Important Artefacts

While the thronging crowds flocked to the German Market in Birmingham city centre, last night, just a stone’s throw away, ARC’s ninth, and last exhibition was held at The Vaults, on Newhall Hill.

This stylishly furnished bar and restaurant, with its evocative, Victorian, bricked alcoves, lends itself well to exhibitions and performance art, becoming a perfect casket for the Important Artefacts exhibition, curated by Anneka French.

The exhibition theme was inspired by collecting and collections and the show included a variety of works using different mediums.

‘View from the Other Side’, by Matt Andrews , was a presentation of slides that tease our curiosity primarily for the ‘vintage’ quality of the images and their intimate character, arousing that latent (or even manifest) voyeuristic nature inside each and every one of us.

Through this journey into the ever-receding days of the early Sixties, we get a brief glimpse of the life of total strangers on sight-seeing expeditions, sharing a toast or standing proudly outside what will soon become their new home.

A work that is both intimate yet distant: the quaint, historic quality of the images suscitate a sense of endearment, nostalgia and affinity with the protagonists, because we get a peek into the private moments of their lives, yet there are no tangible clues, other than visual, to their identity, urging us to think about who these people were. The fact that the artist purchased the slides on E-bay adds an even stronger impersonal element to the piece: once fond, personal recollections become merchandise to exchange for money, inevitably leading us to question the sense of our own lives and memories, as well as the value of these in other people’s eyes.

Joanne Masding is a collector and archivist of objects. On this occasion, the artist exhibited 'English Words', an interminable list of words on scraps of paper (taped down the wall, spilling in a straight line across the floor), which she finds while reading but does not understand. However, she does not deliberately look them up, instead, she crosses them off her list as she accidentally stumbles across the meanings in everyday life.

During the show, Jane Morris presented ‘Lots of Important Things’, based on the novel by Leanne Shapton, called ‘Important Artefacts and Personal Property from the Collection of Leonore Doolan and Harold Morris’, which was also the inspiration behind the name of the exhibition.
Through the exposition of a rather amusing auction catalogue, the ups and downs of the couple’s relationship, their dreams and obsessions are exposed in photographs, letters, books, objects, gifts and notes that they shared or exchanged.

Tutte Newalls dainty, almost ‘rustic’, ‘Fur Series’, consisted of a series of hand-painted objects, depicting meticulously detailed macros of deceased animals, which due to their minute dimensions draw the viewer in, forcing them to observe closer. The works superimpose the snapshot of the end of an animal’s life onto an everyday object, playing on how their passing has culminated in their representation as a trophy, a cold, lifeless, exanimate object to place on a wall or in a museum.

Tim Robottom’s installation, ‘Not in Our Name’, was undoubtedly one of the most poignant and visually striking pieces in the show. Indeed, this assemblage of the most improbable combination of discarded objects, possesses a complex myriad of meanings. A longbow creates the eerie shadow of an all-seeing eye; crucified upon this bow, a weeping clown hangs from its feet, forced to assist a disturbing scene: a hoard of plastic pigs and apes are flocked around a pulsating dome; overlooking the scene stands an altar, seating what appears to be a demon, beside it a knife and fork , as if this unsettling entity is waiting to devour the ‘hypnotised’ masses before it, oblivious to their fate.

‘A Select Few’, was a series of beautifully executed, two-dimensional works by Molly Rooke. The artist obsessively takes the often ignored minute figures we see in postcards and isolates them in a white void, as if suspended in the ether. At times in great numbers, at others in small groups or solo, it is although the figures have stepped out of a railway model and found themselves on another plane: Subutteo beings, aimlessly wandering the lonely and infinite bounds of time and space – in search of what, we will never know.

by Sarah Silver
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