Thursday, 29 October 2009

The Event Invite

"We would like to invite you to BCAF's second contemporary arts festival - THE EVENT from 4-8 November throughout Eastside, Birmingham.

The official launch takes place on Friday 6th November from 6pm. All welcome.

For a full timetable and information on all the performances, events and interventions visit"

Monday, 26 October 2009

Public Forum: Imagining Museums at Ikon Gallery, pm.

Part Two of Imagining Museums in the afternoon centred on a discussion chaired by Nigel Prince entitled Expanding Audiences. The panel consisted of Jinsuk Suh, Paulo Herkenhoff, Ruth Noack and Jonathan Watkins.

Again, here are some nice quotes and thoughts from the session:

PH: If we remove the centre all that is left is the universe (Birmingham). Diversity isn’t a problem, it is a wealth. Birmingham is a city of encounters, an opportunity for dialogue; it is the right of citizenship to have a museum.
RN: The eye of the world is on us (Birmingham) and makes us more active. To make it work we must consider time, money, resources and the people with a stake in the thing. It’s not a social endeavour; it’s about an aesthetic value, why should they be interested? Museums need to encompass a social space.
Teresa Gleadowe (from the floor): Education has turned into entertainment.
RN: Info-tainment and entertainment are now outdated concepts; we’re going back to traditional learning.
JW: This has to be a learning institution.
Tom Jones (from the floor): Worried about the term ‘audience’ – audio – we need to be their audience, we need to listen to the public who will engage with the museum.
RN: Due to the legacy of the avant-garde, we’re the minority.

In the afternoon there was an open forum led by Teresa Gleadowe with peoples comments ranging from the digital and websites to visitor numbers in Birmingham and audience types. Teresa led an interesting discussion and kept trying to bring it back to ‘what do you want?’ As she encouraged people to speak for themselves rather than the demographics they represented, this was particularly interesting as many people couldn’t answer the question, no one seemed to know what they wanted from a Museum of 21st Century Art in Birmingham. I look forward to seeing this develop.

Public Forum: Imagining Museums at Ikon Gallery, am.

Other than the fact I was surrounded by Semyon Faibisovich’s paintings on the top floor at Ikon, Imagining Museums public forum was really good.

Jonathan Watkins introduced the day as not wanting to ‘dwell’ on the feasibility study rather he wanted to look at, define and test the words ‘museum,’ ‘contemporary’ and ‘art.’

In the morning Helen Legg chaired a discussion entitled Collecting & Curating: What Now? with panellists Huang Du, Anna Gallagher, Frances Morris, Ekaterina Degot and Enrique Juncosa. Here are some nice quotes and thoughts from the first session:

HL: Why and for whom should we collect?
FM: How do you capture the immaterial? Collecting alone is an art.
ED: Independent curators in the early 90s were not involved in collections and collecting which contributed to the over creation of work. How does the role of an independent curator affect the collecting of work and its production? It’s not necessary to own art to experience it: less Art, more understanding and discussion of Art. Social Value – Exchange Value – Use Value.
HL: Work of art versus work of interpretation; collecting from scratch allows Birmingham to reconsider what is art history.
AG: Birmingham is in a lucky position to examine what exists and what could be.
ED: Embrace the fetishism and accumulation of capital.
EJ: A museum shouldn’t be a teacher; it should be a lover and a friend.
HL: Conclusion – it’s like the chicken and the egg. What comes first? The audience or the collection?

Tuesday, 20 October 2009

The Event

Things for The Event in Birmingham are hotting up, and it all looks to be very exciting.

The official blurb is:

The Event is a contemporary arts festival in Eastside, Birmingham to showcase the best in artist-led activity. Bringing together artists, curators and artist-led projects, visitors are encouraged to immerse themselves in challenging artworks indoors and out.
The Event will be delivered by some of the city’s key artist-led groups to explore a range of contemporary arts activity including visual arts, performance, live art, film, video, web-based, installation, intervention and sound, all demonstrating the diversity of the thriving arts community in the city.
Using the creative district of Eastside as its backdrop The Event will take place over 5 days in November at a variety of venues including former industrial warehouses and recently opened artist-led gallery spaces.
The Event is the second such project co-ordinated by Birmingham Contemporary Art Forum [BCAF]. BCAF formed in June 2006 to raise the profile and continued activity of the city’s artist-led scene. BCAF is currently run by a committee formed by representatives from the following artist-led organisations and independent curators: a.a.s., Crowd 6, Eastside Projects, [insertspace], Mona Casey and Springhill Institute.

I am involved as part of Grand Union, it will be our first 'thing' as a group. We will be hosting an artists publication fair as well as distributing a zine by Grand Union members - for more info click here

Venue: Unit 19, Fazeley Industrial Estate, Fazeley Street, Digbeth, Birmingham, B5 5RS.

