Welcome to the first issue of Diver-City. A magazine put together by four visual communication students at BIAD. In this issue we are exploring the hidden aspects of the variety of art forms in Birmingham, from the anonymous graffiti to the commissioned art in galleries.
CONTENT • Graffiti Is graffiti an art form? • Public Art Does Birmingham have a gallery on it’s streets. • Fine Art The IKON and Birmingham’s very own ‘War of the Worlds’ • Comic Art Could it also be a 3D art form too? 002
GRAFFITI IS GRAFFITI AN ART FORM?
v e r taken the time to actually look at the artwork you see scribbled on the wall? Graffiti, whether intricate in design or plain and simple has a story behind it, that most of us fail to notice because we never actually make the effort to study the meaning behind the graffiti we see and try to figure out the story of the â€œMan Behind the Canâ€?. Graffiti has a rich heritage with examples dating back many centuries to the Ancient Greece and Roman empires. Although the means of inscribing graffiti and the tools have changed the purpose largely remains the same, i.e. people use graffiti as a means to express their thoughts through art. Graffiti is usually associated with vandalism and damage to public property and is considered illegal in many places.
Modern graffiti started when people started writing their names on walls with markers and spray paints and this formed the origin of graffiti tagging. Graffiti tagging became widespread and graffiti taggers would become famous overnight if their tags were widespread. The number of people tagging drastically increased since its origin and this gave rise to a few well renowned graffiti taggers. Graffiti artists started thinking if new ways to design their tags and gain popularity. During this process artists transformed their normal tags into more detailed pieces called ‘throw up graffiti’. Throw up graffiti includes graffiti that is usually written in bubble writing and includes different colours as compared to plain tags that largely consisted of one colour. This style of graffiti started being used quite largely as it was quick and it included a fair bit of detail. Graffiti artists started spraying walls, trains, etc. with this kind of graffiti and this got them quite a lit of popularity. Graffiti, being a competitive art brought constant changes in the styles and designs used. This lead to different variations of graffiti which included more detailed forms like ‘wild style’ which still consisted of words and a considerable amount of detail. The legibility of the words was played with as the graffiti artists experimented with other techniques, making the word understandable and readable to the trained eye. Another famous form of modern graffiti included ‘piece’, which involved highly detailed graffiti artwork that wasn’t only confined to words but also considered various illustrations and bits. Other popular forms of graffiti are ‘blockbusters’, ‘stencil’, ‘stickers’ and ‘heaven’.
Graffiti in Birmingham has a rich history dating back to the 80’s. Graffiti artists of all ranges can be found here, there are the old timers that presently sell their art locally and abroad, then there are the younger artists in their late 20’s and early 30’s and then the artists that are starting out. Graffiti in Birmingham gave rise to renowned artists like Mohammed Ali and many others. Mohammed’s graffiti pieces mainly contain islamic script and some of his work includes murals. Birmingham also contains managed graffiti zones, like the one started by In City Arts in King’s Heath with the support of Martin Mullaney who was the former councillor for Moseley and King’s Heath. There used to be another managed graffiti zone in the park behind Aldi in Selly Oak. This was formed in the 90’s and attracted artists from all over the world to come and paint there. This park was really famous until they had a few problems with the council. Now the place overflows with graffiti and its a mess. Graffiti in Birmingham is also a big part of the creative industries as artists in Birmingham sell their art worldwide and bring in a large income. The diversity of the graffiti in Birmingham gave rise to some outstanding artists which made a name for themselves. 008
hould the sculptures and buildings on our street be seen as public art? It could be a giant gallery that we can all enjoy, with individual pieces that come together as one whole view.
