Coventry Biennial presents OTOLITH 1

Coventry Biennial will be presenting OTOLITH 1 by The Otolith Group in the Chapter House at Coventry Cathedral from 14th until the 20th August 2020.

The Otolith Group

The Otolith Group, Otolith 1, 2003. Courtesy: Arts Council Collection.
©The Artists. Commissioned by MIR Consortium / The Arts Catalyst

OTOLITH 1, a film-essay made by The Otolith Group in 2003, originally commissioned by MIR Consortium and The Arts Catalyst, is now a part of the Arts Council Collection.

Made of historical, found and newly shot footage, conflating fact and fiction, OTOLITH 1 weaves personal and public histories together to explore future female identities and separation. These themes relate to our wider research while also resonating with the impacts of Covid-19.

Kodwo Eshun, the group’s co-founder alongside Anjalika Sagar, was affiliated with the Cybernetic Culture Research Unit at University of Warwick, highlighting another point of intersection with the research the team at Coventry Biennial are carrying out ahead of HYPER-POSSIBLE.

Ahead of this short exhibition, they have published the third in their series of communiqués, which is available to read, download and share from here.

Included in this issue is a new text by one of Coventry Biennial curator and director Michael Pigott and they are pleased to be able to share a section of Holger Schulze’s recent book Sonic Fiction which explores the aims, interests and work of The Otolith Group.

Ryan Hughes, Director of Coventry Biennial says of The Otolith Group:

“The Otolith Group are one of the most exciting collaborative practices working today. They have a huge commitment around working with other artists, academics, writers, musicians and actors creating an expanded knowledge base for each of their projects which have been shown in galleries, museums, festivals and biennials around the world. Kodwo Eshun, one of the co-founders of the group was affiliated with the Cybernetic Culture Research Unit at the University of Warwick in the 1990s and the work that The Otolith Group makes feels very ‘Coventry’ – you can glimpse the past and the future simultaneously.”

Ryan Hughes says of the artwork:

Otolith 1 is one of the earliest artworks that The Otolith Group made together. It’s a short science fiction film-essay that blurs fact and fiction and explores how conversations might unfold across generations through the media that we produce and leave behind. The work touches on themes of protest, global feminism, race and cultural history all of which are key ideas that will resonate throughout HYPER-POSSIBLE, the 3rd Coventry Biennial which will open in multiple venues in October 2021.”

Please note that they can only accommodate 8 visitors per time slot to the exhibition to allow for physical distancing. You’ll be asked to wear a face mask while in the exhibition and to leave your name and contact details as you arrive.

Booking in advanced is essential using this link

 

Meanwhile at Shop Front Theatre

The owners of Coventry’s Shop Front Theatre have opened an exhibition of their own work responding to the current crisis.

Theatre Absolute - Meanwhile. Pic by Andrew Moore.

During this unprecedented time, where local arts and connections within the community have become more important than ever, Theatre Absolute have reflected and responded, bringing their collaborative and supportive approach to artists, writers and the communities of Coventry and beyond.

Throughout the initial lockdown Julia Negus (Producer/Artist), Chris O’Connell (Artistic Director/Writer) and Lisa Franklin (Project Co-ordinator/Performer) each created new artwork for the Shop Front Theatre windows, in part allowing themselves to respond to the crisis as artists and performers and in part to support their own well-being through the process of creativity. The window exhibition titled ‘Meanwhile’ is now on display and provides a new perspective for passers-by as they begin to return to the city centre in Coventry.

Theatre Absolute - Meanwhile. Photography by Andrew Moore.

Supported by funds from Arts Council England and Esmee Fairbairn Foundation the company have also been developing other initiatives. Recognising the difficulties for young people, particularly college leavers and new graduates, to be able to make sense of the impact of the crisis as they start their careers in the creative sector, Theatre Absolute are providing on going zoom and mentoring sessions.

Producer Julia Negus commented: “It’s an opportunity for young people to share their hopes and fears for what next, to talk about their ambitions and where possible, we’re able to support and network them to local professional opportunities.”

