Within seconds of entering Gas Hall you'll sense that the Young Turks of the Birmingham Museum team have stuck their necks out on I Want! I Want!, the city's latest and loudest exhibition. It's a fearless and feverish experience quite unlike anything BMAG have previously put their name to, and you can almost hear the gallery's old guard wriggling with discomfort from the safety of the Staffordshire Hoard. Let them wriggle. This is thorny, boundary-busting stuff that hits and misses and hits again.
The crowds are drawn, phones in hand, by Tony Ziegler's towering pineapple sculpture made using computer-aided design. It sums up — if a whopping, stealth bomber of a fruit can sum anything up — the exhibition's theme: Work by artists who have all been influenced by the rapid development of technology. There's an at times sinister menagerie of computer animation, video, audio, photography, drawing and gaming technology to test your mettle.
The title is inspired by I Want! I Want!, an etching created by the artist William Blake over two hundred years ago. It depicts a tiny figure standing before a celestial ladder that leads up to the crescent moon. The image acts as a metaphor for humankind’s ability to dream and turn ideas into reality. But reality goes missing on regular occasions throughout this most unreal of exhibitions.
Probably the most ethereal experience, and undoubtedly the most unnerving work, is the candy-coloured nightmare stew that is Rachel Maclean's film Feed Me (above). The footage explores the commercialisation and sexualisation of childhood. Take in the full hour long, stomach hollowing experience, or catch just a minute or two. Either way the message resonates long after you've left
On a much needed lighter note there's Paul Pfeiffer's triple screen video sculpture showing three collapsing footballers, rolling around and clutching at fake injuries having gone to ground without an opposing player in sight. It's a comment on the rise and — literally — fall of sporting heroes. Elsewhere you'll find Girl In Two Halves by Clare Strand (pictured, below), one of a sequence of perturbing pics exploring trickery historically used in paranormal photography and magic.
And weirdness. Nought to 60 in 3 seconds, shirt in tatters weirdness on a level that takes this exhibition into truly brave territory. And Brummies owe it to BMAG to reward that bravery by going along. Even if it might cost you your sleep for a night or six. (I Want! I Want! is on until October 1 and entry is completely free. More)
IMAGERY: Rachel Maclean - Feed Me, 2015. Courtesy the artist and Arts Council Collection; Toby Ziegler - Portrait of C.L. (third version), 2006. Courtesy of the artist and Simon Lee Gallery, London / Hong Kong; Girl in Two Halves (2008, Clare Strand); Caryatids, by Paul Pfeiffer
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