cafes and small retail shops.

To kick things off was a much anticipated visit to the Museo de Arte Contemporaneo de Serralves, an obvious choice being a mere 40-minute walk from the Airbnb. The large paintings of Julie Mehretu seemed tailor-made for the airy, naturally-lit spaces of Serralves and there were a lot of paintings to see. I enjoyed walking through the sneaky corridors, mysterious channels that connected the vast open rooms.

Sharing the same grounds is the Serralves Villa, a luxuriously hedonistic 1930s Art Deco building. Previously a private residence and now an exhibition site with a fantastically gaudy pink-marbled bath and sink washroom. Inhabiting the spaces were the interventions of multidisciplinary artist from New York, Nick Mauss. Witnessing the architecture, design and decorative elements of the villa and their appropriation into a site for art was a highlight of my trip.

Sismografo ( was one of the few independent galleries open. There aren’t any signs directing you to its location. Situated on the first floor above retail spaces it is accessed via a wooden staircase from the street and obscured by a semi-street vendor (of what I’ve forgotten). I very nearly missed a visit after having been told by the vendor that no one had passed him since he opened and that it must be closed. I decided to venture up anyway and was surprised yet happy to see the doors open with someone invigilating the space. The gallery is flanked by large street-facing windows, occupies two large-ish white-walled rooms and was showing the work of Lisbon-based painter Gil Heitor Cortesao – oil paintings on paper and plexiglass. The invigilator turned out to be a member of the steering group who decide upon the artists they wish to show. After a chat that included all the possible independent galleries I could have visited outside the summer break she directed me to another space just round the corner.

Maus Habitos is located on the 4th floor above a retro-fronted car park and a self-contained gallery adjoining a bar-cum-coffee space. Again there are no signs directing you here. Efrain Almeida (Brazil) and Rigo Flores (USA) were the artists showing, work from a recent Cross Residency supported by cultural organisations Caravanna and In Residence Porto, comprising wooden figurative sculptures and large figurative pencil drawings on paper respectively.

Safe Art, a permanent exhibition site housed in a former bank, Porto

Safe Art is located along the central heart of Porto. Formerly a bank it is now a permanent exhibition site which extends down into its vault. It was showing an installation by Alberto Carneiro comprising the semblance of an in-progress harvesting of a rye field. Entering this space from the urban environment of Porto’s main square was a joyous experience, with shoes off and feeling the brittle snap of dry rye storks underfoot, I felt transported, out-of-place. Part of a trilogy from 1973-76, this piece was titled A field after harvest for the aesthetic delight of our body. The other two installations were being shown simultaneously in Lisbon. To my understanding Safe Art is part of a constellation of exhibition sites used by a Portuguese organisation called Culturgest that also runs events in dance, music, theatre, readings and conferences between Lisbon and Porto.

PurePrint was another organisation on my list to visit. It is run by the Faculty of Fine Arts at the University of Porto and hosts international residencies, exhibitions and conferences. Again due to the summer recess the department was closed, despite my attempts to persuade a member of staff and a security guard to let me look around.

My thoughts are directed towards what work to show at next summer’s 9th International Printmaking Bienal. For Global Print my attendance was required due to the nature of the work. In my practice there is an inclination to extend the language of printmaking, often into the realms of installation and performative modes of production. The need for ‘quality control’ towards how my work should be displayed is also a concern, making my attendance necessary. Before departure and during a chat over coffee, Nuno Canelas asked if I would like to speak at the conference that will form part of next year’s Bienal. Along with developing the networks made through Global Print (since a secret pact was made by all artists to return), the gravitational pull of the Douro is strong.

Pak Keung Wan





Pak Keung Wan on the international printmaking exhibition 3rd Global Print located in the Douro region of Portugal 2017.

Artist Katie Hodson used the Engine Micro Bursary she was awarded this summer to attend a casting workshop at London Sculpture Workshop. She reflects on her production experiences and learning processes below.

The two day intensive concrete and plaster casting workshop was based at the London Sculpture Workshop, an amazing space regularly running an array of sculpture based workshops alongside an open access programme. The aim of the course was to give an overview of accessible materials and processes that could be applied to a variety of projects. For me, the course was a chance to learn more complex mould making techniques – within my practice I had been used to constructing simple moulds with straight pieces of timber and I was interested in creating more fluid forms.

What initially surprised me was the variety of people that had enrolled on the two day course. We did a quick round of intros (name and any experience of casting) and naively I had expected to be amongst a group of artists – but most people had no prior experience of any sort of casting process. We split into smaller groups of four and settled around a workshop table – I was working alongside an antique restorer, a stay at home mum and a retired craftsman.

The session was led by Lauren Wilson (a graduate from The Slade) who began by introducing us to making moulds using a combination of shaped metal pieces. She showed us how to cut, bend and shape pieces of steel using a guillotine, a series of rollers and hand bending techniques. I had never had the opportunity to use equipment like this before but the processes were very quick and simple, and I was amazed at what could be achieved in such a short space of time. I really enjoyed the hands on approach, and the fact that we could easily do all of the processes ourselves.

After experimenting with these processes, we began to combine the metal pieces to form enclosed moulds. I thought the process would be really complicated – potentially welding or something similar, but we simply used gaffa tape along the edges of the metal and then filled in any gaps around the sides or base with clay.

We were then introduced to plaster as a material. Having worked regularly with plaster I was familiar with the process and relevant health and safety but we were also shown how to colour the mix with liquid pigments that I had not used before; the colours were a lot more vibrant than mixes I had done with powder pigments. We were encouraged to be experimental with both our moulds and the plaster. It was refreshing to play around with materials and shapes without having to have a concept or pre-existing idea, simply learning through processes.

The first mould I made was a simple shape with a curved edge – after successfully casting this, I then created an insert for the next mould to cast a hole in the centre, an idea I had been wanting to try for a while. Lauren showed me how to use a thin flexible plastic to create a cylinder for the centre of the mould, which we then filled with clay to hold it in place. We discussed the flexible plastic as an alternative to the metal as a mould making material if there was no immediate access to a metal workshop or the tools needed.

After a day focussing on plaster, the second day of the course introduced two varieties of concrete. We discussed the increased issue of health and safety with this material, and Lauren demonstrated the mixing and casting processes. We continued to make moulds in the same way as the first day of the course.

I found the first variety of concrete quite difficult to work with, it was a fast setting mixture and went off before I had a chance to pour it. The second variety of concrete was a lot easier, and we were shown how to mix large quantities of it using a mixer attachment and a drill – I wish I’d known this in the run up to my degree show, it definitely would have saved a lot of arm ache from mixing by hand!

Over the two days we all produced around 6 or 7 individual cast pieces. It was amazing to see the variety that was produced from the same set of instructions and materials – it was so great to be submerged in such an experimental environment for a weekend. The staff and facilities at the London Sculpture Workshop were amazing, and we definitely need something like this in the West Midlands. This course was a great support for my practice, and has given me lots of ideas to push my practice forward but also ways to work around limited equipment after leaving the workshops of University.

Artist Katie Hodson used the Engine Micro Bursary she was awarded this summer to attend a casting workshop at London Sculpture Workshop. She reflects on her production experiences and learning processes below.

Vivian Suter, Nisyros (Vivians bed), oil, pigment and fish glue on canvas and paper, volcanic, earth, botanical matter, microorganisms and wood.

Artist and educator Laura Onions was the recipient of an Engine Micro Bursary earlier this year. Below she reflects on her experiences of documenta 14, Kassel.

Vivian Suter, Nisyros (Vivians bed), oil, pigment and fish glue on canvas and paper, volcanic, earth, botanical matter, microorganisms and wood.

What shifts? What drifts? What remains? three questions underpinning the documenta 14 learning programme this year. Seemingly simple, yet these hold resonance particularly for education. How do we learn from experiences, what are the traces that take us forwards? How does art produce encounters for learning? As an artist and educator, these are important questions for both teaching practice and artistic practice. I utilised the Engine Micro Bursary to fund a trip to Kassel in July and the following are some reflections on works that left a lasting impression on me.

First day: Overwhelmed by the scale of the project I resolved to enter the larger curated shows first. In the vastness of Documenta Halle, a presentation of archives from Anna Halprin’s multiracial dance company breathed openly. Scoring the stories and development of dance deck – an architectural device Halprin crafted with her husband Lawrence.

Influenced by the Bauhaus, the construction of the deck (1954) reconsidered how acts of learning through the body occur based on observation and awareness, how conversations between self and place form together. “I began to simply shed all of my old patterns, and I had to start anew with new ideas of what is the nature and my nature interface. That’s where I began to develop a new approach to movement.”

I am reminded of videos of Josef Albers, how he used his whole body in his teaching to encourage students to reach a wider range of movement, to experience shape from different perspectives. These are powerful tools of pedagogy that are shared through choreography “as performers become more confident and skilled they all become freer in using the whole body, the wholeness of the trail.” Tracing the emotional, political and performative engagements of the community groups who used dance deck, this archive recalls the importance of co-creating inclusive spaces towards making and innovating.

Vivian Suter, Nisyros (Vivians bed), oil, pigment and fish glue on canvas and paper, volcanic, earth, botanical matter, microorganisms and wood.

Second day: Rumbling along the tram lines, I reach the outer edges of the city where the glass pavilions sit on Kurt-Schumacher strasse. A boundary between the hub of the city and the regions where many migrant communities reside. The so-called pavilions are abandoned commercial outlets, now containing art works and installations that may or may not be entered, playing with the possibilities of transparency, transition and in-between-ness. It’s a quiet morning, I have them all to myself. Vivian Suters, Nisyros (Vivian’s Bed) is most alluring. Paintings on un-stretched canvas hung in layers, interrupting and obscuring one another as they folded back into the room towards a bed made of wood at its centre. The paintings are trusted, there is a need to follow them in; inviting in their floods of colour, boldness and sculptural presence, but also an intimate space made public.

The Missing Link. Decolonisation Education by Mrs Smiling Stone, School desks, photographs, glassine paper sheets, drawings with coloured pencil, microphone stand, earth and lipstick on paper.

Third day: Weaving through the historical Neue Gallerie, an ambitiously curated show that speaks along the lines of politics, economy, global relationships, lasting debts. The upper floors explore cultural theft and systems of colonisation and exploitation. In a sun-drenched atrium, this is where I find The Missing Link. Decolonisation Education by Mrs Smiling Stone by Pelagie Gbaguidi. Scrolls drape from floor to ceiling, their surface mapping part formed figures and scrawls that echo handwriting. Among the delicate drawings are school desks, upon these are fragments of ceramics, toys and veiled photographs of figures caught within the violence of apartheid. Lift the veil and confront the atrocities of dehumanisation.

Conceived from a research project based in South Africa, Gbaguidi places the transmission of knowledge at the centre of this work. What and whose knowledge is passed on, rearticulated or canonised? Education here is troubled as both a preserver and a solution to legacies of oppression. Gbaguidi leaves a stanza on the wall to synthesise her thoughts on the work:

How might education contribute to
purge from consciousness that there exist no
under-beings but that the birth of a
life is a value in itself.
That every human has a right to a


I could not leave Kassel without visiting the Kunsthochschule, Kassel’s art school which was designed in the 1960s by Paul Friedrich Poseneske, situated in the Auepark, Kassel.


The works that stood out to me personally were those that infiltrated public space, that whispered across the city, distorting and obstructing views above ground or hunkered in spaces below ground. Raising awareness of the presence and movement of self through the city, repetition of movement; bodies, space, lines, traces of past and present. While I write these reflections, teaching is about to resume, focus is about to become stretched. The trip to Kassel functioned as a timely reminder, that we must account for the spaces that we construct with others.

Artist and educator Laura Onions was the recipient of an Engine Micro Bursary earlier this year. Below she reflects on her experiences of documenta 14, Kassel.

Kurt Hickson, Dead Painting #2 (2016), Dead Painting (2014), Black Triangle (2016), and Night Fume (2017). Exhibition realised as the result of the last round of Engine Studio Visits.

We are again offering artists and curators living in the West Midlands region the opportunity to receive a studio visit* from an arts professional. This is an opportunity to discuss your work and to seek valuable feedback and practical advice on either artistic or curatorial practice.

Kurt Hickson, Dead Painting #2 (2016), Dead Painting (2014), Black Triangle (2016), and Night Fume (2017). Exhibition realised as the result of the last round of Engine Studio Visits.

We are delighted to announce that this year’s studio visitors will be:

Irene Aristizábal, Nottingham Contemporary
Irene Aristizábal is Head of Exhibitions at Nottingham Contemporary. In 2010, she was the recipient of the H+F Curatorial Grant and worked as Guest Curator at the FRAC Nord Pas de Calais, Dunkirk. Prior to moving to London, she co-directed the not-for-profit space Bétonsalon in Paris. She has curated exhibitions and projects at the Miro Foundation, Barcelona; La Maison Rouge, Paris; the Museum of Health Sciences, Bogota; Form Content, London and LOOP festival, Barcelona.