Theatre Absolute - Meanwhile. Photo by Andrew Moore.

The company have also been running a series of micro commissions and an online programme of writing sessions as part of their City Voices writing development work in partnership with City of Culture Trust. The sessions explore different genres of writing and have guest writers attending such as the playwright Liz Mytton and poet Liz Berry. These sessions are supported by Coventry writers Alexandra Johnson and Joshua Leach, both helping to create and lead work.

Another writers’ initiative is Theatre Absolute’s new partnership with Ola Animashawun – a dramaturg who runs Euphoric Ink and also works at the National Theatre, London. Both Chris and Ola are offering one-to-one sessions for writers of all levels who may want some direct feedback on plays they have in progress.

As lockdown eases, Theatre Absolute have also offered their Shop Front Theatre to artists to experiment with text and narrative in their Theatre Labs. Artist Jessica Timms comments: “I recorded an audio for a Mothers on the Mic / Spork! Podcast while I was there… I also produced a short art book which has enabled me to start to develop a narrative I am continuing to work on. I was delighted to have this time and space to explore in this special setting.”

Chris O’Connell at Theatre Absolute added: “The creative sector is facing huge demands and with the recent government support, there is a tangible sense of relief for some. Our goal here at Theatre Absolute, as always, is to reach out, connect and support where we can, and in doing so continue to demonstrate the positive impact smaller theatres and organisations can have for the future of theatre and the wider arts ecology.”

Keep in touch with Theatre Absolute and the Shop Front Theatre via twitter @theatreabsolute and the website: www.theatreabsolute.co.uk

Theatre Absolute - Meanwhile. Photograph by Andrew Moore.

Images credit: Andrew Moore

Collecting Coventry – celebrating the city’s rich history

Collecting Coventry is a project organised by Coventry University to tell the story of the city. A team from the uni have plans to digitise the year of the City of Culture, but they want to go beyond 2021 which will become another step in the city’s rich history. The team are now working on a digital archive of Coventry’s past by working with arts organisations and artists from across the city. It will enable people to more easily explore the past, make connections and deepen their understanding of the practices that create a city. 

The team from the uni are calling out to artists and arts organisations from across Coventry to contribute towards this archive – whether their practice is current or historical.  

To find out more and register your interest, email Adele at digitalarchivescov@gmail.com.

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“Quinn: A Journey” at The Herbert Gallery

It was only just over a week and a half ago, pre UK Lockdown we got along to visit ‘Quinn: A Journey’ at The Herbert – an exhibition by award winning photographer Lottie Davis. On viewing this we were oblivious to how the following 10 days were to unfold. Looking back through the pictures we took during our visit, the exhibition feels even more moving and poignant than ever.

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‘Quinn’ takes you on an immersive journey through a series of moving image works, photography, audio/visual pieces plus an insight into this fictional character’s life through an installation of his living space, thoughts and personal belongings.

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As we meandered around the large-scale screens we joined him on his lonely journey across deserted British landscapes from South West England to Northern Scotland. The setting of his story is post-war Britain, responding to the trauma that people experienced – was this a worrying premonition of what’s to come?

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Even though his story is fictional, the work responds to the real-world experiences of trauma in the early 20th century and now. The works reflect on grief, isolation, loss and ironically the human search for meaning and the hunt for salvation by stripping back to our natural world and environment.

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Beautifully curated by Dr Rachel Marsden, and produced by Elizabeth Wewiora and Charlie Booth, we hope that if the current crisis blows over, we may get to view this again. Next time it will be with a whole new set of eyes, and greater appreciation for the harrowing themes that it explores.

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Contemporary Coventry Visual Artists opening a joint show for International Women’s Day

Coventry based artists Sherrie Edgar and Tarla Patel will be opening a joint exhibition at The Albany Theatre on 12th March to mark International Women’s Day and Women’s History Month.

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All are welcome to join them on the opening night from 5:30pm on 12th March where there will be exclusive film screenings and an installation. The exhibition will then run until 14th April.

We ran a live Q&A with Sherrie and Tarla for our February #ArtChatCov to find out a little bit more about what to expect from their forthcoming show, and what has influenced their work. Take a read below.

