Press Release and Notes
Donning metaphorical lab coats and overalls, Alastair Levy and collective-practice They Are Here will instigate a series of experiments and interventions inspired by the industrial, scientific and architectural legacy of the exhibition space: a former science and industry museum (1951 - 1997) and prior to that Elkington’s silver electroplating factory, the first of its kind in the world (built in 1838). Inspired by notions of chemical reactions, manufacture and associative words: catalyst, conductive surface, the striking method, plating, gold, silver etc, the artists seek to explore how these ‘key words’ might become manifest in an artistic process that reacts to site and situation.
Significantly the opportunity to present work arose through a failed funding application that would have seen an alternative set of artists in-residence had it been successful. An attitude of expediency and rapid response has been pushed to the fore, necessitated by the development of ideas and work that began only thirteen days before the scheduled opening. This limited window of opportunity resonates with future of the site itself, scheduled to be converted into an office unit later this summer. This context has been embraced as a creative challenge to making work - hopefully encapsulating the spirit of efficiency and elegance of Victorian engineering.
• Alastair Levy’s Not Untitled No.2, takes the form of a meticulously painted rectangle of white Tippex (a correction fluid, almost redundant in the age of digital word processing and printing) extends Levy’s interest in industrial ‘straight from the tin’ colour, both in its application and usage as a ‘fine art’ material. This exploration is continued with Double Silver, a readymade consisting of two tins of Silvo (a long- running brand of British silver polish) perched on a raised ridge on the ground in Trove. If Double Silver, looks back and nods to the site’s earlier life as a silver-plating factory, then 47, (consisting of 47 discs cut from mouse mats) looks forward to the conversion of this historic site into an office suite later in the year. They Are Here’s bitingly direct response to this future was Corporate Atrium, which involved the replanting of a weed inside the space, sustained with compost and watered for the duration of the show. Their other contributions concerned its scientific and industrial legacy. . . In a playfully metaphoric reversal of the plating process, Mexico & South Africa, were created through the removal of layers of paint on the supporting beams of the space. These two countries are currently the leading producers of silver and gold respectively. Packets, comprises two crisp packets one inside the space the other outside weighted by a stone; the one inside has been coated gold - instigating a dialogue about the value of the ‘art object’ in relation to its context. Rose Experiment, was the trace and on-going execution of an educational scientific experiment from a children’s instructional science book (Trove still being remembered by locals as the site of Birmingham’s Science Museum before moving to Millennium Point). On the opening night Rea Mole realized the performance, Magpie Syndrome, following instructions from They Are Here she was asked to pay attention to the shiny objects in the space and those worn by attendees, she gathered what wasn’t fixed down into a ‘nest’ which remained a trace of this action for the duration of the show. Finally, Helen Walker (of They Are Here) screened Parkesine, a new film taking its name from the Birmingham metallurgist Alexander Parkes. (Birmingham born Parkes took out his first patent in 1841 on a process for electroplating delicate works of art. His improved method for electroplating fine and fragile objects, such as flowers, was granted a patent in 1843.) This film elegantly draws together social-history and autobiography, Walker’s father himself being a metallurgist.