Lana Bountakidou, Bosse & Baum
Lana Bountakidou is the co-founder and co-director, with Alexandra Warder, of Bosse & Baum, a contemporary art gallery founded in 2013 based in Peckham, London. The gallery promotes new developments in arts and culture, curating site-specific exhibitions, supporting emergent practitioners of art, with a focus on audience development in contemporary visual arts and culture. The gallery has a strong focus on performative art practices, with an active events programme which accompanies exhibitions, bringing current discourses to the attention of new audiences both in the local community and internationally.

Anne de Charmant, Meadow Arts
Born in Geneva (Switzerland) of Hungarian and Italian parentage, Anne de Charmant is a French citizen who feels European above all. Having trained as journalist, she was an arts correspondent for various French and Swiss media and press. Her particular interest in the contemporary visual arts led her to specialise in that field and when the opportunity arose she turned her hand to curating. Meadow Arts is a non-venue based organisation that collaborates with partners across the region, in order to bring excellent contemporary art to underserved areas; often using unusual venues to produce exhibitions, new commissions and events. Meadow Arts has been supported by the Arts Council from early on and is now in its third round of NPO funding.

Seán Elder, Grand Union
Seán Elder is a curator, researcher and writer based in Birmingham. He works with artists to produce writing, exhibitions and public programmes. Past projects include a Anthology of American Folk Song: a Scottish Première of new work by Steve Reinke at Glasgow Film Theatre, tracing the [public] garden wall, with artists Gordon Douglas and Tako Taal, which took place at Glasgow’s historic Botanic Gardens, and a new piece of writing, Hockney’s California, as part of Active Model, an exhibition for Glasgow Open House Festival. Previous to his role as Associate Curator, Grand Union, he conducted independent projects in proximity with organisations including LUX Scotland, The Glasgow School of Art and The Hunterian Art Gallery, University of Glasgow. He has written and spoken on research of Queer aesthetics both in his current writing residency with Cooper Gallery Dundee, as well as CCA Glasgow as part of their Talk See Photography lecture series.

Ryan Hughes, Coventry Biennial of Contemporary Art / Office for Art, Design and Technology
Ryan Hughes is director of Coventry Biennial of Contemporary Art. He has worked extensively in artist-led spaces both nationally and internationally as well as with institutions including museums, universities and local authorities. Additionally, he has made projects in ‘unusual’ locations including churches, mountains, online and in print. He has worked closely with practitioners from various fields including musicians, technologists and writers in addition to many artists and believes that interdisciplinary and collaboration are crucial. He has shown work by Lev Manovich, Radical Software Group, Ryder Ripps, Assemble and Andy Holden whilst also conceiving and delivering professional development programmes for emerging artists including students and recent graduates.

Milika Muritu, Cell Project Space
Milika Muritu is co-founder and Director of exhibitions at Cell Project Space. Recent projects include; ‘Free Traveller’, Yuri Pattison acquired by ZKM Museum, Karlsruhe (2017) ‘Submission/ Critical Mass: Pure Immanence’, Anne De Vries, selected for Berlin Biennial (2016) and ‘Greenhouses’, Aude Pariset, exhibited at ‘ARS 17’, Kiasma, Helsinki (2017). As an RCA Sculpture postgraduate, Muritu continued her Fine Art practice until 2007 exhibiting at 6th Sharjah International Biennial (2004). Appointed by ‘Commissions East’ she produced a public artwork and adjunct publication for ART U NEED (2007). Now working solely as curator she has collaborated in public programmes at Serpentine Gallery, London (2005) Tate Britain (2008), Hayward Gallery (2008), Turner Contemporary (2009) and is visiting lecturer at Camberwell College of Art, Central St Martins School of Art, RCA, and Royal Academy Schools.

If you would like to apply for a studio visit, please send a short application to for the attention of Anneka French.

You should send a maximum of three images of relevant work, your CV and a summary of no more than 300 words outlining who you would like to meet and why, and how you feel it would help to support and develop your practice. Please send as a single PDF document.

Applications will be shortlisted by a panel including Deborah Robinson, Head of Exhibitions, The New Art Gallery Walsall, Anneka French, Project Coordinator, New Art West Midlands and Zoe Lippett, Exhibitions and Artists’ Projects Curator, The New Art Gallery Walsall.

The deadline for applications is 12noon, Friday 3 November 2017.
*We recognise that not all artists or curators have or require studios. The visits can take place at a mutually convenient date and time and an appropriate venue.


We are again offering artists and curators living in the West Midlands region the opportunity to receive a studio visit from an arts professional. Application deadline: 12noon, Friday 3 November.

Image courtesy AirSpace

We are programming a series of Away Day visits both within the region and beyond to explore artist-led activity, to profile the work of artists based outside the capital and to create networking opportunities.

Our third visit is to the gallery and studios at AirSpace Gallery and nearby artist studio complex ACAVA.

Image courtesy AirSpace

Engine Away Day: AirSpace and ACAVA, Stoke-on-Trent
Saturday 14 October 2017

At 1pm we will meet at ACAVA for a tour of the studios and exhibition, and a presentation on the ACAVA studio model. From there, we will go on an artist and historian led walk from Stoke Town up to Hanley City Centre, stopping at points on the way to hear about arts and regeneration in the city.

The walk finishes at AirSpace Gallery, offering the chance to visit their current exhibition, FOUNT, in partnership with the British Ceramics Biennial, and to learn more about AirSpace, its structure and projects over tea and coffee. This is followed by some networking time.

(The British Ceramics Biennial takes place at Spode Factory and would be an ideal way to spend your morning in Stoke-on-Trent, should you choose to arrive early).

Everyone is welcome. Attendees are expected to cover their own travel costs to and from Stoke-on-Trent.

To reserve a free place, please contact Anneka French on

Places will be allocated on a first come, first served basis and must be reserved no later than Tuesday 10 October 2017.

Our third Engine Away Day visit is to the gallery and studios at AirSpace Gallery and nearby artist studio complex ACAVA.

Grand Union's Studios

We are programming a series of Away Day visits both within the region and beyond to explore artist-led activity, to profile the work of artists based outside the capital and to create networking opportunities.

Our next visit is to the gallery and purpose-built artist-led studios Grand Union in the Minerva Works complex in Digbeth, Birmingham.

Grand Union’s Studios

Grand Union, Birmingham
Wednesday 11 October 2017

The visit will include an introduction to Grand Union’s current exhibition Susie Green: Pleasure is a Weapon by the curatorial team. This will also be a chance to find out more about the history, working model, recent expansion and future plans for Grand Union.

Discussions will be followed by an opportunity to visit the existing and brand new artist studios and to meet some of the practitioners based there. We will also pay a visit to Modern Clay, a studio facility for the production of ceramics run by artist Mark Essen which is based on site, finishing around 4pm.

Please meet at 2pm in Grand Union’s gallery. Refreshments will be provided.

Everyone is welcome. Attendees are expected to cover their own travel costs to and from the venue.

To reserve a free place, please contact Anneka French on

Places will be allocated on a first come, first served basis and must be reserved no later than Tuesday 10 October.

Engine is the artist and curator professional development programme led by New Art West Midlands and The New Art Gallery Walsall.








Our Away Day visit on 11 October is to the gallery and purpose-built artist-led studios Grand Union in the Minerva Works complex in Digbeth, Birmingham.

Christina Schultz, Young Boy Dive, 2017

Aarhus Billedkunstcenter (Denmark) and New Art West Midlands present the second edition of Traverse – Connecting International Art Communities.

Traverse is a research programme that promotes critical dialogue about artists’ working conditions through long-distance communication between visual artists and arts organisations from all over the world.

Christina Schultz, Young Boy Dive, 2017


Application deadline: 5pm, 22 September 2017
Project dates: 2 October – 1 December 2017
Time commitment: 25 hours
Artist fee: £675.00


With this edition of Traverse, Aarhus Billedkunstcenter and New Art West Midlands’ Engine* explore the impact of peripheral geographies on artists’ working lives.

Like the West Midlands, the city of Aarhus in Denmark’s Central Jutland region, is geographically removed from the country’s cultural capital; Copenhagen boasts a higher concentrations of artists, arts institutions, funding pools and other vital resources. But can working outside of the capital as cultural hotspot offer up different opportunities for local artists?

New Art West Midlands is now seeking one artist based in the West Midlands to explore this topic in collaboration with an artist based in Aarhus. Possible research questions include:

  • What does it mean to be an artist working outside of your country’s capital region?
  • How do the specific geographical, economic, political, and cultural characteristics of your city, town or village impact the working conditions for local artists?
  • What impact does regional identity have on your working life?
  • Do artists from peripheral geographies develop a kind of cultural “accent”?
  • Can you imagine any programmes, initiatives or services that would improve the ways in which peripheral geographies shape your working life?

Participating artists will be asked to engage in talk-based critical dialogue over a 5-week period (20 hours, Skype or phone), and to collaborate with administrative staff to document the content and outcomes of this dialogue online (5 hours).

Please note that Traverse is a research programme with a focus on learning and communication, rather than artistic production. Successful applications will propose research questions and topics for critical discourse.

To apply, please email the following application materials as a single PDF by 5pm 22 September 2017 to

  • Statement of intent (max. 500 words)
  • CV (1 page)
  • Images of 3 recent works


For more information on Traverse and Aarhus Billedkunstcenter, please visit

Please direct questions to Anneka French:


*Engine is the artist and curator professional development programme led by New Art West Midlands and The New Art Gallery Walsall.




Aarhus Billedkunstcenter (Denmark) and New Art West Midlands present the second edition of Traverse – Connecting International Art Communities. Read more about our artist open call exploring the impact of peripheral geographies on artists’ working lives.

Engine is programming a series of Away Day visits both within the region and beyond. The purpose of these is to explore artist-led activity, to profile the work of artists based outside the capital and to create networking opportunities.

The second of our Away Day visits is to artist-led studios, gallery and social workspace The Royal Standard at their new premises in Liverpool. We will also be paying a visit to Bluecoat, and to some of the other galleries and spaces housed within The Royal Standard.


The Royal Standard, Liverpool
Tuesday 12 September 2017
12noon onwards

The day will start at 12noon at Bluecoat to visit the exhibition ‘Abacus‘ and view various Liverpool-based artists’ work including Kevin Hunt, Frances Disley, Polly Brannan and Birmingham’s Simon and Tom Bloor.

This will be followed by a walking tour of The Royal Standard’s new complex of studios including viewing the exhibition by Black Blossoms and some of the various independent projects spaces housed there.

Lunch will be provided by artists FoodSketz who will present their practice as part of an informal lunch process.

This is followed by a presentation about the history of The Royal Standard and the mechanics of how the organisation works, as well as visits with artist studio holders.

Drinks to close.


Everyone is welcome. Attendees are expected to cover their own travel costs to and from the venue. Lunch and refreshments will be provided at no cost.

A more detailed schedule will be released soon.

To reserve a free place, please contact Anneka French on

Places will be allocated on a first come, first served basis and must be reserved no later than Friday 8 September.

Further Away Days will be held at AirSpace Gallery in Stoke-on-Trent and Grand Union in Birmingham in October 2017.

Engine is the artist and curator professional development programme led by New Art West Midlands and The New Art Gallery Walsall.



Engine is programming a series of Away Day visits both within the region and beyond. The purpose of these is to explore artist-led activity, to profile the work of artists based outside the capital and to create networking opportunities.

Artist Jodie Wingham recently attended Leicester Print Workshop‘s Screenprinting Summer School.

Funded by an Engine Micro Bursary, Wingham reports back on her experiences on the intensive five day course.

The purpose of the five day course at Leicester Print Workshop was to learn new skills within print making, my chosen field of interest, in all its wonderful forms. The summer textile course, led by Zara Shepherd, allowed for an intensive insight into a printing genre that I have little experience of.

The brief explained that during the week I would learn how to make a repeat pattern and print this to a high standard using traditional hand screen printed techniques and experiment with different products to achieve this. Working with our own ideas and interests, students would be encouraged to design a pattern that was entirely our own to use as we wished.

Day 1: Designing our repeat pattern

At the beginning of day one Zara gave an introduction into the outcomes of the course, as an experienced textile technician formerly from Loughborough University and now as a textile artist pursuing her own range of wares, she had lots of experience and enthusiasm for all things textiles. We were shown what could be achieved through screen printing on to fabric, with Zara providing examples of the patterns she has hand drawn showing the group what was possible.

he day started with how to draw the box which would form our block repeat. Sounds easy!? It turns out drawing a perfectly straight rectangle was a lot more difficult and time consuming than first thought but very important for the tile to work when it came to printing it.

After drawing this box it was time to design the pattern. Zara went round to talk to us individually about our designs and how these would work as a repeat form. I decided to work with the theme of palmistry, reading the visual to inform us of what we cannot see – linking with my artistic concerns on all things associated with how we gain information from sight and that which we do not notice. With this I decided to work with a two-colour design for my fabric.

Day 2: Drawing our finished repeat block and exposing this on to a screen

After we had finished designing the final repeat block it was time to trace this on to draft paper ready to expose onto a screen. This step of the process took a while but it allowed you to make little changes if needed and create a hand-finished effect to the work.

