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.

Anger and alienation, Stikman comes to life!

Andy Sargent, one of our recent Outside In Engine Micro Bursary awardees shares his experience and vision of ‘the stikman cometh’ as one of Disability Arts Online’s recent commissions of artists in isolation.

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.


We are redirecting 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 are now inviting 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 have 10 Micro Bursary opportunities to award and are looking to cover a variety of impacts on practice. These focus points include the impact on studio-based artists, on freelance curatorial activities, on practitioners based in rural contexts, on the student perspective, on those working internationally, and on artists and curators who are commonly disadvantaged due to race, class, gender identity, sexual orientation, religion and disability.

Applications will be selected by New Art West Midlands in collaboration with a range of partner organisations located across the region to seek different perspectives and to ensure fair access. These include AirSpace Gallery, Asylum Art Gallery, DASH, Ikon Gallery, International Curators Forum (ICF), Meadow Arts and University of Worcester.

Please email us with a proposal. Your response might be that you have started to learn clay modelling or coding, that you are making a video diary or a new painting every day. Perhaps you might have been inspired to develop an online network to allow remote collaboration or that you are using this time to make plans for a big change in the future direction of your practice. Perhaps you have been collecting thoughts and opinions on some of the negative impacts of the situation in written form. We want to hear about your stories and to share them.

Some of the most interesting, engaging and moving stories around practice will receive support in the form of support from one of the team and a fee of £250 to help shape your story in a way that we can share online through writing, audio, video or image-based content.

Please email your short proposal to by 4pm on Wednesday 15 April, stating ‘Micro Bursary’ in the subject line.

We are accepting Engine Micro Bursary proposals from 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. Deadline: 15 April.

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.

Lily Wales, Las Vagueness, 2018. Work made following a GRAIN and New Art West Midlands Engine bursary research visit to Nevada, USA.

New Art West Midlands and GRAIN Projects are jointly offering a bursary of £2000 to an artist based in the West Midlands region.  The bursary is a significant international research opportunity to support professional development. 

We are seeking applications from artists working with photography to undertake research in Aarhus, Denmark.  This opportunity has been developed in partnership with Aarhus Billedkunstcenter / Aarhus Center for Visual Art (AaBKC) and Galleri Image, with a focus upon regional identity, international cooperation and exchange.


Lily Wales, Las Vagueness, 2018. Work made following a GRAIN and New Art West Midlands Engine bursary research visit to Nevada, USA.


Facilitated by our partners in Aarhus, the bursary of £2000 will enable the successful artist to work in the city and/or surrounding region between 9 and 15 March 2020. Accommodation is provided at Godsbanen, situated in central Aarhus and a key creative hub for the city.


Artists interested in submitting a proposal may want to consider:

– Relationships between the West Midlands and Central Jutland regions
– The status of Aarhus as a second city – like Birmingham – and conditions outside of a nation’s capital
– Peripheral communities or geographies within the urban or rural space
– Specific geographical, economic, political and cultural characteristics and concerns of communities in Denmark


The successful applicant will be expected to deliver an artist talk in Aarhus as part of AaBKC’s Social programme (a short introduction and discussion over breakfast for the art community). Additionally, you will need to prepare a brief evaluation report for the Grain and New Art West Midlands websites on your return.


The bursary is part of New Art West Midlands’ Engine programme led in conjunction with The New Art Gallery Walsall, and the GRAIN Projects Professional Development Programme.



Please apply via our online opportunities portal outlining how you would use the bursary and why this opportunity is crucial to your professional development. This should be accompanied by 3 images of recent work, your website details and your CV. Please include an indicative budget – accommodation is covered but your budget should include any fees, travel, subsistence and any other associated costs.


Access our online opportunities portal HERE

Deadline: 4pm on Monday 20 January




We 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. Financial support is available to support access costs relating to the application.

If you have any support requirements or would like to discuss this further, please do get in touch with: or telephone 0121 300 4309.


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 Grain Projects

GRAIN Projects is an arts organisation dedicated to commissioning, facilitating and delivering ambitious, engaging and high quality photography projects, commissions, events and exhibitions.  We produce new work in collaboration with artists, photographers and communities and collaborate with major partners here and internationally to engage and work with new audiences and participants. GRAIN is led by GRAIN Projects CIC, a unique and collaborative arts organisation, supported by Arts Council England and Birmingham City University.


About Galleri Image

Galleri Image is a non-profit exhibition space, which aims to promote high quality photo-based art by showing Danish and international photography and video art. Founded in 1977, the gallery is the longest running non-profit exhibition space for photographic art in Scandinavia, and for many years it was also the only photo gallery in Denmark. Over the past 40 years, Galleri Image has achieved an international reputation for its exhibitions and has contributed considerably to the recognition and understanding of photography as an important and independent medium in the world of visual art. Based in Aarhus, Denmark, and with free entry to all its shows, the gallery regularly hosts talks, discussions, seminars, workshops and guided exhibition tours. We actively seek to support young talents and frequently tour our exhibitions around the world.


