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

 

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

Our Q&A with Coventry Biennial

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#ArtChatCov is our monthly artist networking Twitter Chat where you can find out news and updates from Coventry’s artists and visual arts scene.

On Wednesday 25th September we ran a Coventry Biennial special #ArtChatCov featuring a live Q&A with the team behind the Biennial week ahead of it’s opening.

If you missed it on Twitter, here’s a quick recap on what we chatted about on the night…

What inspired the theme “The Twin” for this year’s #CovBiennial?

Coventry now has 26 twinned cities across the world. The first being Volgograd. This year marks 75 years since the historic bond of friendship was formed.

What better way to pay tribute to this!

We think so! There are so many cities that might take some people by surprise. Like… Kingston Jamaica.

It’s also worth remembering the quote by Bifo from our printed programmes about extinction and immortality. The Twin the double and feedback loops define our age, this feels urgent for a Social Biennial.

How did you go about selecting the artists you have chosen to exhibit at this year’s event?

The selection of artists for Coventry Biennial has been rooted in our curatorial research for the past 2 years. Lots of visits to studios, galleries and festivals – we see as much work as we can and then work out what makes sense together and in relation to the theme.

Must have been a busy two years then. How many artists are exhibiting in total?

More than 100 artists. Certainly an increase from 2017!

Where can people go to view the programme for this year’s event?

You can visit http://coventrybiennial.com for the full listings or printed biennial brochures are available now around the West Midlands and online at: http://bit.ly/2019BiennialBrochure

Lots to see and do! Including workshops, talks and screenings. There’s even Artist-led-yoga! All of the exhibitions are free to attend and many other events are, pay what you can.

Which Coventry venues will the Biennial be running across?

All of our venues can be viewed via http://coventrybiennial.com/venues/ BUT you’ll get to explore art galleries, artist’s studios, cafes, modernist buildings and medieval spaces. There are lots of places to explore this year. 21 in fact!

Could you recommend a starting point for people coming into #Coventry to view the exhibitions of the Biennial?

The two best starting points would either be The Row (an amazing ex-NHS building in the city centre) and The Herbert. These are our two biggest exhibitions. We’d fully recommend exploring the smaller spaces too. Weavers House is stunning!

Lovely to hear that historic venues such as Weavers House are part of the Coventry Biennial.

Yes, it feels really exciting to be working in some of Coventry’s historic spaces. Older building and very contemporary artistic practices seem to really work together and can provide something genuinely unexpected.

Are the opening events on 4th October open to anyone to attend? If so, do you need to purchase tickets?

No need to purchase, but you do need to register. Everybody is welcome. Some events have limited space just book in advance. The website is listed by date, so you have a handy guide of what’s on for the day.

Well thanks for joining us for #ArtChatCov this evening. We can’t wait till the opening night!

Thanks for having us #ArtChatCov. Please keep your eyes on our Social Media pages (@CovBiennial) for behind the scenes glimpses of the Biennial.

We’ll see you for the launch!

 

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Join us for a live Q&A with the team behind Coventry Biennial!

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This month we’re thrilled to announce that the team behind the Coventry Biennial (taking place on 4th October – 24th November) will be joining us as special guests for #ArtChatCov.

Join us for a live Q&A on Twitter on Wednesday 25th September 8-9pm – just over a week before the Biennial opens, and get involved in the conversation. See what they have planned over the coming weeks, and chat to Coventry Biennial Director Ryan Hughes.

How to get involved

Simply log into Twitter between 8-9pm on Wed 25th September, follow the hashtag #ArtChatCov and join the conversation (making sure you add the hashtag to your tweets!).

Coventry Biennial 2019 Update

Craig Ashley Advisory Board Introduction

On the evening of the 6th September, the Herbert Art Gallery & Museum was jam-packed with art enthusiasts from across the country, for the big reveal of the 2019 Coventry Biennial. An air of excitement preceded the evening, which saw the launch Coventry Biennial’s fresh new branding, followed by updates on what’s in store for next year’s event, including the dates that the festival will run for: 4th October – 24th November 2019.

The team reflected on the inaugural Biennial themed around – ‘The Future’ – which presented an opportunity for artists and audiences alike to think about the possible shapes, sizes and perspectives of Coventry’s future.

Director, Ryan Hughes shared some interesting stats reflecting the successes of last year’s event:

  • Nearly a third of the attendees had never visited Coventry before
  • Nearly half of the attendees were under the age of 24
  • All of the participating artists felt that the Biennial had a positive impact on their creative practice.