Times: 4-8 Nov, 12-5pm

Sunday, 18 October 2009

Wednesday, 7 October 2009

Next at TROVE - 'Finds' by Jo Gane

sneaky peak of an image from Jo's show Finds that will be at TROVE on Thursday 12th November 2-6pm with live image making, 13th November 6-8pm for the drinky bit and Saturday 14th November 2-6pm.

Monday, 5 October 2009

Into the Void - interview with Sam Smith

TROVE curator Charlie Levine interviews Australian artist Sam Smith regarding his exhibition Into The Void.
Sunday 4th October 2009 6-9pm
The Old Science Museum
144 Newhall Street
B3 1RZ

Charlie Levine: Can you give me a brief history of you and your practice and how you arrived here at Into The Void?
Sam Smith: I studied sculpture at art school although I soon started combining video and installation. I was very interested in a world that was mediated by digital technologies and the cross over of cinema and the everyday. I am interested in exposing the mechanics of digital video creation and especially the methods of cinematic special effects while imagining the possibilities for the reconfiguration of space and time through harnessing these techniques. Recently I've become increasingly interested in exploring the tropes of science fiction cinema and thinking about the ideas of how video itself can be considered time travel by allowing the viewer access to past and future histories.

CL: Staying with your past work, tell me more about the luminous green as seen in Video Camera [HDW-F900/3] and Twist, what does it represent?
SS: The green in my work is representative of cinematic green screen. Green screens are used as backgrounds in cinema so that objects can be isolated and removed. For me they are emblematic of video’s ability to transport, transform, and essentially render the contents of the world malleable. In certain works, such as Video Camera [HDW-F900/3] the green liquid is a physical manifestation of digital data. The green ectoplasm appears as a ghostly omen of the paranormal effects the thick ooze holds.

CL: There is something immediately 'sci-fi' about your work, but somehow when placed next to your new work takes on a darker role, less humorous more ‘apocalyptic,’ perhaps this is due to you filming in New York, is this something you're aware of?
SS: I have always felt that digital cinema, when seen through a science fiction lens, holds certain dark undertones. The idea of the infinite possibilities brought forth through digital effects, is for me both an exciting and frightening prospect. A world without the laws of physics is reminiscent of a horror film where the natural order is turned on its head.

CL: Colour is obviously very important in all three works, why is this? What do they mean to you and the direction of your work as well as their interpretation?
SS: Colour is important in terms of what they symbolically represent, specifically the blue or green of cinematic chromakey backdrops. When converted to digital video space they are the colours of nothingness and the void.

CL: Linking then to Into The Void, this video was a result of a residency in New York, can you give me some background into making the work and how you came to the final version we watch at TROVE? Plus, where did your apparent obsession with Yves Klein come from?
SS: Into The Void is a process video. The idea for the work didn't germinate until I arrived in New York so recreating Yves Klein's leap wasn't actually something I was thinking about beforehand. The work evolved out of the situation of living in a different environment. The searching that forms the narrative of the video isn't dissimilar to my experience as an artist making the work. In that way the artwork narrative and my own are linked. I see Into The Void as a tangent history, a fork formed in my personal timeline. At the point where I recreated Klein's leap, a version of myself still remains, stuck in a video loop while the traffic of New York moves constantly on.

I am also very inspired by the ideas behind Klein's Le Saut dans le Vide (The Leap into the Void, 1960). The photographic montage was produced after the first satellite was launched into space and only a year before the first man left our atmosphere. The image suggests a desire to escape both spatial and temporal constraints.

In terms of the production of the video: everything (with the exception of the overlays of myself for the 2 International Klein Blue scenes and the leap) was shot in New York over the space of 3 to 4 months. During this stage there was a deliberate lack of editing to the ideas for the piece. I shot footage for a number different scenes but the overall narrative was established from the start. The footage wasn't touched till I returned to Sydney and began assembling. The work underwent numerous iterations in the editing phase, for example the overlaid multiple exposures was something born in postproduction. Similarly the soundtrack went through various versions. I find with editing, and especially audio, it's often about finding a mood. This artwork more than any other before was completed using traditional cinematic methods, i.e. the stages of preproduction, production and postproduction were quite closely followed. This reflected my desire for the video to mimic some more filmic standards in its format.

For further information please contact Charlie Levine at

Sam Smith is represented by GRANTPIRRIE, Sydney.
Into The Void was commissioned by Next Wave for its inaugural Time Lapse program.