About Aarhus Billedkunstcenter

Aarhus Center for Visual Art (Aarhus Billedkunstcenter, AaBKC) is an artist resource center serving visual artists in Denmark’s Central Jutland region. Based in Aarhus, Aarhus Center for Visual Art strengthens the local arts community by creating opportunities for networking and collaboration between artists and institutions, offering professional development services to artists, facilitating discourse and community outreach with public art events and hosting residencies for local and international artists and art professionals.





New Art West Midlands and GRAIN Projects are jointly offering a bursary of £2000 to an artist working with photography based in the West Midlands region. The bursary is a significant international research opportunity to support professional development activity in Aarhus, Denmark. Deadline: Monday 20 January

In March of this year I took a trip to a small town called Stroe located 1 hours’ drive from Amsterdam in the Netherlands. I was going there to participate in a two-day event that explored the capabilities and limitations of the human body and mind.

Limp. UV Printed image on synthetic latex, wooden dowel. 2015

As an artist I have always been interested in the human body, not necessarily as a figure to be drawn, painted or sculpted but as a subject to be examined and referenced. This interest bordered on an obsession when I became fascinated by the world of extreme male bodybuilding back in 2013. I spent quite a lot of time learning about the rites and rituals involved in this extreme activity. One thing that continues to resonate with me is the fact that this group of individuals push their body to the absolute extreme, solely for aesthetic purposes. There is no reward for how much weight an individual can lift or how quickly they can run, in this world, the only thing that is important is how they look at the end, the appearance of the end ‘product’.  I like to imagine how that parallels the art world and the production of art works. Within my practice, I have referenced these extreme bodies and the activity itself in many ways, most recently in the form of abstracted painting or sculptural objects. The process of making my work will also often connect to some of the activities involved in extreme bodybuilding (repetitive actions, physical pressure etc.). When presenting my finished works for exhibition I would describe the process of making them as ‘unseen performances’, to reference the physicality involved in their production. In 2018 I decided that it was time to consider making the unseen, seen, and that I would begin to develop a piece of live or recorded performance work. This shift in my practice is what prompted my application for the Engine Micro Bursary and to give me the opportunity to kick start this new chapter of research and development.

The combination of mental dedication and physical effort demonstrated by bodybuilders is the main reason I have continued to stay interested in it. The effort required to achieve and maintain these extreme bodies is almost incomprehensible. When considering how a performance piece involving the body might exist, I think about this combination of extreme physical and mental activity. I often seek out examples of individuals or groups who push things to the limits. One such individual is a 60-year-old Dutch man called Wim Hof, also known as the Iceman due to his infinity with all things cold. I first encountered Wim and his antics when I watched a documentary exploring his seemingly humanly impossible feats. At one point, he held 26 separate individual Guinness world records for extreme human activity, including the furthest swim in ice water, the fastest half marathon barefoot on snow and the longest time in direct full body contact with ice. All of this led people to believe he was a one off, a freak of nature who did not feel cold in the same way other people did. Wim claimed that he was not unique but was merely optimising the capabilities of the human body and he could teach anyone to do it. To prove it, Wim began what has now become known as The Wim Hof Method a system that combines regular exposure to the cold, breathing exercises and meditation. This method, however, was not just a frivolous venture into record-breaking but rather had some significant physical and mental benefits. Wim claimed that by practising the techniques of the method you could improve sports performance, reduce stress and strengthen your immune system. I was hooked, I wanted to know more. I discovered that a number of scientific studies had been carried out on not only Wim himself but also a group of trained individuals. It appeared they were able to consciously activate their autoimmune system, something that was previously believed to be impossible. I found this all so fascinating. Could it be that a slightly peculiar Dutch man had unlocked some new potential in the human body?

Wim Hof, breaking the world record for time spent surrounded by Ice.

I started to imagine how the things Wim was doing might relate to performance art. I was reminded of the endurance performance work popularised in the 1970s by people like Marina Abramovic, Stuart Brisley and Vito Acconci who pushed their body, mind and public perception to the limit. But it also brought to mind how materials can be used to evoke certain responses. I thought about transience in relation to ice and how it has been used as an art material in the past, with the obvious example of Marc Quinn and his frozen blood head piece, Self. The idea of referencing aging via the changing state of a material is something I referenced previously in my latex works, a material that quickly shows signs of wear and tear when pulled taut. I was confident that this could translate in other ways.

I discovered that there was an event-taking place, which might shed some light onto the specifics of the Wim Hof Method. It involved a series of lectures, workshops and participatory activities, so I signed up and booked flights to the Netherlands.