Day 3: Colour swatching and printing the 2 metre fabric

As a printmaker I know the importance of colour mixing and swatching to achieve your desired result and textile printing is no different. It was wonderful to be allowed to just play with colours to see what worked and what didn’t. This is something that I often forget to do – just play and have fun as an artist which I will now take more time to do.

Day 4: Experimenting with different printing mediums

Zara showed us examples of other mediums which can be used in screen printing to achieve different visual effects such as puff binder, foil and flock that we could use to embellish our fabric. These particular processes that need heat to become active are fantastic at adding texture to flat images and create interest.

Day 5: Finishing the printed fabric

After an intensive five days, I was shattered. It was a course where the premise was to learn and experiment as much as we wanted to. Every day we were making and being hands-on allowed us to learn skills for ourselves and at our own pace.

The new skills and expansion on existing ones has given me the confidence to push my work further. I am delighted with the outcome of the course – it has sparked the making of new work exploring different avenues associated with print. Most of all I am looking forward to making something with my fabric.

Jodie Wingham reports from Leicester Print Workshop’s Screenprinting Summer School.

Forgotten Greens and Healing Powers, Ines Lauber. Photograph by Kaye Winwood.


Last month Kaye Winwood attended Food Art Week (Berlin), this research opportunity was supported by an Engine Micro Bursary, from New Art West Midlands and The New Art Gallery Walsall. She reports back on her experiences.

This annual festival, now in its third year, is curated by Berlin-based Entretempo Kitchen who claim to be the “first contemporary art gallery to combine food and art”.[i] The festival includes exhibitions, workshops, dinners, dining experiences, salons and talks that take place over many sites and with different partners across Berlin.

The primary aim of Food Art Week is to interrogate important questions in contemporary society, using food as a catalyst to underpin this discourse. This year’s festival was entitled ‘Vs. Meat’ and approached “topics such as human and animal rights, feminism, conscious consumption, environmental issues and sustainability whilst calling attention to the political, social, and technological aspects of the meat industry”.[ii]

Working as a Creative Producer/Artist using food as a medium and multi-sensory experience as an artistic and curatorial practice, the festival provided an opportunity to meet a group of like-minded artists, producers and visitors, and to see and experience international practice.

The intention of this research trip was to expand my knowledge of the sector whilst contributing to specific areas within my research:

Expanded Dining – a term I coined to reflect a ‘beyond the plate’ approach to dining that I use in my own practice.

A research kitchen – a space combining artist studio and development kitchen to R&D creative food practices across disciplines.

My travel companions were collaborator Nuala Clooney with whom I am developing a range of tableware exploring the sensuality of the dining experience; and Dr Elisa Oliver, Director of FEAST online journal with whom I am exploring theories and practices of Expanded Dining.


Day One:

Most of the activity took place during the evening, so on arrival Nuala and I had the opportunity to explore a little of Berlin before heading out for ‘Drink Art’, after all ‘drinking is the highest form of art’ according to Marioni, right?

After initially being dropped off by a taxi driver at a Psychotherapy Clinic over the wrong side of town (was it something we did/said?) we finally got another cab to the correct venue – uber cool ‘Keith’ Bar – a dark cavernous space lit by candlelight and specialists in whisky, German beer and cocktails.

On arrival, we were warmly welcomed by Chris Lloyd*, Coordinator of this year’s festival and his colleague Vanessa. We also had time for a quick catch up with Charles Michel* where we talked briefly about the lack of education around meat production and the potential for artistic practice to have a faster societal impact than policy.

(*) Chris and Charles are co-founders of the international Crossmodalist movement with whom I’ve previously met in UK. Chris is now Berlin-based, and Charles lives between London and Paris. More about them later …

The bar owner Ken (we still don’t know who ‘Keith’ is) – also an artist – had been invited to participate in the festival and worked with locally chef Tony Sanchez from ‘Sancho’ to create a dish and cocktail which resonated with the theme of this year’s festival whilst referring to his Latin American heritage. The specially designed plate was delicious and complex – layering flavours and heat beautifully in three tacos accompanied by a tangy pickled onion salad. The heat in one of the tacos was eye-wateringly intense – causing a pleasure/pain response often associated with chilli, amongst other things.

The cocktail – a Mezcal, tamarind and chipotle margarita – was intriguing and challenging. The rim of the glass was coated in grasshopper salt (or plain salt for vegetarians/vegans). It’s Mezcal smokiness was pimped using chipotle and given an added profile with a dose of tart tamarind. The margarita was sweetened (ever so slightly) with an almond and honey syrup and, whilst I couldn’t detect the honey nor almonds, I was pretty thankful for any notes of sweetness added to this piquant drink. The drink was served with a straw which we felt kind of defeated the object of the salty rim however, my companion couldn’t get enough of the grasshopper salt and fingered her glass until it was squeaky clean.

The event was ticketed, and diners arrived in pairs and small groups – I had the sense that many of the diners were already familiar with the bar (I might be wrong) and the bar had a convivial ambiance throughout although, as a seated event, it didn’t have the communality that I’d anticipated. Drink Art! was a really enjoyable as a satellite event but we were left wondering whether this event really addressed issues around within the festival.


Day Two:

I have been following Entretempo for a couple of years. I have been intrigued by their work within food/art and also their kitchen/gallery model, it’s a model that I am keen to explore in the UK and one that mirrors its historic predecessors – FOOD (Matta Clark, NY, 1970s), Holy Palate (Marinetti and Futurists, Italy, 1930s) but has relatively few contemporary peers.

Meeting at Tainá Guedes, Director of Entretempo

I was delighted that Tainá Guedes, Director of Entretempo and Artistic Director Food Art Week, could make some time on Tuesday morning to meet us.

Tainá, intelligent and tenacious in equal measure, has worked hard to sustain the gallery and the festival. She has grown the festival from a passion for food and art and the festival now has 120 staff and volunteers over the 10 days of the festival. Originally from Brazil, Tainá told us that she has lived in Berlin since 2009 and set up Entretempo in 2013. She explained that Berlin seems like the only place in the world that this type of activity can thrive.

Entretempo combines gallery and kitchen in one space. The gallery space has a year round programme of food-related exhibitions, meals, events and workshops. The adjoining kitchen is modest in size but ample for Tainá and her team to produce food for events, commercial hires and catering. Whilst the majority of their work is ‘art’ based and not-for-profit however, the local council categorised them as a ‘restaurant’ at a substantially increased rate. Sadly this is symptomatic of a lack of understanding around the nuances of food related practice and is also true within the UK.

Tainá talked about the festival programme becoming increasingly politicised and activist. She programmed ‘Vs. Meat’ this year as an opportunity to consider the future of food within contemporary and future cultures. The events considered vegetarianism and veganism as a way forward, alongside feminism, sustainability and ethics. Next year the theme will be ‘sugar’ and will take place internationally across Brasil, LA, New York and Paris.

Nuala, Elisa and myself introduced our mutual areas of interest, in particular the female and sensuality within food and sensory events and discussed the possibility of working with Entretempo to present an event in Spring 2018. Watch this space!

After a jaunt across town to one of the festival’s related exhibitions – which was closed that day, argh – we explored a few other galleries including DAAD before heading to Prinzessinnengarten for that evening’s event – Forgotten Greens and Healing Powers.

This interactive dinner was sited in the beautifully conceived Prinzessinnengarten comprised of allotments, a bar, kitchen, apiary and park. A beautiful place to saunter, meet, drink and eat.

Our event was hosted on a modest timber platform, with a tarpaulin roof and seats made from water barrels. The artist/chef Ines Lauber (Studio Ines Lauber) – introduced the event, the ethos of which was a consideration of our diet and forgotten foraged foods. A reminder to reconsider the use of natural food as a larger part of our diet.

Our dinner was made almost entirely from ingredients from the allotments, and started with a rosehip and basil spritz embellished with rose petals which was delicious. In small groups, we were invited to make a butter or quark spread using fresh herbs and spiced salt which we devoured with freshly made spelt and millet bread. After which we had some ‘messy play’ with clay.

We rolled out our clay, placed vegetables and herbs in the centre of the clay and rolled carefully to create airtight parcels which were then taken to an outdoor fire to be cooked. Whilst they were cooking we had an opportunity to network with our fellow diners and search out and pick foods from nearby trees, hung in plastic balls, or on washing pegs. A lovely idea, but some of the packaging and fastenings didn’t prescribe to the ethical aspirations of the food event, and felt at odds with the experience. We were seated again and given an insightful talk by a winemaker from Pfalz and treated to a beautiful Riesling made using soil diversity methods which he explained in great detail.

Armed with our rolling pins we cracked our vegetables open, steaming hot and full of flavour, they were accompanied by a fresh herb salad, a tomato and apple ketchup, garden pesto and hummus.

Forgotten Greens and
Healing Powers, Ines Lauber. Photograph by Kaye Winwood.

We then walked over to the apiary and met the local bees (and a tiny mouse) for an inspirational fact filled talk about the hives at Prinzessinnengarten from death inducing mating rituals to mummifying rodents! Walking back across Prinzessinnengarten to our tables in the dusk was beautiful and really added the overall ambience of the experience. At the table we were served a whipped ricotta cream with honey from the bees. The interactive aspects of the experience prompted discussion, creativity and pleasure and provided a reminder of some of the forgotten, and underused, methods of producing and using foods.


Ultraviolet Schnitzel, Uli Westphal

After dinner we dashed across town to attend a talk by Berlin based artist Uli Westphal in yet another cool bar – Das Kapital – a meeting point for artists, talks and salons. Uli’s “works deal with the way humans perceive, depict and transform the natural world. [He is] especially interested in how misconceptions and ideologies shape our view of nature. In recent years [he has] focused on the portrayal and transformation of nature through the food industries. [His] work is multidisciplinary and research based, frequently consisting out of collections, classification systems, simulations and experimental set-ups.”

The event was a thorough introduction to Uli’s practice whose conceptual work across media provides a commentary on food, product marketing and consumerism from creating digital images, producing light installations, sculptural objects and photographs; and also an opportunity to witness the suspended UV schnitzel at the end of the bar!


Day Three:

We headed to the exhibition Flesh on Flesh at Momentum Gallery, a gallery and residency programme for time-based arts. The works in this exhibition used raw meat as an artistic medium or symbolic tool in a screen-based exhibition including new commissioned work alongside the well-known work Meat Love (1989) by Jan Svankmajer. It was an abhorrent, sometimes brutal, sometimes humanising, display of ‘flesh’ drawing parallels between human and animal.

Nezaket Ekicic, Flesh on Flesh at Momentum

Later that day we headed to a Vernissage: Crossmodalism Food Art Showcase presented as a satellite event for Tech Open Air 2017. The Crossmodalists are an international “movement born from the synthesis of art, science, and entrepreneurship. It is based in learning and collaboration across non-traditionally linked disciplines, ideas, and communities”.[iii]

The Vernissage featured screenings of films by Dr. Tereza Stehlikova (Royal College of Art, London), and No Water For Whales (Colombia), a talk by Charles Michel (Crossmodal Research Laboratory, University of Oxford) and photographer Joe Sarah.

The evening also included the opportunity to experience ‘Perfume Orchestra’ an existing work, adapted for one, with specially created perfumes wafted in front of you as you sat listening to Wagner in complete darkness. It was an interesting experience in how the olfactory senses are affected by music.


Day Four:

Sadly it was time to leave Berlin but on way to the airport I had time to visit the Hamburger Bahnhof to see the exhibition moving is in every direction. Environments – Installations – Narrative Spaces – an extensive exhibition covering 3,500 square metres and including works by Alan Kaprow, Joseph Beuys, Susan Philipsz and Pipilotti Rist – interrogating authorship, participation and environment.

The trip to Berlin was hugely enjoyable and invigorating and has given me plenty of food for thought (no pun intended) however, I was disappointed that the Food Art Week programme was announced so late in the day that we had already booked our travel and missed the main exhibition and many of the events I would have liked to attend.
This research trip was an incredible opportunity to spend time with peers and collaborators, make new contacts and experience new work. All of which I know will be of enormous benefit to my artistic and professional development.




[iii] Taken from the Crossmodalist Facebook page

Last month Kaye Winwood attended Food Art Week (Berlin), this research opportunity was supported by an Engine Micro Bursary, from New Art West Midlands and The New Art Gallery Walsall. She reports back on her experiences.

Escamotage, 2014 © Grace A Williams. Installation at Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery

Earlier this year, artist Grace A Williams was awarded an Engine Micro Bursary to continue her practice-based research.

She visited the Society for Psychical Research (SPR) Archive at Cambridge University Library, the largest repository in the UK of material relating to unexplained phenomena.

In this video, she reports on her experiences and findings:

Grace A Williams visited the Society for Psychical Research (SPR) Archive at Cambridge University Library, the largest UK repository of material relating to unexplained phenomena. Watch her video report.

Cody Choi, Venetian Rhapsody – The Power of Bluff, 2016-17. Neon, LED, Steel, Canvas, PVC. 1243x1033x111cm. Day installation view at the Korean Pavilion, 57th International Art Exhibition, La Biennale di Venezia. Photo by Riccardo Tosetto. Courtesy of the Artist

Four artists and visual arts producers based in Birmingham and the Black Country have been awarded our 57th Venice Biennale bursaries following an open call. These bursaries are supported through Engine, our artist and curator development programme.

