Ringing the Changes


The new year brings a fresh impetus to investigate and savour the latest cultural delights of my City. In-between more present shopping for BoyWonderNo.1 (*9 today*) I reached out for nourishments freely available in galleries. The latest IKON exhibition Shocked Into Abstraction by Matias Faldbakken left me non-plussed, however. I resisted the need to read up artist notes before-hand and in general felt there was a dearth of ideas. There are glimmers of wit (eg. in a video juxtaposition of You’ve Been Framed style-personal disasters with the long-winded documentation of a airliner coming in to land) but much including the packing tape graffiti I found a bit lazy. Nonetheless, I’ll still musing the show so a job done, I suppose.

For a safer ride I headed to The Gas Hall for one of those recurrent ‘Ring the changes: Birmingham Then & Now’ exhibitions which tap into the seemingly insatiable appetite for a local nostalgia-rama. There are some extraordinary scenes in pencil, paint and photographic print which document the changing landscape of this place; and also an architect’s model: the few times I’ve seen this 1941 scale model of Birmingham’s proposed Civic Centre (Manzoni and team) I’ve been left reeling. It’s a huge vision that proposes Admin blocks, Civic Halls, galleries, neo-Classical squares and even a new Cathedral with no reference to shopping mall or retail park. This is post-war Civic pride on a monumental scale and the plans make it look like it would all be constructed out of the finest Portland stone (think Civic Centres of Cardiff or Southampton to the power of 10). In the event a tiny proportion of the proposed buildings was actually realised; including the Hall of Memory and most of  what is now Baskerville House. Astonishingly, though, the grand Masonic Lodge building fronting Broad Street (a precedent part of the project) has only just been demolished, to make way for a skyscraper … perhaps. There is no sacred vernacular. Bulldozer wins once more.

For a great read on changing Birmingham here’s Catherine O’Flynn’s commissioned piece for Made in England which I’ve only just discovered. Cath’s second novel will be published later in the year. blog


One Response to “Ringing the Changes”

  1. Thanks to Peter Fletcher aka. Joyfeedcom for this link from the Fletcher-O’Flynn household

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