 

CC: Tell us about your forthcoming exhibition – what is it called and what themes will it explore?

TP: Title: Intergenerational women. It is a personal journey exploring the stories of three generations of women in one space, themes of belonging, identity, culture through the Masterji archives.

ArtChatCov using a sari to create a physical connection

SE: My part, HER Lonely explores women who suffer or have suffered from loneliness and isolation.

 

CC: What artistic medium do you work in?

TP: Currently my main medium is playing with analogue and digital photography and film. I develop my own black/whites and love using Polaroid Originals instant film. For this work I have experimented with textiles and printing on different objects. But I also use 16mm film with a bolex camera, mobile footage and film cameras, I plan to go into AR and electronics.

SE: HER Lonely is a series of photographs and a film with audio recordings.

 

CC: Does the exhibition tie in with International Womens Day?

TP: The work ties in with International Womens Day because it is giving a voice to women’s stories through women artists. A story that explores migration, fear and belonging and hope is something that we can all relate too.

SE: Intergenerational Women and HER Lonely are timely exhibitions IWD2020!

 

CC: How will the exhibition explore inequity within the arts?

SE: HER Lonely focuses on underrepresented women, their inner strength reveals delicate and remarkable artworks.

TP: I think equity in the arts will only change with better representation of women from working class backgrounds: decision making/funding/strategy. Sherrie and I are making ourselves visible with the limited resources.

The exhibition is to give a voice to women, for me a voice of what is to be a woman that has come to live in a country without support of a family to what it is to being British Indian.

SE: Female artists are integral to the arts. Women artists face challenges due to gender bias, we feel systematically excluded.

TP: We would love people to be there for opening night : the Sari, installation, and my films will only be available for that evening – and refreshments will be available!

Coventry/Dresden Arts Exchange – OPEN CALL FOR COVENTRY ARTISTS!

The Coventry/Dresden Arts Exchange are looking for a Coventry artist to take part in a month long residency in Dresden for September 2020.

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The residency will be a non-prescriptive period to reflect, research and explore art practice in the twin city for one month and to the establish new contacts and deepen established ones, acting as an ambassador for Coventry whilst in Dresden.

The residency will include return flights and accommodation at the cultural center Riesa Efau. A shared studio will also be provided with a Dresden artist plus £100 materials allowance. The residency will culminate in a showcase of work done in Dresden and an open studio.

Regarded as one of the most beautiful of German cities with unrivalled art collections Dresden has for over three centuries been an important centre of art production. As an art and green city and birthplace of European porcelain, art and artistic manufacture the city has been at the vanguard of European art and design and training through the Baroque, Romantic and Expressionistic periods up to the 1930s, which following its major destruction at the end of the Second World War was to some extent off limits for study during the Cold War, and despite unification Dresden has remained neglected.

Dresden is the capital city of Saxony and is a significant cultural centre with an internationally famous Art Academy and world class museums and art galleries.

The residency will include studio visits, art events and gallery visits in Dresden.

This is an Arts Council funded project with support from Class Room, Artspace Partnerships, Dresden City Council, Grafikwerkstatt and Coventry University, Arts and Humanities. Coventry/Dresden Art Exchange has had 10 collaborative exhibitions in both cities since 2012 and in 2017 began this residential exchange programme.

Applicants are requested to submit a 500 word proposal/project/research to be carried out in Dresden on a months residency, with CV, examples of work, website. The proposal should outline a personal programme of enquiry to be carried out in this twin city and the applicants motivation for this programme of work.

Successful applicants will be expected to make a report back at a forum at Class Room on returning to Coventry.

A panel will select a sort list and the successful candidate who will be informed by the end of May 2020. Deadline for applications 1st April.

Applications should be sent to Coventry/Dresden Residency
PO Box 6695, Coventry. CV3 9QZ

Any queries to j.yeadon@icloud.com

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Coventry/Warwickshire Artists – we want to see your work!