Paul Newman in The Future

Ryan then revealed the overarching theme for next year’s event – ‘The Twin’ – an exploration of ideas around duality and place.

We’ve since spoken to Ryan, and he’s delved into this concept a little more for us: “Whilst evaluating the inaugural Coventry Biennial, which of course focused around ideas of – ‘The Future’ – we concluded that there is no possible singular solution, some artists approached that theme positively, others negatively. However we tried to consider the exhibitions we’d made, there was always some kind of duality at play. It became so prominent that we began to explore what dualities might mean in Coventry and within contemporary practices, this very quickly led us to look at Coventry’s twin cities and with the 75th Volgograd and 60th Dresden anniversaries in 2019 The Twin began to feel really substantial and engaging.”

For artists interested in opportunities to be involved in next year’s event, the team have stated they will not be running open calls for participation in their exhibitions. They feel it is far more useful for all concerned if their team and local artists can build meaningful, personal relationships which will give them a good idea of artist’s abilities and interests and where artists have a clear understanding of how the Biennial can support them.

Ryan has encouraged artists from across the city to invite him and the rest of the Biennial team to their studios or exhibitions and to attend as many of their events as possible. It’s also worth keeping an eye on all of their social media channels and website  as there will likely be workshops and other participatory moments which can be applied for there.

During the event on the 6th, Ryan and his team also launched their most recent Kickstarter Campaign to help raise fund for next year’s Biennial. They are encouraging everyone to get involved and show their support if they are in a position to do so. Ryan has updated us on what the raised funds will go towards:

“If we are successful in securing these funds through our current Kickstarter Campaign we will commission a series of new artworks by artists who live or work in Coventry and Warwickshire, ensuring that local artists are included in the biennial. When we look at other Art Biennials around the UK and internationally, it’s fairly rare to see artists from those locales being included so we feel passionately that we can counter that trend.”

People can contribute anything from £1 to £500 for a range of rewards, all of which have been generously supplied by artists and art organisations. Several rewards have already sold out, for example, a one of a kind embroidery by Stewart Easton was snapped up within hours of launching the campaign but there are loads of other really exciting rewards including knitted scarfs for the politically active by Freee Art Collective and sculptures by Juneau Projects.

Ryan says his personal favourite reward has been made by Coventry based artist Adele Mary Reed, she has offered a trio of disposable camera’s, ready to be developed, which are filled with totally unique black and white photos of the city! The campaign can be found at: http://kck.st/2NPRm4Q .

Image by Mariya Mileva.

Adele Mary Reed Shooting Disposable Cameras

The Biennial have until the 6th of October to raise £1,500, and anyone who donates £5 or more will automatically be listed as a supporter for next year’s event on their website. Not only would you be supporting the Coventry Biennial – you’d be supporting Coventry’s artists.

Coventry Biennial of Contemporary Art #TheFuture

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As the inaugural Coventry Biennial of Contemporary Art draws to a close, we have reflected on the excitement that such an ambitious, large-scale visual arts event brought to the city. The festival’s vast programme consisted of 13 exhibitions and over 60 events, featuring a diverse selection of local, national and international artists. The Biennial launch night alone saw over 1,000 attendees! One thing is for certain – the event sure drew in the crowds.

“The Future” was the key theme running through the festival, and made title for the Biennial’s central exhibition at the former Coventry Evening Telegraph building. What an incredible and fitting venue this made. This vast maze holds abandoned offices, eerie-dimly-lit corridors, and huge industrial print spaces, still hosting machinery from the now out-dated print industry. It provided such an interesting juxtaposition of the old vs. the new, where the now redundant, media-production was replaced by so many contemporary pieces of artwork, reacting to “The Future” theme, and created in response to the building itself.

You were free to roam the whole building, and experience each piece of work in it’s setting, a vast majority of which were site-specific pieces. In experiencing the sheer scale of such an immense showcase, we soon began to understand the hard work and vision that the Director Ryan Hughes, and his team, had put into curating such a vast and diverse exhibition.

Mira Calix’s installation dominated the former press hall, an incredible audio/visual immersive experience “By being in two places at once”. Contrasting sounds echoed through the hall, while a twisting network of wires leading to different screens represented the idea of the way in which we occupy both our physical and non-physical environments.

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Martin Green’s installation “How do I know if I’m addicted”, and live-curation the following week, presented a fascinating project created from years of collecting categorised found objects. He displayed a huge array of double-sided paintings, each positioned like miniature sculptures, balanced upon found laughing gas canisters. They formed a series organised around the words “acquiesce” and “dissent” – reflecting the many “distractions” in which he says he is defined by.

