I finally got around to checking out the How To Improve The World exhibition at the Gas Hall and it’s a quite wonderful thing. A little slice of Tate carefully curated and positioned in Birmingham that manages to educate and entertain without patronizing the viewer or the art itself.
The theme of the show is 60 years of British Art from the Arts Council Collection and as such there’s a bias towards the more conceptual with a fair smattering of Turner Prize nominees. That might put some people off, but I found it interesting to see these pieces without the incessant noise of Art London getting in the way. Chris Ofeli’s infanous elephant shit painting, Popcorn Shells, is actually quite touching when experienced in quiet isolation. And the humour of much of this work really shines here, unlike at Tate Modern when it’s oh so serious. Here, in the “regions”, this art can breath a bit.
Other stuff I liked included Roger Ackling’s Five Hour Cloud Drawing, made by steadily tracing a shape with a magnifying glass only burning when the sun was out; Lucy Gunning’s video piece Climbing Around My Room where she does just that, using shelves and radiators to avoid touching the floor (Acid Game, anyone?); John Wood and Paul Harrison’s Device film; and Liam Gillick’s masterful series of mock (and mocking) exhibition posters Culture Is Important In A Free Society. I’d love some scaled down repros of those.
The only criticism I can offer is the positioning of the two Gilbert and George video pieces right next to each other so the soundtracks overlap. I don’t think this is how they’re intended to be experienced and, given that Gordons Makes Us Drunk is a personal favourite of mine, this was rather annoying.
Above all, though, a very enjoyable show in one of the better spaces for Art in Birmingham. Do check it out before it ends on September 2nd.
The BM&AG site is having database issues at the moment so I’ll add linkage later.