The Best Birmingham Art Events Spring 2016 by Sally W Jones

Well, Spring is almost springing and it looks a bit like full frontal nudity and audience participation (although hopefully not at the same time) might be the theme for arts in Birmingham. Good luck!

Dinh Q. Lê: The Colony

27 January – 3 April 2016
A major new video work by Vietnamese artist Dinh Q. Lê, The Colony explores themes of excess and corruption. Loosely based on the nineteenth century depictions of a group of islands off the coast of Peru, rich in guano (bird shit dear), a powerful fertiliser, it takes in the US Guano Act of 1856, which pretty much gave the islands away to rich people (imagine) and wars between Spain and its former colonies Peru and Chile. Free entry.

New Art West Midlands

12 February – 15 May 2016

Now in its fourth year, New Art West Midlands takes some of the best pieces of work from recent graduates from the region’s art schools. From nude self portraits to short films and interesting installations, you can check out the talent and decide whether you could have done better yourself (the answer is no, you couldn’t, get over yourself). Entry is free.

The Life and Songs of Joe Hill

25 February 2016

Union organiser and American hero Joe Hill was executed by the US government 100 years ago and this poignant anniversary is celebrated at Ort. Ok, technically February is still Winter, but hey, it’s been kind of sunny outside and this looks like fun. An open mic night with projected lyrics, turn up and get into the revolutionary spirit. Musicians are welcome, but lets not tell them, it’ll only go to their heads. Free entry, starts at 8:30pm.

Performance as Publishing

3 & 4 March, 31 March & 1 April, 5 & 6 May 2016

Over three events, the work of nine artists will be performed and filmed in front of a live audience. Part of Performance as Publishing’s investigation into text, writing and language in contemporary art and performance, the events will look at the idea of “liveness”, which is not a word but this is art so clearly that is unimportant. The performances will be broadcast live on the internet. Full frontal nudity, so leave the under 16s at home. Free entry, but limited space so make sure to book in advance.

Digbeth First Friday

4 March 2016

It’s back, finally, the chance to cram your monthly dose or arty stuff all intol one Friday evening. Combine it with booze and food and it might actually be enjoyable. No news yet on what March madness will ensue, but judging from previous events, expect parties, unexpected arty shenanigans, offers on that food and booze mentioned earlier and possibly some full frontal nudity (whether its part of the programme or not though remains to be seen). Entry price varies according to venue. Check out the website for more details closer to the time.


23 March – 2 April 2016

Seen the film or read the book? Remember the toilet diving scene? Want to see that live, right in front of your face? Of course you do. This production, which sold out at the Edinburgh Film Festival, comes to Digbeth this Spring. Expect grit, full frontal nudity, scenes of nastiness including drug abuse and people being violent and generally not very nice. If you haven’t seen the film, why not get involved? This is one of those immersive theatre experiences, so expect to get up close and personal with some aggressive actors. At least if you crap your pants in fear everyone else will assume its part of the performance. Apparently, even Irvine Welsh was shocked by the production. What more do you want? The performance takes place under the railway arches in Digbeth, Rainbow Venues, Unit 5, Lower Trinity Street, Digbeth, B9 4AG. Tickets are £15.

Dan Flavin: It is what it is and it ain’t nothing else

13 April – 26 June 2016

Another entry for the IKON but that’s allowed because they are awesome. American artist Dan Flavin (1933-1996) is considered one of the most influential post-war US artists. Here, his work with fluorescent lights will bathe the IKON in radiant light, the perfect demonstration of Flavin’s interest in “infinite specific expression in relation to specific space”. Nope, no idea what it means either, but hey, pretty lights! Free entry.

Louise Bourgeois: Prints: Autobiographical Series and 11 Drypoints

23 April – 19 June

Two collections of work from influential artist Louise Bourgeois. As well as producing sculptures, Bourgeois was a prolific printmaker and draughtswoman. The Autobiographical Series (1994) illustrates her thoughts and memories and the 11 Drypoints (1999) delve further into her interests and obsessions. Admission is free.

Sally Watson-Jones
Arts Editor, Grapevine Birmingham.