Issue 267
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A dystopian mash-up of pinkified curiosities with its own emoji trail isn't exactly what you'd expect to find at Birmingham's world-renowned museum and art gallery. Complete with hot pink walls and a film narrated by a sinister looking Care Bear, Too Cute! opened last weekend. We spoke to 32-year-old filmmaker, artist and exhibition curator, Rachel Maclean, to talk chicken-headed geneticists, bears fixated with bananas and some artist next door called Leonardo.
"In my first week at college, my painting tutor told me not to use the pot of pink emulsion I'd brought with me because it wasn't "a serious artistic colour". I'm not sure he could put his finger on what offended him so much about the shade, but I got the sense it was something around pink signifying femininity, and femininity not being a serious part of art. I thought, f*ck you, I like it, and I’m using it. Years later, I love the idea of taking pink and talking about big, important ideas with it — forcing people to see and experience pink and femininity in a different way. And in this exhibition, with pink carpets, bunting and walls I get to do exactly that."
"Since making horror films when I was little, I've been interested in that moment when the innocent stops being benign and starts being sinister: when you notice something unsettling below that surface cuteness that we're constantly exposed to through advertising and media. Wide-eyed emoticons, cat videos, adult onesies — do they represent cuteness or the infantilisation of adults? Cute can captivate us, then distract us from analysing how we're spending our time, money and brain power. And why are we conditioned to find a cuddly cartoon heart with eyes on it sweet, but put eyes on an anatomical heart — like Alain Miller has in On My Way to Paradise — and the effect is totally different? Dolls? Normally cute. But make them genderless, with long, real hair and an overly tight belt and you might think about the constraints and suffering women feel when trying to keep up with extreme ideas of feminine beauty."
"The effects of cuteness are becoming such a big deal that it's now an academic subject. But rather than writing a book or a long note on what I've learnt to explain the exhibition, I created a Care Bear-like professor to immediately give people an idea of what this collection is about. As you enter the exhibition space, an irreverently large and loud candy-coloured "Dr Cute" starts off articulating facts and definitions but quickly gets distracted by all the cuteness, showing some of the emotional reactions we have to too much sweet. It's me in the video, but I have so much makeup on I don't even recognise myself anymore."
"To put together this exhibition, I went round the incredible Museum Collection Centre and the Arts Council Collection. One of the first pieces I knew I had to include was John Isaacs' chicken-headed geneticist [pictured, top of the plinth, middle-finger extended]. I never wanted this exhibition to be too complex but to be accessible on a basic emotional level whatever your level of interest in art. There are 19th-century oil paintings, but also modern mixed media pieces, right next to taxidermy and puppets from Moseley puppet theatre. Plus I created emojis to inject my own language alongside all these works. Without giving too much away, they're going to be pretty hard to miss for anyone visiting." 
"Can you even imagine what the audiences coming out of the da Vinci exhibition [opens Feb 1, next door to Too Cute] will think when they see and hear the increasingly manic teachings of Dr Cute ringing out across the gallery? I think da Vinci was a pretty cool guy, and imagine he’d be into what I'm doing but [gesturing towards Heather Phillipson’s True to Size, pictured, from which the word "banana" keeps sounding] I get that the works I have selected aren't for everyone and I invite complaints. I’d prefer people to hate the exhibition than to be indifferent to it. Imagine creating something that was totally forgettable? That would be the worst."
Too Cute continues daily until May 12 and is free to attend.


Forget Netflix and Chill. That’s, like, so 2018. This year is all about Netflix and Quiz — a transition phase in rediscovering the outside world and a chance to prove you know your Making a Murderer from your Bojack Horseman. A pub quiz entirely based around Netflix, assemble your squad and become the champions of telly binge. Under quiz-master supervision, the interactive pursuit is played via your phone — thus (*wags finger and raises eyebrow*) eradicating cheating — with live results and bonus marks for the fastest finger first. At Pub du Vin over on Church Street on February 19, tickets are £10 and include a drink, plus popcorn to help fine-tune your telly-box tekkers. Book  