The selection panel were particularly impressed by strong applications from Kate Self, a creative producer and visual arts educator, and artists Thomas Kilby, Rohanie Campbell-Thakoordin and Vicky Roden. Roden showed work in the 2015 edition of the New Art West Midlands exhibition at the Barber Institute of Fine Arts and Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery.

Kate, Thomas, Rohanie and Vicky will travel to Venice with the Engine/New Art West Midlands team in late September. Each will produce a report of their experiences in Venice which will be available to read on our editorial pages.

Four artists and visual arts producers based in Birmingham and the Black Country have been awarded our 57th Venice Biennale bursaries following an open call.

Lily Wales - Operation Plumbob, 2017. Work in progress.

Engine and GRAIN are delighted to announce that Lily Wales has been awarded our £1000 bursary. The bursary was for an artist living and working in the West Midlands region who uses photography as an integral element of their practice.

Specialising in handmade photomontage, Lily is currently exploring themes around nuclear warfare with an interest in its language and how it anesthetises the audiences’ perception of the subject (i.e. atomic bombs personified by being given human names, and the absurd language used in films demonstrating how to survive a nuclear attack). She will use the bursary to undertake a research trip to the Nevada Testing Site and Atomic Testing Museum near Las Vegas.

The trip will offer her an opportunity to make new work, take first hand images in Nevada, and gather resources from the Atomic Testing Museum archive that she would not have otherwise had access to.

Lily said:

‘The trip undertaken through the bursary will provide an authentic insight into the colossal scale of the iconic mushroom, allowing me to expand on my photographic archive and consider new notions of scale within my own practice.’

We will report back later in the year on her progress.




Engine and GRAIN are delighted to announce that Lily Wales has been awarded our £1000 bursary. The bursary was for an artist living and working in the West Midlands region who uses photography as an integral element of their practice.

In June Engine offered a curatorial opportunity to support Coventry Biennial of Contemporary Art, and a bursary to support the research and development of a curatorial concept. We are delighted to announce the recipients:

Jonathon Harris has been selected for the curatorial development bursary with Coventry Biennial of Contemporary Art. The £2,000 bursary will provide the opportunity to work on a series of high profile solo and group exhibitions as well as accompanying events. With the majority of the Biennial programme in place, the post will focus on the selection of work, production, logistics and management of exhibitions programmes.

Due to the high standard of applications, both Grace Williams and Kaye Winwood have been awarded research and development curatorial bursaries.

Kaye will use her bursary to support the research and development of a multi-site presentation of artworks in response to her ‘Expanded Dining’ work. Her curatorial ambition is to explore food as an artform and to contribute to new knowledges in gastronomy, performance and visual culture which propose new modes of interdisciplinarity.

Grace will use the bursary to research and develop an exhibition inviting emerging and established female artists to respond to an ‘occult’ artifact. The show will aim to initiate a dialogue around the social importance of maintaining histories sidelined as irrational, and the central role of women within occult practices. The bursary will also support a number of key research visits to leading repositories of occult and esoteric material in the UK and Europe, building on her own doctoral research.

We’ll report back later in the year on their progress.


Congratulations to Jonathon Harris, Grace Williams and Kaye Winwood who are successful recipients of our recent curatorial opportunities.

Tadao Cern, Black Balloons, 2016.

Earlier in the year recent graduate and New Art West Midlands 2017 alumna Halina Dominska was awarded an Engine Micro Bursary to attend Aesthetica’s Future Now Symposium which took place from 25-26 May 2017. She reports back on her experience.

Held at York St. John University in the heart of York, I attended Aesthetica’s two day Future Now Symposium in May. As an emerging contemporary artist it’s been useful to attend one or two symposia each year. They can reinvigorate and redirect your thinking. Meeting interesting people and being present at first class debates are just some of the aspects which can benefit your practice. Future Now also offered the rare chance for a portfolio review session. While there, I was interested to find out more about the Aesthetica Art Prize and exhibition (Entries for the 2017 Aesthetica Art Prize are open until Thursday 31 August 2017). As a recent arts graduate I’m keen to build up the profile of my work, one way to do this is through such awards.

The symposium opened with Aesthetica’s Director Cherie Federico, who commented on the digital times we are living through, and how quickly they have advanced from the millennium. She questioned what we did with our time before ‘being online’, and went onto highlight many aspects, positive and negative about our digital lives. One aspect highlighted was the reduction in ‘human contact’ in our communities, with the example of the introduction of self check outs in supermarkets and shops.

The idea of human contact unconsciously slipping away from generations of people is one that preoccupies me. How will this affect us? Will it affect us? Has it affected us? How will it change us as social beings? Can we change it? Do we want to? According to the phenomenologist Merleau-Ponty, we experience the world through our senses. To limit our sensory experience of the world and our connections in it will change how we learn, live and thrive as human beings. I wonder if the ‘gift of time’ the internet has given us (less administration, flexibility) could be used to replenish that face to face interaction with the community, friends and family. Cherie finished her talk with the thought: ‘Art allows us the privilege to stop, reflect and think on all of these things’.

Rachel Ara’s (Aesthetica Art Prize winner 2016) talk as part of the Sculpture Today session was refreshingly honest. She talked about her processes, an obsession with making and her ‘FARTS’, fast art which she makes in between her main projects. She sets out with the aim to use all women in the process of making. Rachel views her first works as prototypes to the work she really wants to make.

The funding and commissioning session included useful information from Wellcome Trust who are both financially and politically independent. They’ve recently made changes to their funding streams including their public engagement fund and application process, making it more streamlined. One piece of advice Alice Carey (Arts Partnership Manager, Wellcome Trust) gave was to think about your ‘baseline’ when making an application. If you want to make change in the world, firstly find out where you are starting from.

Gordon Dalton (Interim National Coordinator, Contemporary Visual Arts Network and Network Manager, Visual Arts South West) talked about the regional networks that make up CVAN, enabling lots of micro-funding even though they are not a funding body. Some of the schemes from Visual Arts South West include the Go and See Fund and a mentoring scheme.

Each of the sessions I attended had a variety of knowledgeable, well spoken and often charismatic speakers and chairs. One speaker that stood out was Season Butler. Season was eloquently articulate, but not only that, was entirely in control of where she wanted to direct the conversation. She beautifully prompted her panelists, ‘I wonder if…..’ was often the beginnings of a well thought out opinion or question.

It was a pleasure to attend the event; one that has given me much to think about and no doubt refer back to in the future.

Earlier in the year recent graduate and New Art West Midlands 2017 alumna Halina Dominska was awarded an Engine Micro Bursary to attend Aesthetica’s Future Now Symposium which took place from 25-26 May 2017. She reports back on her experience.

We are offering four West Midlands artists or curators the opportunity to visit the 57th Venice Biennale with the Engine/New Art West Midlands team.

Cody Choi, Venetian Rhapsody – The Power of Bluff, 2016-17. Neon, LED, Steel, Canvas, PVC. 1243x1033x111cm. Day installation view at the Korean Pavilion, 57th International Art Exhibition, La Biennale di Venezia. Photo by Riccardo Tosetto. Courtesy of the Artist

We will provide accommodation in Venice and a 48 hour pass to visit the Biennale. Flights must be organised and paid for by the applicant and we will not be providing subsistence costs.

We will fly out on the morning of Tuesday 26 September and will return on Friday 29 September. The accommodation will be covered on the 26, 27 and 28 September.

Please apply for this opportunity by sending an outline of no more than 500 words about why you would like to participate and what benefit this would be to your practice. Please send a CV including your full address and a website link if you have one. Applications should be sent by 11am on Monday 17 July as a single PDF to

Any artist or curator living in the West Midlands can apply.  Preference will be given to applicants who have not visited the Venice Biennale before.

Successful applicants will be asked to write a short report on the visit and some content may be shared on the New Art West Midlands website.

We are offering four West Midlands artists or curators the opportunity to visit the 57th Venice Biennale with the Engine/New Art West Midlands team. Deadline 11am, 17 July 2017.

Wolfgang Tillmans, Iguazu 2010, © Wolfgang Tillmans

Artist Adam Grüning was awarded a Micro Bursary to carry out research at Tate Modern exhibitions Wolfgang Tillmans and Media Networks. He reflects on his visit and its relevance to his practice below.

Wolfgang Tillmans, Iguazu 2010, © Wolfgang Tillmans

For me looking at a photograph is the closest thing to looking at the sky on a clear night, both have the ability to make you feel the enormity of time and to think about what reality means. More and more when I look at a photograph I feel as though I’m trying to find a truth rather than see an image, and I think about how that truth then sits in reality. This connection between the two can move with time and context, but Wolfgang Tillmans’ truth sits very much in the present, as you may expect from a show with “2017” in the title.

The show in its entirety is 14 rooms, hundreds of images, tables of news articles and books, 1 video piece, one room playing tracks from Colourbox and although its scale and superficial variety of work feels like one, it’s definitely not a retrospective (it even says so in the hand-out, just in case you weren’t sure.) The work spans from 2003, three years after Tillmans’ Turner Prize win, to the present day, so it’s easy to make this mistake. It’s been difficult to ignore the show; it’s felt as though every other post on my Instagram feed since its opening has been from the exhibition. I don’t know whether this helped or hindered my perspective on the show but it was certainly a factor that drew me closer to Tillmans’ work and to see a connection between his approach and how I have been working more recently.

The complex, messy connections between the images have a kind of poetic quality that is maintained in each room; it is gentle, tender and gives you a strange sense of being held whilst you walk through the space. It took me a week from seeing the show to fully appreciate this. I usually take two trips around an exhibition and it was the second trip I felt this more. Initially it felt a mass of independent research and evidence all at once, like clicking open all tabs on an amateur detective’s browsing history. There was a point too when I was alone in a darkened room watching a larger than life video of Tillmans jump around in his underpants thinking “why am I alone in a darkened room watching Tillmans jump around in his underpants”, but after a second pass it all made sense … more or less.

There is an element of preaching to the choir about the show, the gentle reminders about assumed truth, how the future is written from today’s actions and the bigger role we (both as individuals and as a larger collective) play in the world channeled most notably through Tillmans’ anti-Brexit campaign. That being said, it is more than just a reminder, it is the connections made that say most; from the headlights image, the oceans (both literal and of Frank) the still lives and the tables of information, it is looking through Tillmans’ eyes on a world right now putting his perspective on it all and the subtle links between everything and everyone. Maybe there is a sense of being spoken down to or of pointing out the obvious, depending on your view. The exhibition has split opinion quite dramatically but the images and information speak beyond current climates, which is where its greater successes lie.

Whether the Tate is the right venue for the exhibition, I’m unsure. It certainly has the space and status to house Tillmans’ idea but I couldn’t help feel that the white cube style environment did nothing for the work, and that the room Colourbox was playing in provided a more engaging sensibility overall with its blue walls and generally less stale environment.

There was an overwhelming sense of finding comfort and beauty in the work, and although I can see the eyebrows of previous lecturers frowning on me for saying it was beautiful, there was an undoubted sense of ‘this is beautiful’ in an unexpected way. Maybe it was the perception of gravity that kept me circling the exhibit that weighted it in time, in the moment, that made me feel beauty. It was something more than all of its parts. Although I kept being told that the display was original, it was nothing I hadn’t seen before, no one image particularly stood out, no one article or print out said more than another but together it demonstrated the workings of something, a perception, an understanding and an insight into someone who cares. It repeatedly moved outside of the gallery for context, which I found unusual for a Tate exhibition, and repeatedly moved me.

Image: Adam Grüning

In terms of my own practice, I’ve struggled with balancing how I work and feeling a disconnection between all the parts that make up my practice; the exhibition has been a positive influence on this. It has made me feel more comfortable with how I work and allowed me to see the connections between all the things I do, seeing they are much closer together than I initially realised. Maybe comfortable is the wrong word but it brought a calmness, making me see things more as a whole rather than as so disjointed.

Whilst at Tate Modern I was interested in seeing the Media Networks exhibition too. Although not my primary reason for visiting, the exhibition displayed artists’ responses to media and technology over the past 100 years which is something that has always returned in my work. Although the show was fine, if a little dry, the work of Louise Lawler stood out massively. Her composition, value, commodification and critique alongside Tillmans’ seemingly insignificant images and information hoarding, both balanced together and felt important to my practice right now, not one more than the other but a connection between them both. Overall, the show was not what I expected, not that it turned out better or worse, but it highlighted to me things I didn’t anticipate. Rather than research or theory or practical understandings, I need to address my perception of myself as an artist and to encourage work I’ve maybe been denying myself from producing because of this.

Artist Adam Grüning was awarded a Micro Bursary to carry out research at Tate Modern exhibitions Wolfgang Tillmans and Media Networks. He reflects on his visit and its relevance to his practice.

Image credit Dawn Harris

Artist and Director of Warwickshire’s ArtistsWorkhouse, Dawn Harris, received an Engine Micro Bursary to expand her drawing practice. She attended the three day workshop Magritte’s Umbrella: Drawing Upon the Subconscious at the Royal West Academy in Bristol in April. She shares her experiences below.


