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Various locations, Birmingham
31 March 15 April
Reviewed by: Matt Price »
The Event got off to a somewhat raucous start with a party in a former train station, eliciting comparisons to the Birmingham Arts Lab days of the 1970s. Performances by Peckham-based collective Wowow!, Mark McGowan, Aaron Barschak the comedy terrorist and a spirited anti-capitalist pagan ritual led by David Burrows and Simon OSullivan came courtesy of International Project Space. Artist collective a.a.s organised a popular two-week citywide participatory project, though as it was covert, its full impact will only become clear when documentation surfaces.
Characterising The Event were exhibitions in commandeered industrial spaces around the edges of the city centre. The forerunner in this respect was Springhill Institute, which has been programming residencies and exhibitions in a former warehouse since 2003. For The Event, they presented Parallel Universes Meet at Infinity a retrospective of works, primarily film and video, produced by artists during their residencies, including Christoph Draegers captivating remake of the nightclub scene from Antonionis Blow Up, Tellervo Kalleinens amusing Complaints Choir, and a kite-flying escapade by the Discriminating Gentlemens Club immaculately groomed young Canadians who were also present at the festival to present a new performance work. The latter took place in and around Kiosk a Russian Constructivism-inspired mobile structure devised by Capital Art Projects for use by several artists, including as a studio by Simon and Tom Bloor, and as an investigations bureau by Trevor Pitt and Clare Thornton.
In the citys Jewellery Quarter, another film and video-based exhibition was on show at Colony, featuring works by Gordon Dalton and HK119 among others. In an industrial unit in nearby Ladywood, Spectacle presented an engaging exhibition of sculpture by seven artists from around the UK entitled Obstacle, with Alastair Mackies horse manure model of Washingtons Capitol building a personal favourite.
Down in Digbeth, audio-visual collective Modulate had set up a sound café in an old industrial building they are developing into a permanent venue. The idea proved an excellent way for people to meet whilst listening to a beautiful electroacoustic composition made from kitchen sounds by Bobby Bird. Nearby, artist-led group [insertspace] had organised a thoughtful series of interventions in local pubs, such as a subtle, occult-tinged vinyl floor piece by Blue Firth at The Spotted Dog, photographs from The Old Crown that had been blurred to the point of ambiguity and replaced on the walls by Leo Fitzmaurice, a pub walk designed by Tim Machin, and a shamanic ritual performed by Marcus Coates in The Lamp Tavern.
Much of the festival revolved around artist-led groups from the region showing artists from beyond the region, suggesting a thirst for developing national and international networks. A successful show of works by artists based in the city itself came in the form of Chinese Whispers at Periscope. The idea was for one artist to show their work to the next, who then responded to that work in the manner of their own practice a procedure repeated along a chain of six artists. The exhibition started with Paul Newmans painting of a guitar-wielding zombie cowboy in a desert landscape, and via Jane Andersons drawing on linen of a bare tree, a photograph by Tom Ranahan, Stephen Earl Rogers drawing of an upholstered armchair, and Kate Pembertons fifty-six miniature wooden chairs, arrived at Jo Lökis Victorian dolls house séance. A bijou end to a bijou exhibition.
One of the most significant issues for Birmingham during the 1990s and into the new millennium was how to develop a contemporary art scene. The Event was proof positive that today Birmingham has a coherent and vibrant art community. The question now is whether the city has a sufficiently developed economy to sustain and develop it.
Event (The) »
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