Sunday, 4 October 2009

Into the Void - sneaky peak

TROVE presents Into the Void by Sam Smith

Saturday, 3 October 2009

Four Legs good interview with Tim Robottom

Four legs good, two legs better

Tim Robottom

Pitt Studio, Worcester

Tim Robottom is an artist who defines his practice in terms of edges, lines and cliffs. Rather than interpreting these within the realms of sanity he explores art themes and theories, thoughts and titles. What if a conceptual artist power slid over a modernist line and ended up in a surrealist puddle? Robottom plays with these cross-overs and combinations of titles, he plays with our perceptions of the known and unknown, presenting a world that is topsy-turvy; confusing what we once knew and understood as basic art history.

Charlie Levine: Tim, you have recently completed your MA, now you are out of education and the restrictions that come along with that how do you feel your work will and has progressed for this exhibition and beyond?

Tim Robottom: My work is and always has been in a state of continual flux and development. During my time on the Masters programme I began to reintroduce a performative element to my practice, something that initially started with ‘Oranges Can Dance’, my first solo show that you curated in autumn of 2008. I am interested in engaging the audience by using fragments of the past, subtly blended with elements from the present, but it’s difficult to pin down. The work for Four legs good, two legs better will be temporary, like a performance, so all of the work will no longer be available in this form once the show is over - unless I remake it somewhere else of course. This temporality has gradually become central to my practice and is now a key element that I intend to explore further in the future.

CL: Tell me more about this exhibition, you describe it in a way that covers every cultural base - Surrealism, Pop, Conceptualism, history and contemporary culture, film, modern literature, current affairs, consumerism and site specificity. How do all of these themes translate into a cohesive solo exhibition? And how would you describe your practice without the use of these very descriptive and specific phrases? Would you be able to? How representative are they of your practice?

TR: It is extremely difficult to describe anything without some point of reference. Life and culture is what the work is about; bringing together the melting pot of influences and ideas that make up society, all of the works are loaded with cultural references and comments on everyday life. This body of work has taken on an aesthetic I can only describe as Dada, it is not avant-garde or particularly radical, but I think the work has surreal qualities. It is not nonsensical, there is meaning in there, you simply have to look. The pieces are like a series of cryptic visual puzzles, if you know your current affairs, history, theory, and politics and so on then you should be able to decipher something from the work. I am very careful to try and get all of the potential meanings to fit together so that what you end up with is a kind of sculptural mind map or spider diagram. Take ‘Prize Winner’ for example, a ceramic Shire horse placed directly onto a light-box. This piece not only relates to the other works in the show, the previous history of the space as a slaughterhouse and the history of the Worcestershire potteries, but is also a comment on art competitions like the Turner prize. It could also be seen as a representation of the struggle and migration necessary to find work, from the early industrial revolution to the present day. The light-box also sits upon two plinths, a satirical nod to conceptualism, or a metaphor for life as a play upon a stage, upon a stage, upon a stage.

CL: You very obviously have a lot of humour and irony within your work, there is often nods to political views you hold or have discrepancies with, is this because of your nature and your appreciation of a laugh? Or are you commenting on a bigger picture? What is the viewer laughing at? Are we laughing with you or at something?

TR: We are in times of global crisis; personally I think that now is just the right time for some surrealist humour to take the edge off things, while still encouraging the viewer to think about life at the same time. For me the best art is art that makes you think about the bigger picture. Art has to provoke some kind of reaction, make you smile, frown, laugh, shout or perhaps even cry and run away. Aesthetically the work is amusing and the possible meanings are often politically-charged, cynical and satirical, but it always seems to return to the same question of mortality and temporality. Life is too short, so we must enjoy what little time we have, but more so now than ever we must also take responsibility for our actions.

CL: Finally, how do you see art evolving in these modern times of technology, knowledge, power and opportunities? How does your work fit into this current art time of celebrity curators and artists taking more control for themselves? What is the future for art? And how do you see yourself within this future?

TR: I think the future for art is global. The west used to be the centre of the art world, but this is now changing. The internet has opened up all kinds of networking possibilities for artists, writers, curators and collectors, making it much easier for negotiations to take place across vast distances. I am not really interested in being a celebrity, but I intend to attempt to retain as much control over my work and my creative freedom as possible. For me both art and life are the same thing and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Interview between curator Charlie Levine and artist Tim Robottom (September 2009) for his solo exhibition at Pitt Studio, October 2009

Charlie and Tim have previously worked together on Oranges Can Dance, August 2008, a single evening exhibition and performance at the Old Joint Stock Theatre, Birmingham

Four Legs good, TWO LEGS BETTER

Last night was Tim Robottom's solo show at Pitt Studio in Worcester and it was really really good! Some image highlights for me below, was great to see Tim again and have a good old chat, plus the lovely evening was topped off by gallery owner Nathaniel trying to make a speech which, in his own words, was 'car crash tv stuff,' after ten minutes of rambling, he passed the baton over to Tim and went and hid in the toilet, which we later discovered he had gone to to escape out of the window and run away - he was not seen again for the rest of the evening!