Image credit Dawn Harris


The brief explained that this three day course would focus on ‘finding’ structures, patterns, forms and objects through making marks, lines and gestures. Working on large surfaces, the workshop would encourage students to engage with the subconscious and create images from seemingly random patterns and textures.

I requested a bursary specifically for this course to help me re-engage with my drawing practice. My commitments to ArtistsWorkhouse, an artist led gallery and studio space, had meant that I had not been able to allocate time for making works myself.

The word used on many occasions by our tutor and RWA president Stewart Geddes was ‘generative’. Stewart hoped that the work we made during our 3 days, through the drawing from the subconscious process would prove to have a generative outcome, and not necessarily for it to produce a finished piece, the course managed to produce both outcomes for me. The work I made at RWA I entitled ‘3 days solid’ it formed the beginning of a 4 piece body of work, all large drawings using the same techniques that were then shown in an exhibition Underworld at ArtistsWorkhouse in May 2017.

Day 1: Briefing

At the beginning of day one Stewart gave a brief talk to introduce us to the idea of drawing from the subconscious. We talked about René Magritte and the notion of extracting imagery out of the subconscious, and the physical engagement and correspondence to extract a picture. To find something within and not to be in pursuit of it. Stewart talked about how often quite reluctantly something begins to emerge almost in spite of what you might want to happen. Materials were all black or white, pencil, charcoals, graphite – all dry materials.

The task was to draw as formless a drawing as possible, to generate as many different types of marks as possible – no patterns, break them down, be disruptive and be inventive. ‘As you cross the threshold you are expected to be inventive’ Stewart told us.

Image credit Dawn Harris


Day 2: Briefing

This included a shift in approach. The marks were to include a more formal attitude; marks can now be worked at a more constant pace. Now the process of editing became very important, discovering more formal themes that are working and develop those more. We were encouraged to use the object ground concept activating a space, using the positive/negative to focus an area.

Day 3: Group Critique

The group gathered to talk about how each had found the process and the benefits they had found from it. This was the first time the group had been invited to make comments as a whole to each other and felt like the most formal format of feedback that we had received during the course, although not the only feedback.

During each day Stewart would very informally talk to each artist several times, not privately but within ear shot of the rest of the group, the room was usually quite quiet. I thought this was a very interesting technique. I enjoyed my chats with Stewart and learnt valuable information and took away some useful suggestions but I also gained just as much from his talks with the other students. It was an intriguing way of receiving information, almost from another direction. Almost like having a radio playing in the background full of useful information that you could take out the bits that were relevant or useful to you, whilst you were working.

This leads me to my final point that this course had a high level of manufacturing/making. It really was a solid 3 days of making and for me that was exactly what I wanted. It reminded me of the ups and downs of making, the roller coaster of emotions that an artist goes through when creating and perhaps most importantly re-armed me with a set of tools to be able to keep going and see a piece of work emerge from the blank page.

I am delighted with the outcome of the course; it has most certainly re-engaged me with the practice of drawing.


Artist and Director of ArtistsWorkhouse, Dawn Harris, received an Engine Micro Bursary to expand her practice through attendance at the 3 day workshop Magritte’s Umbrella: Drawing Upon the Subconscious at the Royal West Academy, Bristol. She shares her experiences.

ENGINE is the professional development programme for artists and curators in the region. Led by New Art West Midlands in partnership with The New Art Gallery Walsall, we are currently offering two curatorial opportunities:

Curatorial Development Opportunity with Coventry Biennial of Contemporary Art

We are offering a bursary of £2,000 to support an artist/curator to become a key team member of the inaugural Coventry Biennial of Contemporary Art.

The bursary is intended to support the development of an early career curator by providing the opportunity to work on a series of high profile solo and group exhibitions as well as accompanying events. With the majority of the Biennial programme in place, this post will focus largely on the selection of work, production, logistics and management of exhibitions programmes.

You will be expected to work a total of 30 days between August and October (working times are flexible, as agreed with the Director of the Biennial).

The successful applicant will be required to participate in the Biennial’s evaluation and should submit a report to New Art West Midlands outlining their experience of working on the Biennial by 2 December 2017.

To apply for this bursary, please send a 500 word covering letter outlining your interests and any relevant curatorial experience. This should be accompanied by your full name and address, CV, documentation of previous work (up to 3 images) and your website address if you have one.

Please email your application to
This opportunity is open to arts professionals working independently. Applicants must live in the West Midlands region.

Deadline: 5pm, Friday 23 June 2017.


Bursary Opportunity for Curatorial Development

We are offering a bursary of £2,000 to support the research and development of a curatorial concept. The funding can be spent on relevant travel, accommodation, resource materials, conference fees, mentoring, etc.

Successful applicants will be asked to submit a report outlining their progress by 16 February 2018. As this bursary is focused on research and development, there is no required tangible outcome though ENGINE; New Art West Midlands can provide some support in identifying possible venues and contacts to further develop ideas beyond the research and development phase.

To apply for this bursary, please outline your proposal in no more than 500 words. Your application should be accompanied by your full name and address, CV, documentation of previous work (up to 3 images) and your website address if you have one.   You should also provide a budget breakdown of how you intend to use the funding. Please email your application to

Applicants will be selected on the strength of their ideas and their ability to demonstrate how this opportunity will support their development.

This opportunity is available to artists/curators working independently. Applicants must live in the West Midlands region.

Deadline: 5pm, Friday 23 June 2017.

ENGINE, the professional development programme for artists and curators in the region is currently offering two curatorial opportunities – a Curatorial Development Opportunity with Coventry Biennial of Contemporary Art and a Bursary Opportunity for Curatorial Development.

Robert Rauschenberg, Untitled (Spread), 1983. Solvent transfer and acrylic on wood panel, with umbrellas, 188.6 x 245.7 x 88.9 cm. © Robert Rauschenberg Foundation, New York

Kurt Hickson was awarded a Micro Bursary to undertake two research trips to London, visiting several exhibitions including Painters’ Painters at Saatchi Gallery, which ran from 30 November 2016 – 22 March 2017 and Robert Rauschenberg at Tate Modern, which ran from 1 December 2016 – 2 April 2017.


Dexter Dalwood, Kurt Cobain’s Greenhouse, 2000, Painters’ Painters, Saatchi Gallery. Dexter Dalwood/Saatchi Gallery, London


Tuesday 28 February 2017

To his credit Charles Saatchi has continued to advocate painting despite its steady decline over recent years. Painters’ Painters at Saatchi Gallery was an exhibition that continued to challenge modern conceptions about the oldest form of image making. The show featured nine international artists of varying ages and stages in their careers. Each with their own gallery space, there were nine distinct approaches to the medium.

The high point of the exhibition for me was the collage-like paintings of David Salle; The Neo-Expressionist being an old college favourite of mine with several good examples of his work on show here. Other highlights included Dexter Dalwood’s painting Kurt Cobain’s Greenhouse (2000), the quirky mix of works by Richard Aldrich and the humorous paintings of Ansel Krut and Martin Maloney.

It could be argued that Painters’ Painters didn’t really live up to the title of the show and neither did it form a complete picture of painting at present (there were no female artists, no pure abstract works and some paintings were nearly thirty years old). The picture the exhibition did paint, however, was a fun one. It was an exhibition that managed to emphasise painting’s basic fundamental elements without taking itself too seriously. It celebrated painting without the need to declare that ‘painting’s back’. Painters’ Painters at Saatchi Gallery was an amusing and entertaining show, that succeeded in emphasising the inherent pleasure of putting paint to canvas; something that I imagine has inspired thousands of art students who visited to do just that.

During the day I managed to take in several other shows including Luiz Zerbini at Stephen Friedman Gallery – the Brazilian painter being someone I’ve admired for a while but this being the first time I’d seen multiple works of his together; Gavin Turk’s Who What When Where How & Why at Newport Street Gallery, which goes without saying had a good old school Brit Art vibe about it; and Monochrome at Ordovas Gallery, a show that looked at the purity and clarity of the use of a single colour – white featuring a single work by five artists including Richard Serra and Barbara Hepworth. I also made it to the Maria Lassnig: A Painting Survey PV at Hauser & Wirth on the evening for a few beers and a look at the Austrian artist’s evolution from experimental abstract painter to figurative painter.

Robert Rauschenberg, Untitled (Spread), 1983. Solvent transfer and acrylic on wood panel, with umbrellas, 188.6 x 245.7 x 88.9 cm. © Robert Rauschenberg Foundation, New York

Saturday 1 April 2017

The second part of my Micro Bursary was used to visit the major Robert Rauschenberg retrospective at Tate Modern. As an artist with a strong interest in process and materiality myself, it was great to see the physical quality of Rauschenberg’s use of non-traditional materials and ‘found objects’ up close. From his pop art silkscreen paintings, to his glossy black monochromes; his ‘combines’ through to the formation of Experiments in Art and Technology (E.A.T.); Rauschenberg for me was the ultimate painter-maker.

The show was made up of eleven rooms in a loose chronological order, each presenting a particular shift in direction or technique during the artists six-decade long career. Through a remarkable range of media including painting, digital printing, sculpture, performance, electronics and photography his endless curiosity into all forms of art-making and his constant quest for innovation was plain to see. Several key works were on display, including the stuffed Angora goat, the silkscreen prints of Kennedy and the infamous Erased de Kooning Drawing (1953).

It was the last weekend of the show when I visited and so it was annoyingly busy.  The security guards and gallery assistants were on high alert and on a serious crack-down against touchers and secret copy-right infringing snappers. I was embarrassingly caught several times in the later case. Interestingly whilst looking at Bed (1955), a work I’d seen at MoMA a few years earlier, I noticed a small moth crawling around on the inside of its protective Perspex case.  I informed a guard that was walking by, telling them that they might want to notify someone and have it removed as moths eat quilts and bed sheets.  However, I was told that “It was probably meant to be there … that it was just part of the artwork … and that it would probably die soon”. Clever guy this Rauschenberg.

Before the day was out I managed to head over to FOLD Gallery to check out the Valérie Kolakis show Done With Objects Because Things Take Place, an interesting and somewhat inspiring exhibition of mainly sculptural works that were either made up of or hint at everyday objects.  The use of materials and objects found here in Kolakis’ work echoing Rauschenberg’s own exploration into art production.

Valérie Kolakis, DONE WITH OBJECTS BECAUSE THINGS TAKE PLACE, installation view at FOLD Gallery.


The first half of the bursary was used to engage with several pure painting shows, something that is a rarity within the West Midlands. With multiple exhibitions showcasing a broad range of strong contemporary work, I took away a feeling that despite the odds, painting is still very much alive and kicking in the capital. The second part of the bursary gave me the opportunity to rediscover an artist that constantly broke with conventions. An artist that reminds us all of the joy of working with what’s readily available, questioning, but also reinforcing the possibilities of art-making today.

Kurt Hickson was awarded a Micro Bursary to undertake two research trips to London, visiting several exhibitions including Painters’ Painters at Saatchi Gallery and Tate Modern’s Robert Rauschenberg retrospective.

Engine, the professional development programme for artists and curators in the West Midlands region, in partnership with Eastside Projects and Grand Union, have recently set up a Curatorial Research Group. The Group aims to investigate and to further develop contemporary curatorial research, as well as championing its development in the region and bringing together art workers across the West Midlands and beyond.

Curatorial Research Group with Tom Clark

Thursday 25 May 2017, 3-5pm. Eastside Projects

In this second meeting, curator, writer and editor Tom Clark will present his research and lead a discussion around the role of publishing (or, making public) in relation to practices of instituting.

Please email to register your interest and receive further details about the session.

Tom Clark is a curator, writer and editor, and a PhD candidate at Goldsmiths, University of London. He is associate lecturer at University of the Arts London and is founder of pool publishing studio. Between 2015 and 2017 he was editor at BAK, basis voor actuele kunst. From 2010-2015 Tom Clark co-directed and co-curated Arcadia Missa Gallery, London and was Editor in chief and founder of Arcadia Missa Publications and the journal How to Sleep Faster. He holds an MFA in Curating from Goldsmiths College (2014), and a BA in Fine Art from Central Saint Martins. Tom’s work focuses on art, curating and its politics, specifically the questions of instituting and publishing (making public); art produced after networks; a history of the narratives, forms, materiality and politics of affect collectivity and history in contemporary art practices; and questions of value, publics and collectivity in art and its organisation.

Amongst others, Clark has co-edited the books: (networked) every whisper is a crash on my ears (Arcadia Missa Publications, 2014), Instituting Otherwise (BAK, 2017, forthcoming); he was a contributing editor to FORMER WEST: Art and the Contemporary after 1989 (BAK and MIT Press, 2017, forthcoming); he guest edited the online arts journal General Fine Arts Vol.2, no. 1 (2016). He has written numerous exhibition texts and reviews, and his writing will feature in the forthcoming Posthuman Glossary, Rosi Braidotti and Maria Hlavajova, eds. (Bloomsbury, 2017, forthcoming). Past independent curatorial work includes: Instituting for the Contemporary Public Editorial Meetings, BAK, Basis voor actuele kunst, Utrecht, 2016; Devotions, MOT International Project Space, 2015; Just Frustration, 2015, and Every Line Ever Spoken, 2014, SixtyEight Institute, Copenhagen among others.

