Ikon in the City Program, Birmingham (1997)

Review of exhibition including work by Rigo 97, Edwina Fitzpatrick, Rozalind Drummond, Simon Grennan and Christopher Sperandio (1997).

R. J. Preece
artdesigncafé - art | 15 September 2009
This review first appeared in World Sculpture News, 3(4), page 55 in 1997.

Ikon in the City Program

With the closure of its John Bright Street location and preparations for the March 1998 opening of its new location at Oozells Street School at Brindleyplace, the Ikon Gallery initiated the Ikon in the City Program. Recently, five artists from England, Australia, and the United States presented work specifically addressing the city’s urban landscape, specific communities, and the environment of the new site, both past and present.

With the color and form of a ONE WAY sign, Rigo 97 painted a characteristic, monumental version on the side of the car park of Brindleyplace which incorporates canal(s) and brickwork in its design. Yet, instead of painting the letters of the expected, he chose the word OCEAN, which reminds us of the connection between Birmingham’s historical canal network and international trade. When viewed across a close Post-Modern piazza, the mural provides a strong, new, directional thrust, which previously consisted of a pathway intersecting a symbolic fountain and an abstract, angular black metal sculpture in the form of an aquaduct, which also plays with the viewer’s sense of depth. The mural is gradually expected to disappear with the further development of Brindleyplace.

Also addressing local sites and presented very closely nearby, Edwina Fitzpatrick’s installation at Tesco’s Supermarket and performance combined ice keys with fragile relationships. In a supermarket freezer, she installed key-shaped ice hanging from metal hooks in a series of networks appearing like a flow chart to illustrate the fragility of relationships among local residents: symbolized by the informal system of leaving a key with a neighbor for various purposes. Fragile relationships were clearly shown upon the second day of completion— in response to some sort of disturbance, many of the keys fell to the bottom of the container in pieces.

Also incorporating ice keys for her performance Returning the Stolen Water at the Gas Street Basin, Edwina Fitzpatrick drew inspiration from a struggle in the 18th century concerning water rights between two competing canal companies. After an introductory spoken text which set the tone, Fitzpatrick strategically traveled on a barge through a lock that had been installed in 1815. Tossing large-scale ice keys into the canal water hitting representative spatial targets, her performance commented on the historical role of Birmingham, its current position, and concepts of ownership in historical process. Fitzpatrick clearly utilized the unusual site well, with viewers standing along the canal as well as on a footbridge above watching the ghost-like procession.

The City program also consisted of a film exploring the idea of lost childhood by the Australian artist Rozalind Drummond, and a 3-D comic book created by Simon Grennan and Christopher Sperandio based on the lives of a group of youths in Birmingham. The program received funding by the National Lottery’s new Arts 4 Everyone scheme.