Monday, 10 October 2011

Gillian Wearing project for Birmingham

Family Monument Trento, Gillian Wearing, 2008

Conceptual artist Gillian Wearing (b.1963) and IKON Gallery in Birmingham are working on a project to find 'the real Birmingham family'. The winners will be immortalised in bronze for a sculpture to be sited in Centenary Square, near the new central library, in 2013. The project will be a 'lasting celebration of Birmingham residents'. Families can nominate themselves by visiting and nominations remain open until 1 April 2012.

Gillian Wearing RA, 'Sixty Minute Silence', 1996. Colour video projection with sound, 60 minutes. Courtesy Maureen Paley, London
Gillian Wearing was born in Birmingham and was known as one of the YBAs (she exhibited in Sensation in 1997, the same year she won the Turner Prize). She is probably best known for Sixty Minute Silence (1996) the video she made, apparently of a group of policemen posing for a group photograph. At times they are so still the video could be mistaken at first glance for a photograph, but as the video goes on they get more fidget-y. The 'policemen' later turned out to be actors. Wearing's other work includes a series of photographs Signs that say what you want them to say and not Signs that say what someone else wants you to say (1992–93) and Dancing in Peckham (1994), a film of the artist dancing in a shopping centre in Peckham. 

© Gillian Wearing, courtesy Maureen Paley/ Interim Art, London

While Wearing has always been interested in the concept of 'family', the Birmingham project bears some intriguing similarities to Cornelia Parker's quest to find a local model for a bronze mermaid in Folkestone, as part of the Folkestone Triennial. It seems as though these projects are a sort of art X-Factor, that by involving local people somehow the artwork will gain credibility or respect. It is also reminiscent of Antony Gormley's Fourth Plinth work in which everyday people became the performers, or the artwork itself. Are contemporary artists running out of ideas for ways to engage the public and produce a work which will last 25 years in the public realm? I am really quite disappointed by this work, having previously admired the artist. But I will reserve my judgement for now, just in case the final work proves to be excitingly controversial.....otherwise, yawn.

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