In this second meeting, curator, writer and editor Tom Clark will present his research to the Curatorial Research Group and lead a discussion around the role of publishing (or, making public) in relation to practices of instituting.

Jessica Warboys, Sea Painting, Dunwich, 2014. For AV Festival at Laing Gallery, Newcastle. Copyright the artist, 2015. Courtesy the artist and Gaudel de Stampa, Paris.

Mark Essen reports on the recently reopened Tate St.Ives. A recipient of an Engine micro-bursary, Mark wished to visit to visit galleries in the Cornwall area for professional development and attend a group show in which he was exhibiting.

Closed for extended refurbishment since October 2015, the opening of Tate St. Ives has been much anticipated. The gallery opens with two exhibitions which explore the history of artists working in the area. An exhibition of work by Jessica Warboys, an artist who uses nature in a raw, unprocessed state has produced a new series of sea paintings. These works are made by the transference of minerals from the sea at Zennor directly onto the canvas.

That Continuous Thing: Artists and the Ceramics Studio, 1920 – Today traces the changing shape of the ceramics over the last 100 years. The show brings to attention the early considerations of British Studio Pottery into the realm of fine art. The exhibition’s introduction gathers together works by Bernard Leach and Shoji Hamada who were based in St. Ives in the 1920s. Leach was pioneer in British Ceramics, bringing eastern philosophy and aesthetics to his St.Ives Studio.

The exhibition continues with contemporary ceramicist Jesse Wine, curating a room by placing his own work alongside American artists such as Peter Voulkos, Ken Price and Ron Nagle. Similarly Aaron Angell has curated a room in which he explores studio pottery with his own Troy Town studio based in London. It is in this part of the show that I was invited to show work I had made at Troy Town in 2016. Angell delves deeper into the history of ceramics, placing works from the 400-200 BC Italy and 12th century England next to contemporary works. The placement of these objects encourages an endless curiosity; it manages to deconstructed the progression of time to our fascination with objects. It is an example of how our relationship with handmade clay objects can relate to those that lived before us. There’s little difference between the historical works and some of the contemporary works. It’s an expansive range of works from around 30 artists with over 60 works placed on handmade arts and crafts style tables in the gallery.

The cycle of the artist studio is prevalent in the practice of any creative output. Reciprocating between the input of people turned by ideas of a material and distinguished by the output of the phenomenon. It can also be a reflection of historical economics of a vernacular which flows into a philosophy and aesthetic. The very bold and bright works in the room curated by Wine reflects 1960’s America. A contrast with the 12th centenary head. Throughout the whole show each work functions as interlocutor. This exhibition explores the speciality of a relationship between artist and a material, clay is nothing but it can be everything.

That Continuous Thing: Artists and the Ceramics Studio, 1920 – Today features the work of Bernard Leach and Shoji Hamada, Peter Voulkos, Ken Price, Rudy Autio, Ron Nagle and Jesse Wine.

Artists showing part of Troy Town: Aaron Angell, Alex Frost, Allison Katz, Andrew Munks, Anthea Hamilton, Colin Self, Denise Wren, Emily McCartan, Gillian Lowndes, Hannah Regel, Hubert Dalwood, Ian Law, Isabel Mallet, Jess Flood-Paddock, Jill Crowley, Mark Essen, Matthew Peers, Matthew Smith,Mo Jupp, Nicolas Deshayes, Richard Slee, Rose De Borman, Samuelle Nicole, Sophie Von Hellermann, Tom Salt, Town Gas Group (Toyin Olubamiwo, Cynthia Waithaka, Christina Marshall), Unknown maker 12th century, Nottingham, Unknown maker 400-200 BCE, Veii (near Rome), Viola Relle & Raphael Weilguni, Will Robinson.

Mark Essen reports on the recently reopened Tate St.Ives. A recipient of an Engine micro-bursary, Mark wished to visit to visit galleries and studios in the Cornwall area for professional development and attend a group show in which he was exhibiting.

Grand Union’s Curatorial Curriculum is an alternative educational programme for emerging curators, consisting of intensive workshops led by internationally-renowned practitioners. Earlier in the year Engine offered bursaries for the course for West Midlands-based curators.

We are delighted to announce the four artists who were awarded bursaries:

Alisha Kadir – Alisha’s work is about social development, youth and being very human. This sounds like music, looks like softness and lives in the village.

Ella Marshall. Ella is an emerging curator and cultural producer with a focus on socially-engaged and site-responsive practices within contemporary visual arts. Her interests include visual anthropology, spatial politics and interventions into built and natural environments, current trends within feminist art practice, and the intersection of art and activism. Since graduating in 2014 with a BA in History of Art from the University of East Anglia, she has lived in Birmingham and worked as a Curatorial Intern at Craftspace and as an Information Assistant at Ikon. Ella is Exhibitions Programmer and Visual Arts Project Manager at The GAP, a young person-led arts organisation dedicated to alternative education and the creation of community.

Gareth Proskourine-Barnett. Gareth is an artist, researcher and educator. Since graduating with an MA in Communication Design from Central Saint Martins in 2011 he has worked on a range of self-initiated and commissioned projects, taken part in artist residencies and delivered workshops internationally. His work has been exhibited at museums and galleries in the UK, Russia, India, Thailand and the USA. Alongside his personal practice Gareth collaborates with other designers and writers on publishing projects under the name Tombstone Press. Gareth is currently working towards a PhD at the Royal Collage of Art in the department of Critical and Historical Studies. His practice-led research looks to cyberspace to provide a territory in which the ruins of Brutalist Architecture can be excavated and (re)imagined to (re)claim and (re)locate the utopian ambition of past gestures. Gareth also teaches Visual Communication and Illustration at Birmingham City University, and has lectured at a number of institutes including Brighton University of the Arts and Chulalongkorn University in Bangkok.

Katie Hodson. Katie sees herself as a curator, maker and doer. She is a graduate of Fine Art from the University of Worcester, and has since worked as the director of BLOK – an artist led studio and gallery project in Worcester. Her practice manifests through artist led activity within the spaces of our urban construct, and engages with the fabrication of the built environment.

The Curatorial Curriculum will be held over four weekends over the next year, exploring different forms of curatorial practice. 2017 will see sessions exploring performance, publishing, activism as well as forms of resilience, and will be facilitated by a faculty of professionals including Tom Clark, Övül Durmusoglu, Susan Gibb and Morgan Quaintance.

Grand Union’s Curatorial Curriculum is an alternative educational programme for emerging curators, consisting of intensive workshops led by internationally-renowned practitioners. Earlier in the year Engine offered bursaries for the course for West Midlands-based curators. We are delighted to announce the four artists who were awarded bursaries.

Engine, the professional development programme for artists and curators in the West Midlands region, in partnership with Eastside Projects and Grand Union, is looking to set up a Curatorial Research Group.

The Curatorial Research Group aims to investigate and to further develop contemporary curatorial research, as well as championing its development in the region and bringing together art workers across the West Midlands and beyond.

Meetings will take place at a number of host organisations, starting with Eastside Projects, Birmingham. Each meeting will focus on a particular area of curatorial research, examined through readings and discussion. We are aiming for an informal and collaborative environment in which to critically discuss work and ideas. Areas of interest include: curating as research; feminist methodologies; art organisations and publics; micropolitics; and pedagogical strategies. We hope that the focus of the group will develop according to the contributions of its members.

We will be inviting a number of internationally renowned curators to join us for sessions throughout 2017.

This first meeting to take place on Thursday 27 April 2017, 3-5pm, at Eastside Projects will be focused on introducing the research group and getting to know each other, so please come prepared to give a short introduction to yourself and your work.

For more information and to register your interest in the group, please contact Lucy Lopez:


Engine, in partnership with Eastside Projects and Grand Union, is looking to set up a Curatorial Research Group. The Group aims to investigate and to further develop contemporary curatorial research, as well as championing its development in the region and bringing together art workers across the West Midlands and beyond.

Jenny Duffin, a creative producer and recent recipient of a New Art West Midlands Micro Bursary, visited Manchester on a research trip in November. Here, she reports back from the two conferences attended, Make:Shift and Maker Assembly.


Richard Hutten’s Playing with Tradition


I went to Manchester in November to attend two events, Make:Shift, a two-day conference run by the Crafts Council, and Maker Assembly, held at MadLab, Manchester’s Fablab/Makerspace.

This trip was the first ‘official’ step I took towards the planning of a new ‘festival of making’ in Birmingham. The ideas I’ve had for this have been evolving for 2-3 years and I’m finally saying it out loud to more people. I plan to put in a mini Grants for the Arts bid to research and develop the concept, with the hope to plan the first festival for Autumn 2018.

Thursday 10 November
Day 1 Make:Shift

I arrived on Thursday morning at Manchester Piccadilly and headed over to the Museum of Science and Industry where the Make:Shift conference was held. It was well signed and there were volunteers waiting in the main entrance to direct us to the top floor where the event was held. There was an open plan room with the registration table, tea, coffee and lots of people chatting. I was handed a bright yellow tote bag with all the conference info and away I went to find a cuppa. I’ve travelled alone a fair bit, and gone to many ‘networking’ type events alone, but doing both was somehow different! I managed to find someone else who had come alone as well and by the time we’d done introductions and shared which sessions we were thinking of attending, it was time to go in to the opening talks …



The opening speeches were in the ‘speaker space’. There was a welcome by Rosy Greenlees, and keynote speeches by Annie Warburton, Creative Director of Crafts Council, and Mark Miodownik.

Mark spoke about the TV series he co-presented ‘Chef vs Science: The Ultimate Kitchen Challenge’ and showed a clip from the series. He said that the chef he worked with, Marcus Wareing said cooking was all about ‘love, care and understanding’ and Mark challenged the concept that science wasn’t those things. Mark spoke about how mankind had always had a skill for finding new methods in making, for instance blacksmiths always knew that they had to beat metal, however only fairly recently did we have the knowledge and understanding for how that works and why that is.

Mark spoke about living materials vs non-living materials and how perhaps we could manipulate non-living for the future to become more ‘living’, using the example of self-healing concrete. He questioned whether having structural materials like this, that didn’t need human intervention to repair, meant that the ‘love care and understanding’ would be lost. But he said he thought we would become more like ‘gardeners’ for roads, guiding the self-healing.

Session 1: Parallel Practices: Learning Through Making

Chaired by Lucy Sollitt, with John Grayson, Shelley James, Riccardo Sapienza (Matthew Howard was absent)

This was an interesting conversational talk about a project at Wheatstone Lab, Kings College London (see a video about the project here). The lab-residency type project was all about bringing together people from different practices and creating a space for students to explore materials and techniques through collaborative practice. Students made automata incorporating their new found combined knowledge of glass, mechanics, and electronics.

Session 2: Augmented Bodies and Prosthetic Devices

Chaired by Andrew Sleigh, with Hannah Perner-Wilson, Graham Pullin and Mika Satomi.

Graham talked about Hands of X and customising and personalising prosthetics. He talked about ‘Materials for imitation’ vs ‘materials for wearing’ and said Hands of X took inspiration from personalised manufacture like Cubitts eyewear. He also wrote this book on design and disability.

Hannah Perner-Wilson works a lot with tools and wanted to look into how tools become an extension of the body. She had prototyped a few different ways of wearing her tools on a semi-permanent basis, such as an apron-style dress, which you could wear out in public as well as in the studio, so you never apart from your tools. Her ideas developed into a rucksack which unrolled into a wall-hung tool pouch.

Mika Satomi spoke about the difference between prosthetics being very subtle and undetectable to the untrained eye, and them being used as a method of expression. She talked about exploring the idea of having chameleon-like skin on a prosthetic arm, and how this combines the two approaches in an adaptable skin. Using liquid crystal ink, which changes colour with heat, and puff print in which the printed areas puff up so they’re raised. She spoke about the uncanny valley too, questioning at what point does something start looking too close to human.

Front’s Blow Away vase

Break – Handling Session

There was a room set aside with items from the Crafts Council collection during the break. I MAY have gone back 3 times…

It was really reassuring as I already knew of a few of the makers and had noted them as avenues to explore further.

My faves:
Richard Hutten’s Playing with Tradition which reminded me of similar work by Faig Ahmed
Michael Eden’s GSOH 3D printed ceramics
Front’s Blow Away vase which reminded me of Livia Marin
Tom Mallinson’s Digits2Widgets 3D printed textiles

Session 3: Sustainability
Speakers: Lucy Siegle, Maurizio Montalti, Nat Hunter, Kathryn Fleming

I seemed to take really minimal notes from this, but I left with a refreshed feeling that I must find a way of helping the planet, and have been far more thoroughly recycling since …

Lucy Siegle started with the big picture – we are all consumers whether we like it or not. Apparently the biggest polluter, behind oil, is fashion as the production of textiles is very polluting. She recommended a film called The True Cost.