There were a group of around 30 participants and a team of four Wim Hof instructors who would guide us through the weekend. The morning started with a detailed introduction into the background of the Wim Hof Method. It transpired that this was much more than an activity simply to impress your friends with how long could stay in cold water. It appeared that the health benefits of the method were vast and yet all that was required was some conscious active breathing along with some exposure to the cold. It seemed too good to be true. As the day went on, we were introduced to the science behind the method. One of the trainers, Bart Scholtissen, a former neuroscientist from Amsterdam who found the method after suffering from poor mental health, introduced how active breathing and cold exposure can alter the way our bodies react to physical and mental stress. He discussed how in a contemporary world being endlessly stimulated by technology had resulted in a mass amount of people being stuck in the fight or flight response mode which can result not only in mental anxieties but also physical ailments. Through breathing, we could return the body into a resting state to allow us to relax fully and recuperate from daily stresses. It all seemed very reasonable and I remained as open but a sceptical as possible.

After morning lectures, we began some participatory activities that included going through the breathing exercises. These exercises, known collectively as ‘breathwork’ are based on ancient yogic techniques of conscious and deliberate airflow into the lungs. The aim, as explained by Bart, was to increase the amount of oxygen in our blood and to decrease carbon dioxide. By doing this we encouraged the cells in our blood to flow through our circulatory system in an active and efficient way, the result being an almost paradoxical increase of energy and the general feeling of relaxation. Afterwards we broke for lunch and I had an opportunity to speak with some of the other participants before returning for a series of discussions in the afternoon. Learning about the other participants, why they were there and their experiences was very interesting. Almost every person I spoke to, described how these breathing techniques and cold exposure had significantly impacted their life. From those with mental health issues and even mental illness to others with physical problems such as autoimmune diseases, each one described how the Wim Hof Method had help them deal with their difficulties.

Day two started similarly to day one with some more lectures into the science behind the method but also a bit of background to Wim himself, who also made a surprise appearance in the morning and give a motivational talk. He’s an extraordinary character and I can see why people are drawn to him, but also how he could be a target for sceptics. For me, I was happy experiencing all of this without judgement and an open mind. Today we would explore the cold exposure aspect of the method first hand. After a couple breathwork of sessions and we collectively prepared to enter an ice bath. For some this seemed to be no big deal but for most, including myself I was quite anxious about the prospect yet I had a sense of inner confidence perhaps feeding off the more positive members of the group. We gathered around the (ironically named) hot tub which had been previously filled with cold water and ice and were invited to enter at our own pace. I watched on to observe both how people dealt with the cold but also how the instructors guided them through it. What became immediately apparent is that by controlling the breath you controlled your ability to resist cold. Our body’s natural response to a sudden drop in temperature is to breathe quickly and shallow, to increase the heart rate and pump blood around the body to generate heat. This is also the sensation that triggers our in-built fight and flight response. By actively controlling the breath and slowing it down, people were much more able to deal with the cold water. When it came to my turn I could feel my heart racing before I even step foot into the cold water but I was confident that by applying the same methods as others, I would be able to do it. As I stepped into the ice, I immediately took a sharp intake of air, a gasp, and could feel my heart racing even faster. As I lowered down into the water my breathing rate increased and I felt an almost overwhelming urge to get out. At this point I tried to focus also on my breath trying to be more conscious, taking control and slowing everything down. As I gained control of my breath I felt my heart rate slow and the urge to get out dissipate and before I knew it I was fully emerged in the ice water being joined with five other participants. I had never experienced anything like that before, that sense of taking control of your body and your mind to overcome something physical like this was a new and exciting prospect. I sat in the ice for probably two minutes before getting out. As I emerged I felt amazing and in a way I’d never experienced before, my body felt energised, I was tingling from head to toe. It was genuinely a moment I would never forget. Eventually we had all had our turn in the ice bath, we made our way back to the main area for some warm tea, and a final debrief.

On my journey back from the Netherlands I reflected on my time there, considering all that I have learnt and experienced. It struck me that learning is not always a cognitive brain centric activity and that we can also learn through physical experiences via the body. I started to think about how I might begin to produce artworks informed by the information I had received but also, and perhaps more importantly, the physical and emotional experience I had. Up until very recently, my working methods would primarily consist of extensive theoretical research. Reading about a specific topic until I felt I knew enough about it to represent it via image or object making. Whilst the body would often play a part in the conceptualising of the work, I had not always considered it as truly embodied practice. Moving forward, I want to try to produce works that are more responsive to physical urges and feelings rather than explicitly cognitive ones.

Taking this experience back to the studio has been an interesting one. I have been determined to spend less time in my head and more time in my body. That’s not to say that I’ve stopped thinking critically but rather allowed my body to also have a say in the decision-making. Recently I produced a series of performance to camera works, which reflected this new approach. I can’t exactly say what these photographs are, what they do or how they might be conceptualised within the context of an exhibition but I feel positive about that. I have a sense of freedom around my art making that was arguably not there prior to my Wim Hof experience. I feel as though I can try things now I would have otherwise talked myself out of doing, for one reason or another. In parallel with the feeling I had on leaving the ice bath, I feel energized and excited about this new development chapter ahead.

Brian J Morrison





Artist Brian J Morrison reflects back on his research trip to Stroe in the Netherlands earlier this year, funded by an Engine Micro Bursary.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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

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.

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.

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).

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.