Issue 213
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What are you doing for lunch? If a sarnie at your desk is the answer, your plans are about to improve dramatically. Coming Out: Sexuality, Gender & Identity is Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery's latest big-thinking opening, and for the conversations is starts as much as for any particular work or artist, it's brilliant. Side note: it does actually include a Warhol, an Emin and a Hockney, if you're asking. 
Boy, Girl, ? (1994) — Hadrian Pigott 
The reinforcement of gender through commercialisation is an issue that's been talked about a lot this year, but artist Hadrian Pigott created this simple, powerful piece back when D:Ream were topping them charts (that's 1994 quizzers). Gendered products often suggest that everyone can be divided into one of two genders but Boy, Girl, ? opens up the possibility of an alternative way. The question mark might also prompt you to ask: in a world where the choice is often limited to ‘boy’ or ‘girl’, how do people who don’t identify with either term buy a product as simple as soap?
Self-Portrait Series (1990-98) — Sarah Lucas
As part of the more than 80 pieces in Coming Out there's a seriously strong set of feminist artists, offering different representations of what being a woman might mean. Seven works from Sarah Lucas’ iconic Self-Portrait Series (1990-98) are featured, as well as Willy (2000), the satirical sculpture for which Lucas is probably best known: essentially a plastic garden gnome covered in Marlboro Lights. Linder (full title) is also a huge part of this conversation, and her collages, like Untitled 1977 (pictured top), combine images from pornographic magazines and women's mainstream titles, making a point about the cultural expectations of women and the treatment of the female form as a commodity.
Bear (1993) — Steve McQueen
It's not immediately obvious where to find this continuous 10-minute projection. But absolutely do. The piece that stayed with us the most, Bear begins with two naked men (artist Steve McQueen and actor Vernon Douglas) standing apart from each other. Their exchanges move from knowing, to flirtatious, to aggressive as they wrestle and wink and dart around the HUUUGE screen. In order to feature the work, BMAG have had to recreate the fully immersive experience as originally designed by McQueen — entrance, screen size and light. And in one of our looser segues, painters including Francis Bacon have used imagery of men wrestling as a way to explore same-sex desire in their art, including Figures in a Landscape’ (1956) which is on display at the exhibition.
India Gate (1987), Sunil Gupta
This year, the Indian Government implemented Section 377 of the country’s penal code, banning sexual activity that is “against the order of nature". And whether this includes gay sex is an on-going matter in the Supreme Court. Back in 1987, feeling at risk of losing his Indian identity as a gay man living in the West, Sunil Gupta met and photographed men at cruising sites in New Delhi. Exiles, his series of hugely powerful pieces, resonate all the more for both their timing and the captions that accompany them. At the bottom of India Gate the text simply reads: "Even if you have a lover you should get married and have children. Who would look after you in your old age."
Coming Out continues until April 15. The exhibition is free and most easily accessed from BMAG's Gas Hall entrance. Join a curated tour tomorrow at 1pm for £5.


Two years in a row, the world has eagerly leapt into bed with The Force Awakens and Rogue One, then realised weeks later they woke up next to merely very competent blockbusters-by-committee. The Last Jedi won’t resurrect Jake Lloyd's career, but it's very entertaining for the most part. Our heroes are split up, Empire-style, with Princess Leia leading a desperate retreat while John Boyega’s Finn, and newcomer Kelly Marie Tran’s Rose, go on a quest to a casino planet — but the real juice is with Daisy Ridley’s Rey as she is trained by LUKE SKYWALKER HIMSELF. Look, it’s impossible to be objective about these things – let the hangover hit in after Chrimbo — but for now this is the most exciting thing down the pictures by a mile. And you won’t believe the cameo. Times & trailer


The Plough, The Junction or Drunken Tiger? No we haven't had a pre-8am Chambord, that Harborne's gone and got itself a new bar. And the two-floor speakeasy launches tomorrow (Friday) at the School Yard. Initially opening Thursdays to Sundays, The Smoking Joint are on the first kitchen takeover, with Fat Snags on Christmas Eve, Eve-Eve and Eve-Eve-Eve. Looking to the big old future there'll be things like Tokyo Day and Night — a pop-up recreation of the mind-bending back streets of Shibuya, with Bruce Lee films, street food and matchy-matchy beers. For regular openings, there'll be a seasonal menu of cocktails, as well as craft beer on tap. No booking required for tomorrow's launch but you'll need a password, which may or may not be "Meow Pussy". It is.