Maurizio Montalti works with fungi to create solid materials. He creates incredible things called bio bricks which are made from grown organisms, as well as mushroom leather.

Nat Hunter talked about Machines Room and about ‘design for recycling’ – thinking about the end life of a product before it begins. She spoke about learned helplessness, how we have been trained to think we need to rely on others to manufacture. She has big ideas about Fab Cities and talked about localising manufacture. Production used to be in the hands of those who had the tools but this is changing. At Machines Room they developed an injection moulder that can use recycled plastic bottles. She talked about bringing manufacture back to the local, for example Open Desk where designs can be downloaded and then pieces can be cut in a workshop near to where you are ordering the furniture from, rather than buying furniture that then has to be shipped a long distance. She also looked at how to reduce waste wood from this process – using the pieces of wood left behind from cutting the shapes out.

Kathryn Fleming gave one of my favourite talks; she’s so inspired by nature. There’s a type of antelope in high mountains that has the most efficient fur coat, really fine but really insulating. Birds of paradise don’t have pigment in their bright feathers, it’s all in the structure. Grolar bears exist, due to polar bears moving due to warmer temperatures. There are equivalent genes in all animals for making eyes or for making ‘body’. Can we help animals evolve sustainably? To adapt with the environment that humans are creating?

Kathryn used some powerful phrases such as ‘Future Craft: Born from culture, built for purpose, daringly simple.’ The word Anthropocene was also a word mentioned almost as much as ‘makerspaces’ over the 3 days. She also spoke about how Adidas have launched a line of shoes made from ocean plastic.

Friday 11 November
Day 2 Make: Shift


Session 1 Maker Breakfast – Introduced by Jonathan Rowley

Richard Arm spoke about ‘As real as it gets’. He A research fellow at Nottingham Trent University and developed a silicon body, with removable organs, for use practicing surgery.

Les Bicknell is a self-declared book artist. He questions everything – ‘is this a book?’ This was a fascinating way of analysing definitions and structures.

Aniela Hoitink started with the comment ‘this is what I do, but I don’t know who I am’ which I quite liked. Why do we design clothes that last at least 40 years when we only wear them for a year or a season? She looked into natural materials and those that are quickly biodegradable. Mycelium is made from fungi and she worked with Maurizio who spoke prior. Aniela looked at using technology with fashion and at externalising internal systems such as a heartbeat.

Ann Marie Shillito has developed really user friendly software for people to design their own 3D printed jewellery and has worked in collaboration with software developers.

Caroline Yan Zheng talked about extimacy – externalising emotions. She looked at how this might help mental health and has created cool jewellery-like devices.

Hideki Yoshimoto owns Tangent which brings design and technology together. Inako (rice fields) is the title of glowing poles that sway as you move past them. Tangent develops fine art but is making it available on a household level. Kiko (bubble) are bubbling coffee tables and individual candles.

Session 2: Keynote

Caroline Till of FranklinTill mentioned a lot of really interesting stuff such as Viewpoint magazine and secret sensory suppers. She spoke about how if we look differently at both production and materials, that’s how we can have a maker revolution. A brilliant example of looking at byproducts and so-called waste is Merdacotta, new material made from cow poop! Museo della merda. There’s even a museum. Caroline talked about ‘Unmaking’ – looking at how we unmake all the things we make and can’t dispose of responsibly. She also mentioned Madame Jeanette, a print on demand magazine. She looked at different ways of manufacture and production to reduce waste. Ikea’s space 10 project looks at sustainable design.

Session 3: Two and Three Dimensional Fabrics

Mark Beecroft looked into 3D printed knitting and how different stitch designs react differently when made in 3D printed materials.

Jane Scott explored fibres and how they react to moisture. Pine cones close up when wet and open out when dry. They do this once off the tree so it must be on a structural level. Jane looked into this and applied to fibre structure to her own woven fabrics.

Oluwaseyi Sosanya spoke about weaving in 3D and about how the method can be transferred to industry.

Session 4: Making Meanings: The Cultural Roles of Makerspaces
Daniel Charny and Hannah Fox

There were interesting discussions about community impact from Makerspaces. Hannah Fox from Derby Silk Mill is creating a ‘museum of making’ where the community builds what the space will become. Sounds ace.


A few closing thoughts:

Making new tech human
Amateur vs professional
Value and values
Collaborating with the old and new

The End

I left the conference with a head full of ideas. It finished at 3pm so I headed across town to visit the Manchester Centre for Craft and Design. It was a fascinating space and used to be a Victorian fish and poultry market building. On the ground floor was a small café with an amazing cake range and a gallery space showing ‘heated exchanges’ a collection of contemporary glassware. There were a number of shops doubling up as studio spaces throughout the ground and first floor; some were shared between a few artists and others were solely owned.


Saturday 12 November
Maker Assembly

I started the day with fancy breakfast at Ezra and Gil.

The event was at Madlab which is nestled in the Northern Quarter, really near to the Manchester Centre for Craft and Design.

When I arrived I met a few people by chance from DoES Liverpool, another Makerspace. When I mentioned I was from Birmingham they immediately mentioned the names of 2 people I already knew well through BOM and generally the Birmingham art and tech network. Small world!

Session 1: Learning from International Making Cultures

Liz Corbin chaired a panel with Justyna Swat (POC21 Paris), David Li (Shenzen) and Craig Dunlop (Cape Town).

Justyna spoke about POC21, where her and a team built a ‘village’ on castle grounds in a rural area near to Paris. They created a space where they built a community from the ground up and developed a series of ideas surrounding climate change and innovation in making towards this cause.

 Li spoke about the Shenzhen community and what life is like there.

Craig Dunlop created an amazing space in Capetown, kind of by accident. He created an open workshop that developed into a place supporting those unemployed people into employment through the power of making. He matched up employment skills with making skills such as trust and soldering.

Session 2: Making and Humanitarian Relief

Laura James spoke about Humanitarian Makers, who use small-scale, local production to solve humanitarian problems. An example she spoke of was the sterile clips that midwives use to cut umbilical cords. Midwives provided with a certain amount of the clips after an earthquake in the region they were working in. The next best option was to use the finger of a sterile glove which were also in short supply. This is less than ideal, so the organisation 3D printed these clips. The approach of Humanitarian Makers is to identify local problems and solve them with simple production – training up locals with the equipment and then leaving it behind when they leave the area.

The idea of re-localising manufacture was spoken about a lot during the 3 days, which is interesting as it almost seems to backwards in terms of a wider idea of progress.

Session 3: Making and Manufacture

James Tooze chairs panel discussion with Ruth Claxton (woop woop the Brum gang) Adrian McEwan, Paul Sohi and Alon Meron

Alon Meron spoke about one to one solutions and multiplying that approach. He works to put together the public – people with design needs, and designers/makers. An example he used was working with a stroke sufferer, who needed a device to help them put on their trousers.

Ruth Claxton spoke about Workshop Birmingham, Make Works and Production Space and how the linked-up-ness of artists/makers and those with the tools and skills, was an interesting journey.

Adrian McEwan talked about the internet of things. Powering devices with data, for example a twitterbot that can detect when a certain phrase is used and blow bubbles.

Paul Sohi – I didn’t write anything down. Sorry, Paul, you must have been too charismatic. Or I had a caffeine lull.

Session 4: The Role of Making in a Wider Civic Infrastructure

Laura Billing ‘The Open Works was an experimental project aimed at creating new ways that Lambeth Council can work with residents to develop a sustainable future for West Norwood: socially, economically and environmentally. It ran for 12 months between February 2014 – February 2015.’

Observations and Learnings Overall

Making really is considered to be wide within this context. Though I was a little surprised at the lack of mention of ‘traditional’ ceramics, glass, textiles, metalwork. But that’s good. That’s one of the things I want to explore – the depth and breadth of making.

Collaboration is key and something I’m a big fan of. There was a lot of talk about collaboration between mindsets/skillsets and how, actually, engineers, scientists, crafters and makers are quite similar in the way they approach things. They just have different skills, methods, and different areas of knowledge.

Localisation as supposed to globalisation. Something mentioned frequently was how we look at manufacture and production, and how perhaps Western society should rethink how we look at manufacture. Concepts such as OpenDesk seemed very popular, where furniture designs are kept online and then downloaded locally, with pieces being cut for the furniture in ‘local’ workshops.

Reverting to ‘the olden days’ but with new technologies and awareness. As above, reverting to some old ways of living seemed to be a common thread. Taking elements of the past, small community production and trading but combining these with the powers of technology.

Design for different purposes and functionalities. This seems pretty obvious but it was highlighted quite a lot during the 3 days. Design for problem solving, design for disguise, design for imitation, design for empathy … so many purposes and ways of approaching questions, problems or themes.

Final Thought

One final thought/rant about makers/making. Making is great. That was very clear from the 3 days and it was so great to feel like a part of the ‘making’ community, surrounded by so many people who loved making as much as I do. It made me think about people I know, and humanity in general. Is everyone a maker? What makes a maker? If you’re not a maker, what are you?


Creative Producer Jenny Duffin reports back from Make:Shift and Maker Assembly in Manchester. Her research was funded by a Micro Bursary.

Duncan Poulton - No Body (2015), 'Semi-Self Reflections' screening at Rockelmann &, Berlin

Artist Duncan Poulton reflects on his recent research visit to Transmediale, a festival of digital art, culture and technology, and fringe events that took place in Berlin, 2 February – 5 March 2017.

His visit was part funded by the New Art West Midlands Engine Micro Bursary scheme.


Duncan Poulton – No Body (2015), ‘Semi-Self Reflections’ screening at Rockelmann &, Berlin

In February I visited Berlin during the Transmediale festival of digital art, culture and technology after being invited to screen some of my video work by independent curators Alexine Rodenhuis and Kat Rickard. The screening was entitled Semi-Self Reflections and was held at Rockelmann & gallery as part of Transmediale’s Vorspiel programme of events. The programme, which explored digitally mediated bodies, identities and avatars, displayed a number of artists working around a zeitgeist of uncertainty, post-production and appropriation including Elliott Dodd, Puck Verkade and Samuel Walker.

At Transmediale I was able to see a number of talks, presentations and discussions, the best of which was a talk entitled ‘On the Origins of Androids’. This was a series of presentations by artists Floris Kaayk and Koert van Mensvoort which playfully examined the limits of what is accepted as (post- and trans-) human, framed by propositions and parables by technology philosopher Peter-Paul Verbeek. In turns fascinating, morbid and entertaining, the speakers discussed their projects for viral social media which were designed to deceive the viewer by feeding them CGI animated science-fiction and presenting it as New Scientist clickbait. Presenting these spoof projects – learning to fly with prosthetic Icarus wings or the 3D-printed organism with reconfigurable body parts – became a way to tangibly measure the limits of new technologies, their ethical limits and public gullibility. In closing Van Mensvoort explained a diagram which depicted how technologies progress from unimaginable to invisible to naturalised, and spoke of present day Western humanity as essentially cyborg; so immersed in and reliant upon technology that we are “like a fish that does not know that it is wet”.

Alan Warburton – Primitives, Installation view at HAU 2, Berlin

Prove You Are Nonhuman’, another Transmediale panel talk, saw a variety of speakers touching upon the growing phenomena of anthropomorphised technology and the simultaneous dehumanisation of mankind. The subject matter of presentations ranged from musings on how big data will replace psychology and other sciences, to E-waste dumps in developing countries and the 18th century astronomer Franz von Gruithuisen, who mistook rough terrain on the moon for a cityscape resembling the suburbs in which he lived. Elsewhere I visited HAU 2, a venue which was part of Transmediale’s partner festival CTM. On show was a new 3-channel digital video work by London-based artist Alan Warburton. Using crowd simulation software normally utilised by Hollywood blockbuster VFX teams, Warburton’s immersive work presented an infinite expanse of homogeneous figures in a perpetual series of exercises, configurations or drills which questioned the agency of simulated beings.

‘alien matter’ exhibition, Transmediale, Berlin

Transmediale’s exhibition alien matter featured a number of artists I admire including Mark Leckey, Constant Dullart, Morehshin Allahyari and Daniel Rourke. Imaginatively installed, the show included a giant chroma-green corridor, a video prophesy of a future governed by an Artificial Intelligence system (voiced by an adorable virtual kitten) and Leckey’s GreenScreenRefrigeratorAction, in which the artist performs technological ventriloquism with a smart fridge, giving it voice in an existential monologue. Many of the works in alien matter were in some way interactive, most notably Allahyari and Rourke’s 3D Additivist Cookbook. An interactive PDF which hosts a spectrum of disruptive, inventive digital artworks and critical/theoretical texts, the cookbook details some of the most interesting projects in recent years and is free to download. The 3D Additivist Manifesto, a video-call-to-arms the duo made in 2015, was influential in the formulation of my recent video work Pygmalion that was screened in Semi-Self Reflections, and which will be showing in No Copyright Infringement Intended, a group exhibition at Phoenix Leicester curated by Antonio Roberts.