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(Painting by Polly Merredew – Artist of the Week Commencing 25th March 2019)

Following our Instagram Takeover with Coventry 2021 City of Culture Trust back in May 2018, we have continued to feature an artist a week, and will until 2021!

Open to all Coventry & Warwickshire artists – for your chance to be featured, simply use the hashtag #CuratingCoventry2021 to images your work on Instagram!

If there is someone who you would like to nominate who may or may not be on Instagram, we’d love to hear about them to so please drop us a direct message to put your nominations forward.

In the meantime, we’d encourage you to explore other Coventry artist’s work using the hashtag on Instagram and celebrate our city’s creative talent!

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(Ceramics artwork by Laurence Curtis – Artist of the Week commencing 22nd July)

Curating Coventry’s 2019 Highlights

As another year draws to a close, we’d like to take this opportunity to reflect on our highlights of 2019. We’ve enjoyed some exciting and innovative uses of unconventional spaces, exploring new and unexpected venues from a disused NHS facility to a working allotment site. We’ve enjoyed immersive, interactive experiences where we’ve engaged with modern technologies. We’ve visited live art installations, and enjoyed thought-provoking performance-based work whilst confronting issues surrounding the environment in which we live.

So here’s a pick of some of our favourite moments of 2019:

Shrike by Sherrie Edgar
February 2019

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An invitation landed in our mailbox with a number to text on the 28th February. On the date the details of a room at the Britannia Hotel in Coventry were disclosed and time in which to visit.

In this unique, interactive live-art experience, we explored a site-specific hotel room installation, in which you were invited to take on the persona of the occupant. A video of this character played on the TV as we investigated the room cluttered with a variety of belongings. Hidden warning messages about the effects of loneliness could be found printed on discarded cigarette packets and empty wine bottles. Make up and toiletries littered the bathroom, where messages surrounding isolation were scribbled on the mirror in lipstick. The exhibition raised awareness about the impact of solitude and loneliness, and it’s effects on individuals suffering in society.

 

The Knife Angel by Alfie Bradley
March 2019

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In March the famous Knife Angel sculpture by Alfie Bradley came to Coventry where it resided for a month in front of Coventry Cathedral. The 27ft (8m) sculpture was made from 100,000 blades, which have been handed into police across the country. A giant celestial figure composed of shocking weapons used to damage, and to kill. A bitter-sweet work of art highlighting the scale of this worrying epidemic.

The sculpture drew in crowds from across the city and beyond, uniting people who came to pay tribute to victims of knife crime. Hundreds of messages were left around the sculpture’s surrounding enclosure with flowers from loved ones and friends. A real demonstration on how strongly a piece of public art can move a community.

 

Other Worlds at Arcadia Gallery
April 2019

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Other Worlds was part of the Shoot Festival 2019 programme – a festival created as a platform to showcase Coventry and Warwickshire’s up and coming talent. For the Visual Arts strand of the festival, Shoot teamed with Coventry Artspace. Three artists were selected to be featured in this exhibition, which explored imagined and parallel worlds. The exhibition included textiles, drawing and mixed media and featured:

Michala Gyetvai, who created an abstract, undulating textile based landscape (above).

Michael Snodgrass who’s work featured a large scale post- apocalyptic story using ink on paper drawings (below left).

Chidera Ugada’s mixed media paintings reflected contemporary life in Britain and the ever-increasing bombardment of visual information on citizens (below right).

 

Silent Walls by James Birkin at Classroom Gallery
May 2019

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Coventry-based painter James Birkin’s solo show “Silent Walls” opened at Classroom Gallery on 16th May, and featured as series of oil painting of many familiar derelict buildings from around Coventry and the West Midlands. The paintings explored both the interior and exterior of these abandoned sites, which sensitively paid homage to buildings that were once significant to the town or community, but now lay dilapidated and neglected.

Project Coventry curated by Tara Rutledge at Classroom Gallery & Basement
June 2019

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This one-night pop- up projection-based exhibition explored the on-going rebirth and regeneration of Coventry. It brought together 12 artists with a strong connection to the city, some of whom had never worked with projection before, who were paired with experienced projection artists to make collaborative new artworks in response to this theme.

