Fused were invited to the press preview of The Public this morning so we went for a mooch around to take a look.
Driving up to the building from the main road in to West Bromwich (coming from Birmingham) makes for an impressive view. The building stands proud amongst the rest of the regeneration happening around the town. Inside the building’s pink touches from the outside take presidence – pink walls and neon lighting are all around the building.
Although it may not seem obvious at first art is all around. When you go in to the Public Gallery you are presented with a tag which you carry around with you. The tag holds information about you and as you carry on through the building pieces of work begin to react with you.
The abstract steel trees are placed around the gallery and have been created by Ben Kelly who built his reputation as the designer behind Manchester’s Hacienda and Factory Records HQ. The trees (pictured below) hold information and orientation of the buidling but also ask you questions: What is your favourite colour; Choose a face you like; Have your picture taken, etc. All of this information gets ‘flown’ around the building and pops up on different pieces of work.
Not only does the work interact with you the visitor but a majority of it has also had significant input from the people living in and around Sandwell. The first exhibition on display is by Paris based artist Esther Shalev-Gerz whose piece ‘Les Portaits des Histories’ asks local residents – ‘What Story Must Be Told Today?’. The work stretches over 2 spaces – one that includes the questions answered by people from all over the world and one by the local residents.
The temporary exhibition programme will change every 8-10 weeks with no ‘dark’ periods to worry about. Curator Jason E. Bowman wants to make sure that there is a flowing and continuous programme so that visitors never miss out.
Other works around the Public Gallery include an animation project where visitors take images and make an instant animation – this was developed with a local school. As were the images of faces used in Blast Theory’s ‘Flypad’ one of the biggest peices in the gallery.
Flypad creates a 3D avatar using the images and faces visitors picked out early on in their visit. By standing on a moveable pad you get to fly in space, move and interact with your fellow visitors – swapping bodies and playing games.
Technology is very much at the fore of this space and another peice ‘Datafall’ – which resembles an electronic waterfall – also reacts to people in similar ways, changing colour as they approach. ‘Flower of my Secret’ by Usman Haque is another peice that lets you tell secrets in to ‘flower beds’ and once its gauged your mood it presents you with an electronic flower – unique to you.
The pieces are truly innovative and are going to be a lot of fun to play around with and at the end of your visit you can buy a peice of your own work – a badge, a CD Rom with editing software, a tee shirt – all with your own work made from your visit and interaction with the pieces.
This weekend sees the gallery open for free which would be an excellent opportunity to get around and take a look. Click here to see our pick of what is going on.
We will be updating with more information on the individual pieces, how they work and the artists behind them soon.