Omer Fast – 5000 Feet is the Best, Installation view, Martin-Gropius-Bau, Berlin

Outside of Transmediale I visited a number of other exhibitions and museums, most notably a retrospective of the video artist Omer Fast at Martin-Gropius-Bau. Impressive in scale and ambition, the show housed 7 moving-image works from early video-collage CNN Concatenated (2002) to the 3D film August (2016) and multi-channel video Spring (2016). Dark cinematic spaces with large projections were interspersed with ‘waiting rooms’ which had been fabricated to appear like airport terminals and hospital waiting areas, complete with magazines, litter, posters and other ephemera. Even the exhibition handout was laid out in the style of a garish gossip magazine, with shocking headlines and exclusive interviews which further complicated the intricate layering of fantasy, role-play and unreality in Fast’s work.

Transmediale is a weird and wonderful thing; it is important that these festivals exist, and that artists get the opportunity to visit them to have their thoughts and assumptions about their practice disrupted, challenged and reimagined. Whether you want to speculate on technology as the saving grace of creativity and mankind, or dwell on digital premonitions of a dystopian future (present?), I strongly recommend a visit to Transmediale.


Duncan Poulton reflects on his recent research visit to Transmediale festival in Berlin. His visit was part funded by the New Art West Midlands Engine Micro Bursary scheme.

Corinne Perry, Wallflower #10

In December 2016 we offered artists and curators living in the West Midlands the opportunity to apply to receive a studio visit from an arts professional. Nine artists from across the region have been selected and will have the opportunity to discuss work and to seek feedback and practical advice on their practice.

Artists Keith Ashford and Elizabeth Turner, Chloe Ashley, Anna Katarzyna Domejko, Kurt Hickson, James Lomax, Bharti Parmar, Corrine Perry and Rafal Zar based in Shrewsbury, Lichfield, Halesowen, Smethwick, Worcester and Birmingham have been selected. The nine artists selected are variously interested to transform the ways they think about and show their work, explore working within new media, gather advice on collaborating with heritage and public groups, gain experience of the commercial sector and develop new curatorial research.

These artists will be visited in the coming months by arts professionals working both inside the region, nationally and internationally: Jonathan Horrocks, Kim McAleese, Neus Miró, Nathaniel Pitt, Kim Savage and Deborah Smith.

Studio Visitors:

Jonathan Horrocks
Associate Director, Pippy Houldsworth Gallery, London
Jonathan Horrocks is Associate Director at Pippy Houldsworth Gallery, London. He is responsible for overseeing the exhibition programme at the gallery, having had the privilege of working closely with many international artists including Daniel Arsham, Mary Kelly and Tania Kovats. He is also in charge of organising the gallery’s participation in international art fairs such as Art Basel, Art Basel Hong Kong and Frieze New York. Horrocks completed his MA in History of Art at the Courtauld Institute of Art under the tutelage of Professor Mignon Nixon, specialising in the study of post-war feminist art. Using a psychoanalytic framework, his thesis explored the casting techniques of Eva Hesse, Alina Szapocznikow and Rachel Whiteread. He received a BA in History of Art from the University of Warwick. In 2014, Horrocks edited and contributed to the monograph of Turner Prize nominee Nathan Coley (Hatje Cantz; 2014). Prior to working at Pippy Houldsworth Gallery, Horrocks worked at Haunch of Venison, London; Mead Gallery, Warwick and The British Museum, London.

Kim McAleese
Programme Director, Grand Union, Birmingham and independent curator, Belfast
Kim McAleese is a curator based in Birmingham, UK. She is currently working as Programme Director of Grand Union, a gallery space and artists’ studios in the city. She is co-founder of Household, a collective of five curators who organise projects that encourage people to re-negotiate how they view and interact with art in city spaces. Previously, she was co-director of Catalyst Arts from 2009–2011, a curatorial consultant at the Belfast Festival at Queen’s in 2012 and Curator for 14-18NOW Northern Ireland, a public artwork commission by Bob & Roberta Smith. She is co-founder of domestic visual arts space, Satis House. She has just completed Curatorlab at Konstfack, a masters programme for professionals in Stockholm. Previous to this she was the first recipient of the Arts Council of Northern Ireland Career Enhancement Scheme for Curatorial Practice, and was one of the participants in the first European Independent Curators International Curatorial Intensive in 2013.

Neus Miró
Art Curator, Wolverhampton Art Gallery
Neus Miró curator of Art at Wolverhampton Art Gallery. She hold a first degree in History of Art (Universitat de Barcelona), a MA in Curating Contemporary Art (Royal College of Art, London) and is currently undertaking a PhD at Central Saint Martins (University of Arts London). Prior to her position at Wolverhampton Art Gallery, she worked as freelance curator based in Barcelona and on projects with institutions across Spain. She has had the privilege to work with artists such as Tacita Dean, Stan Douglas, Pipilotti Rist, Ben Rivers, Peter Kubelka, Lis Rhodes, Eija-Liisa Ahtila, and Jane & Louise Wilson among many others.

Nathaniel Pitt
Director, Division of Labour
Nathaniel Pitt was born in 1975 in Wordsley, Black Country. He trained as an artist at Falmouth School of Art in 1997 and gained his MFA from Wolverhampton University 2009 before becoming a fellow at De Appel in Amsterdam, curating in the gallery field. Pitt is currently the director of Division of Labour. Recent curatorial projects have included artists Robert Barry, Victor Burgin, Brian O’Doherty and Carey Young. Curated exhibitions include Plane Materials, at Brighton Photography Biennale; Dymaxion Playground, a public art project by Gavin Wade; Est 1690, a newspaper/art commission with Hendrik Schrat; ARTIST ROOMS: Joseph Beuys and a performance programme with Mikhail Karikis. He has developed an international profile for his gallery, with past presentations in the last Venice Biennale, Brussels, Rotterdam, New York, Hong Kong, Switzerland, Vienna, Dallas and Vilnius.

Kim Savage
Director, FOLD Gallery, London
Kim Savage was born in 1978 and between 1997 – 2000 studied at Bath Spa University College for a BA (Hons) in Fine Art Painting. From 2003 – 2009 Savage worked at Saatchi Gallery as Head of Exhibitions, including external projects such as USA Today at the Royal Academy and USA Today at the Hermitage St Petersburg). Since 2008 Savage has been Owner and Director of FOLD Gallery, London.

Deborah Smith
Independent Curator, London
Deborah Smith has worked as a curator for over 20 years, realising over 35 exhibitions/projects and having worked with over 100 artists from the UK and further afield. Through exploring different strategies for collaboration and the presentation of cultural practices Deborah continues to deliver exhibitions alongside large-scale commissions, residencies, conferences and publications, interwoven with programmes of education, engagement and interpretation. She has development projects in galleries and in the public realm with internationally respected organisations such as Hayward Touring, The New Art Gallery Walsall, Norfolk & Norwich Festival, Camden Arts Centre, Chapter, Contemporary Art Society and Arup. She is currently Curator, Arts Council Collection, National Partners Programmer at Birmingham Museums Trust and independently commissioning a new site specific artwork at the lake at Alexandra Palace & Park, London.

Applications were shortlisted by a panel including Deborah Robinson, Head of Exhibitions, The New Art Gallery Walsall, Zoe Lippett, Exhibitions and Artists’ Projects Curator, The New Art Gallery Walsall and Anneka French, Project Coordinator, New Art West Midlands.

In December we offered artists and curators living in the West Midlands the opportunity to apply to receive a studio visit from an arts professional. Nine artists from across the region have been selected.

Leah Carless, an artist based in Smethwick with a space at Birmingham’s Studio Capri, reflects on her recent research trip to Aarhus, Denmark, part funded by the New Art West Midlands Engine Micro Bursary scheme.

The Micro Bursary I received from New Art West Midlands enabled me to spend additional time in Aarhus in December 2016 in the lead up to a group exhibition I’m Every Woman. The exhibition ran 8-22 December 2016 at KH7 artspace. During this period I was able to spend time testing ideas, making new work, installing an exhibition and meeting artists and curators based in Aarhus. 

I arrived in Aarhus on Friday 2 December around 3pm. The first thing I noticed was how low the sun hangs in the sky. It’s on the same latitude as Edinburgh but there is a beautiful deep orange glow everywhere and it seems to touch everything around. The airport is tiny considering Aarhus is Denmark’s second largest city. Immediately I was struck by how everything seems to move much slower here – the commuters out of the airport, the airport transfer bus to the city. I later find out that there is currently a lot of debate about the airport and how it doesn’t really serve the city as needed. There is a ferry that links the city to Copenhagen and most use this as a means of transport. Aarhus has one of the largest ports in Northern Europe and the industry surrounding the port spreads across most of the city’s coast – one end the container bases and the ferry port at the other in the new development area.

KH7 artspace
KH7 artspace is a former factory building on the industrial side of the port. Most of the factories are in use and in this sense there seems to be a lot in common with Birmingham. The building is huge – three floors in total. The first two floors are studios and the top floor is KH7’s gallery. There is a large communal kitchen area. The studios are very clean. The spaces are so different to my experience of studios. They are more private, as each studio is located off a corridor and has a locking door. Some artists share, some have an entire studio to themselves. I was interested to find out how artists make their work as there seemed to be little equipment in the studio areas. I found that most of the manufacturing of works is done at a place called Godsbanen in the workshops. On the website it is described as a ‘centre of cultural production’ – one of its functions is to provide facilities for artists to make work out of a variety of materials including metal, wood and ceramics.  I was told that this is an affordable way to make work and how most artists produce work in Aarhus.

KH7 is the only artist run space in the city. There was a lot of excitement when I arrived as KH7 had just received their first grant for 2017. The artists hope to use this funding to cover exhibiting artist fees and travel to enable more international artists to exhibit in Aarhus. The gallery space is currently run by the studio artists. Money is generated by studio rent and each artist is given a slot in the gallery for their own use to test ideas, to invite other artists to exhibit and to work with the community or for educational purposes. It will be really interesting to see how the space develops next year with the new funding package.

The artists I am exhibited with are Mette Boel (DK), Nat Bloch-Gregersen (DK), Janina Lange (DE) and Matilde Mørk (DK). I got to spend time with all of the artists during my trip.

Nat and I spent a lot of time discussing our individual practices and found there were lots of overlaps in the materials we were using.  Nat has also just completed her MA this year so I found out a little bit about the differences and similarities between the UK and Denmark from that perspective. Nat studied at the Kunstakademi in Aarhus and I was really interested to find out that this is the first year that people have decided to stay on in Aarhus, not make the move to Copenhagen as in previous years.

As a group we had many interesting discussions about the show and all of the decisions that were made in the run up to the exhibition were made collectively.

I also met Matilde, who is a final year student at Kunstakademi. She has a fascinating practice and is very interested in gestural dance as a means of communication beyond speech. We shared some interesting discussions on the role of feminism within the exhibition we were working on, as well as in a wider cultural context.

During the entire week I worked very closely with Mette, who had invited me to be part of the exhibition. We had many conversations about the large scale installation she exhibited, about the curating of the show and the ideas behind it. This relationship continues as we are planning to each write a reflective piece of writing on the exhibition to use for our next group exhibition proposal.

I also met a brilliant artist called Louise Sparr. I got to spend some time in her studio and she came up to visit me in the gallery space whilst I was making test pieces. We chatted about the feminine, skins, membranes and materials. Whilst talking to Louise about my work and showing her images we began to talk about eggshells, a conversation that later informed the work I made for the exhibition.

I also met two of the three women that run the Rendezvous artspace. They have been working as a nomadic curatorial platform, making exhibitions in various locations around Aarhus and archiving these online. They have a large online presence on social media and a website archive. They were also pleased to have recently received funding to open a gallery space in Aarhus.

Work and tests
During the first few days in Aarhus I had time to make some small tests, experimenting mainly with colour in the space. I had planned on making another version of a previous work titled Full to the Brim. I found by making this work in situ, being able to make it using materials and dimensions specific to the gallery space meant that the second time in making this work there was more attention to detail and the work became more refined.

The edges were cleaner in this work, it was more controlled and less amorphous than previous works in this series. I’m not sure whether this was because I am now becoming more adept at my process or that I noticed more attention is paid to detail in Denmark. For example, when preparing for the exhibition, I noticed that AV wires were being fixed to the floor and wall using individual tacks, a much more time consuming but visually pleasing task than using electrical tape.

I was also very happy to bring a new material into my work – eggshells. I had previously used traces of older works, broken works or failed works but after a really interesting discussion with another artist and looking through images, we found similarities to eggshells in the works’ concept and material. I intend to continue using eggshells in future works.

The future
In the short time I spent and the few people I met in Aarhus I felt that I got a really good insight into what it’s like to be an artist living and working there. Aarhus has lots of connections to Copenhagen, as Birmingham to London but there seems to be more young people staying on in Aarhus after completing their education there. There are small pockets of young artists and curators doing lots of different things. Private views are well attended by the regular art crowd but there is also support from larger galleries.

Whilst on my trip I met two small collectives that had just received funding from the Danish Arts Council and with Aarhus being European City of Culture in 2017, this will hopefully continue to develop the artistic activity in the city and I look forward to following how it develops there over the next year.

Leah Carless reflects on her recent research trip to Aarhus, Denmark, part funded by the New Art West Midlands Engine Micro Bursary scheme.