In 2017 I commissioned photographer and anthropologist Liz Hingley to make new work for exhibition in collaboration with Syrian families. Through workshops the participants contributed their ideas and stories and Liz explored the city and its collections to create a project that represented how people settled in Coventry and made the city the culturally rich place it is today.
Following a series of collaborative workshops and conversations the new work was a culmination of sculptural works, made by local craftspeople in silver and gold, a display from the historical collections that represented time and ‘keys to the city’ and a series of images in lightboxes. Exhibited as a contemporary gallery installation in a unique structure in the darkness the work appeared like a place of worship, a space for quiet contemplation. Representing each of the participants the work reflects on the value and meaning of personal experiences, people’s journeys and arrivals in a new city.
The installation was exhibited at The Herbert Museum & Art Gallery from December 2017 to February 2018.
This project was commissioned by GRAIN Projects and is generously supported by Arts Council England, Rubery Owen Trust, Coventry University and The Herbert Art Gallery.
This exhibition at Spike Island brings together multiple strands of the artist’s research and practice in an engaging and monumental exhibition that includes existing and new work. It is the artist’s largest exhibition to date and it lays bear much of Whipps’ working methodologies including in depth research and the archaeology of image and material.
This is not a photography exhibition but the history and methods of photography support and form the basis of much of the content. The process of setting an image, the photograph as document is presented against a world that is changing, where progress is made and new technologies and industries interupt. In the exhibition archival material, photographs and objects trace the histories of three types of stone. The exhibition grows out of years of research, includes works made over the last 10 years, alongside new works including a new film work that attempts to bring the strands together and act as the core.
The title Isle of Slingers, is Thomas Hardy’s name for the Isle of Portland in Dorset, a place of unique geology. His naming derives from sixteenth century accounts of the islander’s skill of slinging stones at strangers and visitors to keep them away from the island.
The exhibition at Tate Britain traces the course of Conceptual Art in Britain from 1964 to 1979 with its unique, sometimes complex and always, experimental and anti-aesthetic characteristics. This is not an archetypal Tate Britain show but is pared down, perhaps how the artists would have intended it, rather than curated for the audience’s enjoyment or fulfilment. It is fun, political and fascinating and shows how pioneering and influential this group of artists were on future generations. The exhibition includes installations, documents, magazines, photography, journals and lots of ephemeral works in vitrines.
The most notable photography comes from Keith Arnatt and Richard Long, challenging the notion of what art and photography are and using their artform to document an act, performance or idea. Long’s work is the document of the remnants of his act of walking, undermining the traditional view of authorship and object and rejecting the artwork. Arnatt’s Self Burial similarly is not the elevated, precious self portrait but the death of the artist, a grainy photographic document, nine images, of him slowly disappearing into the earth. Arnatt playfully questioned what constitutes an artwork and famously questioned Tate’s stance on photography in the 80s as they stipulated they only collected photographs made by artists and not by photographers. His conceptual photography, was and is highly influential in his documentary of the banal, mundane and detritus, influencing later Conceptualists and fine art photographers and those that today utilise social media for their deadpan images.
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 Nathaniel Pitt was invited to curate our exhibition as part of Brighton Photo Biennial 2014. Plane Materials was a Grain and Photoworks co-commission featuring an exhibition of new works by Cornford & Cross and Andrew Lacon. In the exhibition the artists explored the dialogue between photography and sculpture. Lacon’s studio based practice draws on historical documents and photographs from the Library of Birmingham’s archive that are specifically concerned with Roman antiquity and the framing of photographs of Roman sculpture. Cornford & Cross work differently, a non-studio based practice, they create work through discussion and debate, positing different conceptual ideas.
The Plane Materials publication is now available from GRAIN and Nathaniel Pitt and was published by the Library of Birmingham.
In collaboration with Jonathan Shaw and Coventry University, and developed as a research partnership Newfotoscapes is a multi-platform book.
The publication looks at how photography has never been a more dominant and embedded part of contemporary culture than it is now. Newfotoscapes seeks to navigate the evolving topography surrounding the image in the twenty-first century, offering a focused eye on the contemporary creative author-curator and image-maker and on the possibilities afforded by an increasingly complex professional landscape. Newfotoscapes is a series of curated texts by Jonathan Shaw arising from a series of in-depth conversations with 10 key stakeholders in, and influential commentators on, photography; including: Andy Adams, Charlotte Cotton, Dewi Lewis, Mishka Henner and Stephen Mayes. Perspectives and views cover a wide range of topics such as photo-books, archives, mobile, community, value, curation, appropriation, power, open education, connected/networked image, governance, licensing and the agency.
For more information go to http://newfotoscapes.org.
Grian was awarded one the AHRC funded CATH (Collaborative Arts Triple Helix) Projects, by the University of Birmingham and the University of Leicester.
The project developed investigated the shifting value of photography between the archive and the audience’s engagement with it. Whilst photographs continue to be curated and commissioned by cultural organisations, living collections are also being actively produced by wider demographics and archived on the Internet in a variety of ways. The culmination of these activities is arguably represented on the one hand by the intentional ‘public archive’ and, on the other, by the unintentional, ‘people’s photographic archive’ online.
Mining the Archive explored the different intentional and unintentional archives and was a collaboration with the University of Birmingham, The Swarm and the Library of Birmingham.
We were delighted to host the National Photography Symposium during 2014 in collaboration with RedEye. The event consisted of three days of presentations, panel discussions and talks, covering many of the issues facing photographers and the sector today. Speakers included David Drake, Paul Hill, Simon Roberts, Fiona Rogers, Peta Murphy-Burke, Francis Hodgson, Christian Payne, Stephen Clarke and Val Williams.
In 2011 Take to The Streets was produced and delivered as an exhibition in the public realm in Birmingham city centre in collaboration with Magnum Photos. 2011 was unquestionably the year of street photography with a number of exhibitions and festivals exploring the genre taking place in cities across the UK. The large scale exhibition showcased over 100 images by seven of Magnum Photos most prolific photographers. The exhibition was also produced as part of Format International Photography Festival.