Sunday, 23 June 2013

The Open Project Gallery Crawl ~ Eastside Projects

After a morning finding out about the curation approaches of BMAG and IkonThe Open Project's young curators headed Digbeth-wards to visit some of Birmingham's artist-led spaces. Entering Eastside Projects is always a surprise as the gallery takes on a strong identity for every exhibition, and this time we were greeted by countless strings of ball bearings, suspended and gridded; stretching across the room.

This installation, Parallelareal Variable by Gunilla Klingberg, was the most physically interactive piece I have seen at ESP and it was liberating to be able to travel through its lines, disrupting the order of the strands and creating waves of momentum. In contrast to the Mike Nelson's M6 show, the concrete plynth invited visitors to explore the environment that had been created atop it, rather than being used to elevate objects for the audience to merely encircle. A regular visitor to the gallery, I find the accumulation and adaption of objects from past exhibitions to create a sense of cohesion between the time and space of each visit; a manifestation of memory of the shows gone by.

We were lucky enough to speak to both Maya, the current Operations Assistant at ESP, and Ruth Claxton, Associate Director. They described that the current exhibition was created through curators working with local contractors and the artist in order to develop conversations, and ultimately produce a new art piece specifically for the site. Ruth explained that ESP consider the space itself as an artwork and the act of curating as an art practice, hence the space accumulates elements which take on a new role in the shifting landscape of the gallery. One particularly functional feature that the space has adopted is Pleasure Island by Heather & Ivan Morrison, modified into ESP's unique office at the back of the gallery.

[Photograph by Stuart Whipps, courtesy of Eastside Projects ~ via this is tomorrow]

One thing that struck me with puzzlement was that this was many of the groups' first trip to Eastside, demonstrating the need for such new initiatives as the Birmingham Art Map [below] which Maya handed out at the end of the discussion. Well-executed print matter is a huge part of ESP's identity, sparking national and international attention. Ruth described that they had only recently started using other means circulation but that it was interesting where their printed objects had ended up.

As one of the most exciting art spaces to be operating in Birmingham at the moment, I am interested to see where ESP's uncompromisingly innovative selection of work takes them. Despite being a free, public space, Eastside Projects currently feels like one of Birmingham's best kept secrets.

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