It’s become trendy to bash this film, with the online brigade reacting in horror to its Trump-supporting screenwriter and straightforward view of the cure to racism being old-fashioned male bonding. Sure, this true story of an African American musician being chaperoned by a burly white guy around the Deep South in the Sixties may not win any awards for subtlety, and it does feel pitched to an audience insulated from the discrimination it depicts. It also, however, has its heart in the right place, and Viggo Mortensen and Mahershala Ali are sensational, visibly enjoying sparring with the other. And how’s this for a fun fact: in real life the man Viggo plays went on to play Carmine in The SopranosTimes
Venue: The Early Bird Bakery, 28 High Street, Kings Heath, B14 7JT; website 
Choice: Cinnamon roll French toast (£7) Chooser: Chef/owner, Tim

If the world was going to end and you could only save one road in Kings Heath, would it be York, Poplar or Drayton? Because we're guessing it wouldn't be the chaintastic High Street. But if you ever want to try the wonderment that is French toast made from cinnamon rolls (and you do), you're going to have to adjust you're thinking. The bright, light, super-friendly Early Bird Bakery has opened on the quiet end of the High Street and is doing beam-inducing things with brunching. The poshest bacon sanger we've ever tried included ginger beer soaked back bacon and chilli jam (£5.25), while the mushrooms in toast (not a typo) involved olive oil bread, tarragon, thyme, confit garlic and goats cheese — a rich, naughty bear of a plate that was right proper moreish. On cakes, the pretty raspberry and mascarpone cruffin won-out, with the tart fruit cutting through the generous amounts of pastry and creaminess. But if you're only having one dish, of course you're having the French toast, which is available Fridays and Saturdays. Served with burnt orange, blood orange and pecan praline, this creation sat on a sweet, sour, doughy cloud of happy that is truly novel. Have it with a 
Hundred House Coffee and remember how good a High Street can be. Sample menu


Good news! That new years resolution you broke? Doesn't count — because China's offering you another crack at the whole thing. From February 8 to 10, you're not losing it if you spot dragon dances taking place from Colmore Row, to the Bullring, with some martial arts from Shaolin Warriors and Hip-Hop from Hong Kong on the side. The main event, to wave off the year of the dog and welcome in the Year of the Pig, is in Chinatown on the Sunday from 11.30am, where there'll be a full day of performances including a lion dance to summon fortune, acrobatics and traditional music, plus firecrackers and as much street food as you're hoping. Extra long noodles, to encourage longevity in your life, glutinous rice cakes to increase your income and and dumplings for luck. And in case you can't make the formal celebrations, you can still adopt the extra holiday with the CNY menu at Chung Ying Central, running until February 19. Happy new year. Again.
If Victorian funerals and candle-lit coffin factories sound like your kind of thing, The Coffin Works have got a right humdinger coming your way. On Feb 21, it's £12 for an evening of all things mortis. Cheerful. 
Koba Ko Ramen begins its month-long residency at The Juke on February 1.

Brit grit to high-heeled hit is the vibe for Kinky Boots, which is coming to the Hippodrome in March and includes songs by that Cyndi Lauper, who wants to have fun. Tickets
Lock up your boss and get in absolutely no trouble for it — Jail or bail is a St Mary's Hospice fundraiser where your boss'll be banged up in the cells of Steelhouse Lane. The quicker they make bail, the quicker they'll be released.
Letterbox Birmingham, our little sister title, is giving away a £200 voucher for Michelin-starred Simpsons. You have until midday Friday to get in on it. The deets
It's also your last chance to get 50% off treatments at Edgbaston newbie, MetroSpa, thanks to Letterbox. Book by Feb 2 for treatments up until the end of April. All the info is at the bottom of this Letterbox partnership email. Nice, eh?

"You know, it's funny; when you look at someone through rose-tinted glasses, all the red flags just look like flags"

Wanda, BoJack Horseman

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WORDS: Katy Drohan, Robb Sheppard, Andrew Lowry
PICTURES: Too Cute! Heart eyes: Alain Miller — On My Way to Paradise, Genderless doll: Jordan Baseman — Pretty Baby, Bear with bananas: Heather Philipson — True to Size. Green Book — Universal Pictures.

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