The giant corn dolly Kern Baby is a five meter high sculpture, created by artist Faye Claridge as a result of a research residency where she studied the images and archives of Sir Benjamin Stone. The sculpture has been exhibited at Compton Verney and at the Library of Birmingham, accompanied by a series of handmade prints entitled A Child for Sacrifice.
Claridge uses folklore and reminiscence to examine our past relationships and our current sense of national and personal identity. In making this work she also worked with young people from a Warwickshire village to re-interpret customs using artefacts from the Marton Museum of Country Bygones.
The artist duo Broomberg & Chanarin were invited to respond to a Grain commission at the Library of Birmingham. Over two years they encountered, researched and questioned the photography collections at the library. In the book ‘Spirit is a Bone’ they have made connections with the archive and their own work and concerns.
The book combines a new series of portraits made with a Russian camera which was made for face recognition and surveillance, ‘non collaborative portraits’, where human contact is not made, with a new critically engaged essay by Eyal Weizman and a response to images from the Sir Benjamin Stone archive.
In the book photographs open up the relationship between technology and ideology – theories of race, class and occupation. The photographs collected by Stone in the second half of the nineteenth century, in the Library of Birmingham archive, are visual evidence of his interest in history, science, nature and cultures. Like many, widespread in the Victorian period, Stone had a need to classify, know, collect, control and own. His album no 50 ‘Types and Races of Mankind’ includes what might be called non-consensual images, made for the scrutiny of others and to increase understanding.
The book and essay prompt questions about engaging with archives and access to them.
In 2014 Grain commissioned acclaimed British artist Mat Collishaw to make new work in response to the Library of Birmingham photography collection.
In Camera is an installation created around a series of 12 crime scene negatives made for Birmingham City Police Force during the 1930s and 1940s. Collishaw discovered these uncatalogued images, made to provide evidence in alleged in actual crimes committed in the city, hidden amongst an archive of orphaned police negatives whilst exploring the Library’s photography collections.
The exhibition of new work ran from September 2015 – January 2016 at The Gallery, Library of Birmingham, in parallel with the major survey show of Collishaw’s work at The New Art Gallery Walsall.
The work prompts questions about the medium of photography, its historical role as witness and the way in which our reading of images are affected when they shift from public to private. The work sees Collishaw continuing to explore the potential for images to be both shocking and alluring.
During 2012 artists Sophy Rickett and Bettina von Zwehl were commissioned to develop new work in response to the Sir Benjamin Stone Collection at the Library of Birmingham. The artists decided to focus upon one album in particular, a miscellaneous album which did not follow Stone’s usual rules of classification, known as Album 31.
The first outcome, which included the production and exhibition of 11 Album Pages, was exhibited at the Library of Birmingham during Spring 2014. Following the positive reviews and reception the project was extended and new support and partners sought to create a major exhibition opportunity and an international outcome.
In 2015 the new exhibition of Album 31 was shown at the Library of Birmingham Gallery and at Ffoto Galleriet, Oslo, Norway. The exhibition of new work by Rickett and von Zwehl was befitting of the Stone album where images were collated apparently at random, as if the ‘rules’ that applied to the rest of the collection were temporarily waived, so that subject matters, processes, time frames and approaches co-existed, creating a kind of chaotic spontaneity full of poetry, humour, and also some darkness.
In 2013 Mat Collishaw was invited to create a limited edition as a Grain, New Art Gallery Walsall and Library of Birmingham co-commission. The print is available to purchase at a special price. Visit www.grainphotographyhub.co.uk for more information.
Collishaw makes alluring, poetic and shocking work with a visual language that embraces diverse media. Themes and subjects from histories and religion are explored, often the darker side of nature and human character, and yet the work is beautiful and awe-inspiring. He is interested in the history of photography, in its subjects, techniques and machinery and often references histories in his work, in particular the Victorian period.
As an extension to the Reference Works project, artists Andrew Lacon and Stuart Whipps were commissioned to develop a new relationship with Guangzhou Library, China. The commission was supported by Arts Council England and the British Council.
The artists developed a new proposal that interrogated and explored the shared and divergent histories of the two cities and the series of complex relationships; the relationship between the materials of the former and current library buildings, the similarities and differences that exist between the material housed in the two libraries, and the relationships between the people of the respective cities and their former and present libraries and collections. Following a period of research and making formal studies in the studio in the UK they spent an intensive period in Guangzhou in November 2014 making and exhibiting new work throughout the duration of their stay.
The work was exhibited at Guangzhou Library and gifted to their collections as part of this international Artists Exchange and Exhibition supported by British Council, Arts Council England and the two libraries.
Devising and producing The State of Photography event, held in January 2015, provided an opportunity to explore, debate and review how photographers and photography practice develops, responds and thrives in the current challenging times. During the Symposium we heard from the perspective of the photographer, curator, festival director, agent and publisher. Speakers included Broomberg & Chanarin, David Birkett, Louise Clements and Paul Herrmann. With a focus on innovation and sustainability speakers conveyed what it takes to not only survive but to expand and thrive. The day provided a showcase and celebration of self-initiated projects and entrepreneurialism with speakers providing an insight on their practices and the cutting edge of photography now.
In 2014 internationally renowned and critically acclaimed photographer Mark Power was commissioned to make a new body of work in Stoke-on-Trent as a collaboration with Appetite. The resulting exhibition was presented in the new city centre square as a public realm event over a period of three months. Over 50 new works made by Power were distinctive, illustrating the city as he found it, like visual stories or postcards from the city, a narrative in pictures, telling the unique story of life in the city and communities. In undertaking the commission Power remarked that in the city there are layers of history everywhere. Behind every new build is a sign of the past, while in front of every ruin, ancient or modern, there’s evidence of potential change.
A collaboration with Division of Labour, GRAIN and Library of Birmingham; Plane Materials featured work by Cornford & Cross, Andrew Lacon and Stuart Whipps.
During Unseen 2014 the artists, who all share similar attributes in extending the parameters of what constitutes photography, presented work to ask the viewer, the collector, the public and the market to move beyond the image and envisage photography, the actual medium as something other.
We were delighted to be participating at Unseen, the international photography fair that focusses on new and emerging talent and unseen work by established photographers. UNSEEN took place from 18 – 21 September 2014 at Amsterdam Westergasfabriek.
An Art Market Development project supported by Birmingham City University and Arts Council England.
Working with curator, educator and writer Moritz Neumuller an international exhibition exchange was curated and produced to support five emerging photographers who were based in the Midlands to exhibit alongside five Madrid based practitioners. The exhibition took place at the Altamira Palace Gallery, IED Madrid in Autumn 2014 and then toured to the Library of Birmingham in Spring 2015.
The selected photographers were; David Shepherd, Dean O’Brien, Lauren Spencer, Nicola Onions and Oscar Parasiego, and from Madrid; Angela Losa, Anna Fawcus, Eoin Moylan, Inge Trienekens and Juan Pablo Fassi.
The projects exhibited were selected because of their exploration and themes of memory, identity, space, the human condition and eternal subjects in the field of photographic creation. Following the exhibition at the Library the works entered the photography archive.