Are The Streets A Gallery? How often do we notice public art in our streets? If we do, do we question it s e e or know why it’s there. until I zoomed in on I went out on a photography the buildings with my camera. walk in search of this forgotten form of art. By actually looking for it I found much more public art Some of the sculptures even on the streets then I knew was have their own stories to tell. On there, even in places I had been my walk I noticed a small plaque before! It’s remarkable to see in Victoria Square reading ‘On Site how much I’ve over looked. – Ebony 1992 – 93’, containing a paw – I even found art in the print. I took a photograph, although I had architecture of build- no clue why it was there. After researching ings, some details I found that the paw-print belongs to a black Labrador of a workman who helped in the I didn’t even renvation of the ‘Queen Victoria’ statue. Ebony had her own high-visibility vest and could be seen carrying tools and stealing chocolates from passers-by! Another anecdote I found by researching was that the ‘Iron: Man’ sculpture in Victoria Square has feet underneath the ground. Something we can’t even see which has still been designed, at least that’s what I assume; the feet could actually look like anything. This presents the question; do any of the other sculptures have hidden parts? Maybe ‘Queen Victoria’ has long legs or a tail hidden in her stand or does ‘Tony Hancock’ have the rest of his body underground? We do however sometimes interact with the sculptures. For example many locals believe the ‘Iron: Man’ sculpture represents the West Midlands Black Sabbath’s song ‘Iron Man’, even though this isn’t true (it represents the traditional skills of the Black Country) the sculpture got its name and from this tale, it was original named ‘Untitled’ but the a d d i n g artists agreed to the locals more appropriate name. underwear. But we must these ‘The River’ is another sculpture to be remember sculptures were designed by nicknamed by locals as ‘The Floozy in the Jacuzzi’; understandable this someone as art; does this make wasn’t picked up as its official it fair for us to change their design? name. The locals also use it as a wishing well even thought it Are the streets not a gallery? With was never designed for it. different pieces of art by different Locals also interact artists all in one place, ready for our with sculptures by viewing pleasure, all with their own stories placing bottles in and mysteries for us to discover. Yet we some of their tend to see it as a whole view, we might h a n d s think it is a nice view and that it all works together, but we don’t see each building and sculpture as pieces of art on their own. With the wide variety of public art ready to view in our streets we just need to look around more to appreciate it. 012
“DO ANY OF THE OTHER SCULPTURES HAVE HIDDEN PARTS?”
and Birmingham’s very own “War of the Worlds”
s a new c o m e r to the
Birmingham art scene I found the prospect of a new contemporary gallery quite alluring; having been drawn to the Ikon by its minimalistic looking leaflets and its sleek modern vs. gothic
exterior I had big hopes for what it had to offer. If youâ€™re a fan of architecture then the building is worth a visit, not to mention its quirky glass elevator which sings to you as you go from floor to floor. But despite the building the exhibitions it showed simply didnâ€™t leave me eager to come back.
“Not to mention its quirky glass elevator”
This made me curious, so I dug a little deeperby asking locals and looking at previews reviews online. The same problem of how the work, “might take understanding” and the “pretentious” e n v i r o n m e n t encountered at the Ikon arose. In fact, the majority of the suggestions which i recieved regarding the Ikon was to go and try the food; in particular the Tapas.
“Would be better off as simply becoming an upmarket cafe”
For a gallery which states in its leaflets that it, “works to encourage public engagement with contemporary art”, found that it is actually doing the exact opposite. The first exhibition that i went to view at the Ikon was Yael Bartana’s exhibition, “And Europe Will Be Stunned.”” Bartana’s clever films that had carefully thought out actions and colours along with her beautifull prepared speaches were caotured to perfection and the first film etitled, “Mary Koszmary,” was really moving. However the comments I recieved from people as they were leaving the exhibition were much in the way of it being, “too deep for them” and they they “didn’t really understand it,” or that it was generally “a bit shit”.
At the moment, the Ikon is in a statue of delusion in thinking that it is attracting the younger generation of artists and should be alarmed by its reviews. If the public cannot relate with the work because it is too pretentiously packaged and catered mainly for PHD types, then the public will ultimatley lose interest in visiting the gallery. If we want such an impressive gallery space, which the Ikon does posess, and if we want more people to get involved in the arts then galleries like the Ikon which appeal to younger people on paper need to lesser their egos and start to support them by providing better information on their ehibitions; or they could even show an exhibition every now and then that anyone can understand! If not then in the future maybe the Ikon will be better off as simply becoming an upmarket cafe.