Image by Tara Rutledge

(Image by Tara Rutledge)

This interactive show allowed the audience the opportunity to become involved with the projections, wearing 3D glasses to view stereoscopic images of the city. Poetry was projected onto live performers, and dark spaces of the basement were occupied with light installations and soundscapes – lots of really unexpected surprises made this a fun, unique and memorable evening.

 

Image credits:
2nd left top – Karen Lawrence
2nd left bottom – Tara Rutledge
Large right-hand – Victoria M

 

Wonder at The Herbert
July 2019

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A surreal, futuristic, immersive exhibition that took you away to a dream-like reality which featured augmented reality, an interactive light installation and animated intricate dolls houses inspired by the underworld of Film Noir. You got to step inside a painting to experience a life-sized 3D landscape, and explore insects and animals from the Herbert’s Natural History collection, brought to life through a series of animations. This was an exhibition that all ages could enjoy, and young ones had great fun engaging with the works.

 

Co-Op(t) Arty Party 2 – Integrate
West Indian Centre and Classroom
September 2019

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(Image by Ellie Ball)

After the success of the Co-Op(t) Arty Party back in March at Fargo Village, Arty Party 2: Integrate promised an even bigger event which spanned over two venues – the West Indian Centre and Classroom Gallery. It showcased visual art exhibitions, digital projections, spoken word, live performances, workshops and DJ sets. The evening featured the work of over 20 artists from across the world whose work, explored the theme of social integration. Many of the work touched on pressing issues surrounding class and race, with some very moving pieces, which celebrated people’s differences and focussed on gaining a stronger sense of solidarity.

(Images by Ashleigh Brown)

Coventry Biennial of Contemporary Art
October 2019

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The second Coventry Biennial dominated Coventry’s Visual Arts scene throughout October and November and spanned across 21 venues over the city, featuring a selection of local, national and international artists with work that responded to the theme of “The Twin.” Coventry’s newest arts venue The Row – a disused NHS facility featured the central exhibition for the Biennial, with a diverse collection of works from installation, moving image, sculpture and painting. Some of our favourite Biennial shows included the exhibition at Arcadia where a double-sided suspended screen projected films exploring the passage of time. We also loved the immersive exhibition at the Lanchester Gallery, which featured a panoramic photographic installation and soundscape, digital moving image projections, a strobe-lit sculptural installation and a fictional scenario in which two tribes at opposing political, social and economic positions were attempting to communicate.

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(We’ve been sharing our Biennial Highlights on Instagram, so have a nose at more of our favourites on there). 

The launch of underGROWTH by The Pod at The Pod’s Food Union Allotment
October 2019

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underGROWTH is a series of eco-art micro-residencies designed to confront issues relating to Coventry’s environment: the air we breathe, the trees and weeds lining our streets and our human responses to the city’s ecology.

The launch event was a celebration of Apple Day – a day founded in 1990 which was intended to be both a celebration and a demonstration of the variety we are in danger of losing, not simply in apples, but in the richness and diversity of landscape, ecology and culture too.

Co-curated by Lauren Sheerman and George Ttoouli with The Pod and DIALOGUE the afternoon brought together a series of performances, readings and live music around a campfire, bringing everyone back to appreciate nature. Attendees of all ages enjoyed picking and juicing fresh apples whilst recognising the significance to the themes the day explored.

 

 

 

 

 

Change Festival – Imagine a better, brighter future

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We’re living in times of worry and turmoil, unsure and anxious of what the future holds. Change Festival is coming to Coventry THIS WEEK, and explores ideas that bring hope for a better future for us, and generations to come!

CHANGE Festival arrives at Warwick Arts Centre on 18 – 20 October 2019. This new event, quite unlike any other, brings together world-class shows, talks, comedy and workshops – with the aim to inspire visitors to imagine a better, more positive future for all.

The festival gathers performers, speakers and audiences from the West Midlands and beyond to imagine, play and explore. There will be some familiar faces and new performances enjoy, with over 20 inspirational events to choose from – because we all deserve to feel hopeful about the future.

