Sunday, 17 January 2010

New Media Art? The Black Country?

A while back I wrote up a small group talk I'd shared with artist Richard Billingham (here), and noticed that he is currently showing his photographs of the Black Country at The Public in West Bromwich.LinkRichard Billingham's photo of Reddal Hill library Cradley Heath (?). If it is, it's just up the road from the lovely lads at TeeT Shirts

I went to The Public a while back to meet Caitlin Griffiths (another blog entry here on a recently completed project I worked on with her) and was actually a bit shocked - the place is not only OPEN - it's damn good!!

How these things had slipped past me (being wide-eyed when it comes to art, and local) I can only put down to pretty bad marketing on their part. Anyway after spending about 20 minutes trying to find the gigantic black and pink building from the high street (it's unbelievable well hidden for it's size) I then failed to find the entrance, and circled the place once or twice, before sitting down across the road, only to see a huge, pink sliding door so big and inset into the architecture, I'd walked past first time round.

Well, once inside (after a meeting over soup, with Caitlin) I had the pleasure of going round the place - and it is jammed with really cutting edge, inspirational and engaging new media art. My favourite was Blast Theory's Flypad (2008) in which you can stamp on a pad and float weird 3D virtual fighters around on a video screen over the actual the gallery space. The characters look like oddball mutant wrestlers and you fly around grappling other users (there can be many - all jumping on pads around the gallery) with cameras tracking your guy overlaid on realtime video footage of the space. It's flippin wicked! Blast Theory were there themselves too (I recognised them as I did a 3 day workshop with them creating virtual worlds a few years ago at Warwick Art Centre). GO! PLAY! It's great.

Blast Theory are bloody genius and well worth keeping a close eye on. They are very active in the art world and have done some incredible projects from 3D worlds explored on surfboards Desert Rain (1999) to Kidnap (1998) : a piece in which you could volunteer to be kidnapped! (You didn't know where or when or for how long or what was going to happen, but eventually it did..!). Mental note: I should really look up what they have been doing over the last 10 years... lol
Alongside Flypad there were interactive drawing touchscreens and virtual video hugging and a host of other technology-hungry stuff. I was a bit saddened by the "3D sound corridor" - which I put in a proposal for before the place went pearshaped - which was not really very hi-tech. A victim maybe of all the budget cuts etc. that the place has suffered from?

A good friend of mine Jon Garbett (and guitarist from Meatfeast / Jazz Thrash Assassin) took his kids and they loved it too. So my thoughts on the whole Public/West Brom/Disaster embargo is this - it's there, it's great, stop moaning and GO. It's a damnsite more exciting than Millenium Point, i'll tell you that.

Speaking of the band... and here comes a plug... we're back up and running with a new sax player woohoo! ...and JTA got voted 64th Best Band in Birmingham over the last Decade by public votes, collated Blue Whale Studios. I've mentioned this a million times, but it's been a rocky year for us (rocky as in bad, not rocky as in; we've been running up steps punching the air) and we need a boost to keep us positive and on-track... Keep your ears peeled for gigs in the Midlands soooon.

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