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Artist collaboration Georgiou/Tolley’s “Magician Walks into the Laboratory” delves back into the cold war era, a time of global anxiety. This haunting, engaging audio/visual installation was created using CIA transcripts from ‘remote viewing’ sessions, and was voiced by the famous actor, Jack Klaff, acting as the fictional CIA agent. The project reflected issues surrounding mass surveillance, data gathering, biased media and even pseudo time-travel. From speaking to the artists prior to the event, we also felt gained an insight into concerns for the future, as technology continues developing at it’s alarming rate. Some really mind-blowing issues were raised.

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There was a degree of sardonic humour in some of the work, including Daniel Salisbury’s “Zen Garden Litter Tray”, incorporating a Chinese “Lucky Cat” statue amongst a sand-tray of discarded human litter – fag-butts, empty cans and food packaging.

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Joe Fletchor Orr’s neon light “Turnt Down”…

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and Kurt Hickson’s “Shit Neon”.

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Local photographer Natalie Seymour (who we have interviewed) exhibited a series of photographic collages aiming to capture the essence of the Coventry Telegraph building prior to its change of use and modernisation.

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Birmingham artist Paul Newman displayed a series of paintings in which he incorporated imagined, and sometime futuristic landscapes exploring a contradictory push-pull of pictorial space and abstraction.

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Local artist John Yeadon paid homage to the oldest working digital computer in the world, with his 2017 version of his painting “WITCH” – he initially created a painting of this computer back in 1983, as a satire on modernism, a parody on “computer art”. The re-invention of this painting became a homage to the history of this mechanical national treasure, and fitted perfectly in it’s setting in the exhibition space, alongside the building’s original modular electronics.

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Other exciting site-specific installation works, which pleasingly occupied their exhibition space included:

This untitled mixed media installation by James Lomax,

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Katie Holden’s installation created with concrete and found metal supports,

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and Matt Gale’s “Fatball” piece which trickled out to it surrounding outside the building and could be viewed looking through the windows.

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Thirty-five different artists exhibited in total, so we’ve barely scratched the surface here, but the team behind the Biennial have put together a great Instagram Tour looking at each piece of art on display.

Other impressive exhibitions that we visited during the Biennial included “Laws of Motion in a Cartoon Landscape” by Andy Holden at The Box, FarGo Village: An hour long lecture delivered by the artist’s avatar guided through an animated landscape populated by iconic cartoon characters. Laws of physics were studied and questioned while he investigated how retro cartoons gave us a “prophetic glimpse’ into the world in which we now live.

Andy Holden. 2016 (1)

In contrast to this, London-based artist, Fiona Grady had a wonderfully unique site-specific display at the Tin Music and Arts, “Light Shifts”. The work consisted of hand-cut vinyl window stickers made up from geometric shapes, replicating the grid-like window shutters found in this lovely exhibition space. Throughout the day they brighten and glow, when viewed from both the building’s interior and exterior, altering with the daylight and weather changes. The interior walls of the exhibition space map how this light is projected on the walls throughout the day.

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Re-Tale by artist collaboration Ha, was another project that took place throughout the Biennial, occupying The Glass Box gallery as it’s exhibition space. To view, it appeared stark and barren, the sorrowful sight of a showroom ready to close, with simple carrier bags lined up along the walls. The project is in fact part of a data-gathering exercise, which the people of Coventry were encouraged to take part in. We interviewed the artists prior to the Biennial to gain further insight. Read more here.

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The Class Room gallery at Holyhead Studios hosted another remarkable exhibition by the artist James Faure Walker – a renowned international artist now based in London. Since the 1980’s his work integrated computer graphics with oil paint and watercolour. Using exuberant colours, and graphically influenced abstract imagery, this provided a unique and interesting collection in this wonderful gallery space.

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The Coventry Biennial intertwined with parts of the Scratch the Surface festival, so some exhibitions were covered by both programmes, such as Wen Wu’s Literary Paintings at CCCA Fargo Village, the END//BEGIN – Dialogue at City Arcadia, and the screening of the first ever FilmZine – you can read more about these exhibitions here.

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This is just a small section of the festival’s sixty events that we thoroughly enjoyed attending. There were parties, performances, tours, workshops, lectures, artist supermarkets, yoga, plus a host of family workshops inspired by the artwork of some the Biennial’s artists.

Before we wind up we’d like to say a massive well done to Director Ryan Hughes and his team. Thank you to all involved in executing an event of such magnitude – you drew in crowds, not just locally, but from across the country. This is just what was needed for a city bidding to be the City of Culture 2021, and will keep us talking for weeks to come.