CHANGE Festival producer Becky Burchell says, “CHANGE Festival will offer a better story about our future. Much of our current popular culture – TV, movies, news, theatre – paints a picture of a bleak, dystopian future where humanity is tearing itself apart. It’s time to tell a different story – one that stretches our dreams and inspires courage and hope. Through this festival we hope to inspire visitors to imagine a better way of living – better communities, better food, better homes for us and the generations to come.”

Highlights of CHANGE Festival include:

  • Premiere of ‘The World We Made’, an urgent new play about our future, set in 2050 and based on environmentalist Jonathon Porritt’s seminal book of the same name.
  • A special comedy evening to ask, ‘What Will Tell Our Grandkids?’ – a hilarious exploration of the conversations we will having in years to come.
  • ‘Soonchild’, a family show by dynamic company Red Earth, tells the story of a shaman who feels out of step with the modern world and sets out on a quest to find the forgotten ‘world songs’, which are essential for the world to exist.
  • An all-female team of 14-17yr Coventry trailblazers have invited a panel of transformational women to share their bold, courageous and motivational stories for ‘MetamorphoSISTER’ – a specially curated event for young audiences. This event is part of Positive Youth Foundation.
  • New discussion series, with speakers from the West Midlands and beyond, will explore ‘Imagine Eating Better’, ‘Imagine Living Better’, ‘Imagine Dressing Better’,  ‘Imagine Better Nature’ and ‘Imagine Feeling Better’ to enlighten and enliven.

For full programme details visit CHANGE Festival

facebook.com/changefestival

#changefestival

 

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Class Room hosts Artist-In-Residence for Coventry/Dresden Arts Exchange

John Yeadon, founder of Coventry/Dresden Arts Exchange has updated us on the latest residency as part of the initiative, and Class Room Gallery is currently hosting Dresden-based artist Lucas Oertel (www.lucasoertel.de) as artist-in-residence.

This residency will result in an exhibition at the gallery, and the opening night will be on Thursday 3rd of October for a private view between 6-9pm. (All are welcome)!

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Oertel, in his new work aims to offers the viewer his observation that the time we live in again sees war as something of an abstract notion. The marching figures in the installation exhibit a kind of collective pride, which for the artist is the result of the promotion of a new heroism that aims to glamorise warfare. The installation naturally draws the viewer to meditate on the meaning and perhaps to ask the questions of Who are these volunteers? Why have they joined up? 

This is not hard to relate to as here in Britain, posters usually appear during the January blues and near exam result days, advertising that military service and how it can provide an escape to a better life. They perhaps do not inform people of the true nature and reality of what they will be asked to do, they are instead sold a myth through slick and attractive adverts that usually follow a narrative about belonging or being the best. Today we make great tribute to the courage and heroism of those in the past, but for younger generations with no real experience of loss and destruction, it is easy to see warfare as something unreal and distant.

The work that has been made over September, has been constructed from a mixture of debris that Oertel has found during his stay in Coventry. In the studio, he has spent the time processing the materials, painting and constructing. He does not create artworks from working drawing, he slowly works directly onto the wall, creating relationships between the different pieces that he paints. Here the artist spends a lot of his time constructing and arranging the pieces to form the bodies of the figures.

This residency is the beginning of a series of collaborations between the gallery and the Coventry/Dresden Arts Exchange. Together we aim to celebrate the 60th anniversary of Coventry’s bond of friendship with Dresden, through creating a series of opportunities that facilitate artists, in both cities, to experiment and develop their practice through both an intense period of making and an involvement in international dialogue.

This will be achieved through a timetable of exhibitions, events and a series of artist in residencies, in Coventry and Dresden, that seek to introduce artists from both cities to each other. This will be the second Dresden artist in residency that Coventry/Dresden Arts Exchange has organised. Alexandra Müller was the first artist in residence from Dresden. Müller has been invited and is returning to exhibit in the Biennial.

More details of the Lucas Oertel residency and the Coventry/Dresden Arts Exchange can be found at: www.weareclassroom.com