When Opus re-opens on January 9, it will be offering a ludicrous 50% off your food bill at lunchtime: that's two courses for £14.98, or three courses for £17.50. Damn Opus are lovely. On the food front, they're extending this offer to you affable ICB lot for dinner, Monday through to Wednesday. The precise menu will depend on what’s looking best at the market come the first weeks of Jan, since the Opus style is all about market fresh. But expect dishes along the lines of Brixham monkfish with girolle mushrooms, baby peas and nasturtium leaves (pictured), with plenty of New Year's resolution-friendly options. All you need to do is mention I Choose Birmingham in the comments when booking online, or say our name if using the telephonic method. Probably also request a date and time while you're at it. Lunch offer valid Mon to Fri. Until Jan 31. Service at 12.5% will be applied to your bill.


Ta muchlies to reader Elliot Goodger for the mild e-bollocking he handed us last week. He rightly pointed out that our veggie tips are few and far between so, leaping into action, we lunched at Fressh, a newish vegan venue at City Arcade. With more pun slogans than your average Nando's we feared the worst, but their What The Guac burger (£5.95) wowwed a well-hardened carnivore and had us asking unwelcome questions about the secrets of 'Fressh Sauce'. We'll be hitting this place up on the Monday lunchtime regz and, probbo, throughout Jan. Menu
Venue: Carters, 2C Wake Green Road, Moseley, B13 9EZ; Website
Choice: Yoghurt, sea buckthorn, ants (8 courses, £85) Chooser: Taster menu

There was an awful moment during our meal at Carters where one I Choose staffer broke into Carly Simon. "Nobody does it better," he warbled. "Makes me feel sad for the rest. Nobody does it half as good as you. Bradley, you're the best." Chef Brad Carter either couldn't hear from the open kitchen (please, God) or was saving everyone's blushes by refusing to react. It was the above dish that did it. Well, the six preceding glasses of immaculately paired wine will have played a role, but this yoghurt, sea buckthorn and wood ants combo — which might not appeal to everyone — really resonated with him. Other, less insecty successes included a buttery cow's cheese dish called Bix, that was so mercurial we wanted to drown the chef and his entire team to see if they're a kitchen-based coven of witches. Bonus points (as if they need them) for the four 'snacks' that kicked the meal off. The oyster in beef fat bought with it more theatre than an Andrew Lloyd Webber Charade, while the chicken liver cereal was the sort of "breakfast" we can finally get on board with. Carters: still probably the warmest welcome in town. Our singing: still excruciating.
Watch The Cameraman at the cathedrals of Birmingham, Covo and Wolverhampton next week. The silent picture will be accompanied by piano-ing and Christmas shorts.
Carols are happening on the roof at The Church on Tuesday from 8.30pm. Entry is free. Ain't that nice.
Andy Low'n'Slow is on lunch at El Borracho this Sunday, and the menu looks ridonculous. From 12.30pm, you'll need to book.
The Festive Food Market is this Sunday from 10.30am at mac Birmingham. We'll mainly be pestering Kneal's Chocolate.
More than one of you have asked where to hit for your yuletide tree. The correct answer is Woods Farm. There are other answers, but do they have real life reindeers? Do they?

"Let the past die. Kill it, if you have to. That's the only way to become what you are meant to be."

Kylo Ren, The Last Jedi

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WORDS: Katy Drohan, Tom CullenAndrew Lowry
PICTURES: BMAG — 1 Untitled 1977 by Linder. Copyright the artist and courtesy Stuart ShaveModern Art, London; 2 – Boy, ?, Girl by Pigott, Hadrian. Copyright the artist; 3 — Self-Portrait Series (1990-98) by Sarah Lucas, copyright the artist; 4 – Steve McQueen, Bear, 1993. Image courtesy the artist and Thomas Dane Gallery London, and Marian Goodman Gallery New York, Paris and London. Still image from film; 5 – Sunil Gupta, India Gate from the series ‘Exiles’, 1986-1987. Text with image "Even if you have a lover you should get married and have children. Who would look after you in your old age." © Sunil Gupta courtesy sepia. The Last Jedi — Lucasfilm.

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