Im Bau is an experimental research project authored by Aideen Doran, investigating the city as a space for artistic, economic and ideological production. It responds specifically to the shifting fabric of the city of Birmingham, critiquing its contemporary urban culture of regeneration through research into the archival traces of the city’s urban past, and its past visions of the future city. It takes its title from a chance encounter with the Soviet magazine USSR Im Bau (USSR under construction), designed by Aleksandr Rodchenko and El Lissitzky.
For the duration of Im Bau, the Grand Union gallery space will be in a transitional state, a research lab of sorts. It will hold a revolving selection of curated historical materials, all of which share the quality of being future-looking yet historical, science-fictions from a vanished present. Doran has designed the space with a modular, reconfigurable system of display, referencing Bauhaus and constructivist ideologies and aesthetics. These displays hold archival documents, images and video from the Wolfson Centre for Archival Research at Birmingham Central Library. These are mixed with more esoteric materials, speculative texts and artistic interventions.
Birmingham has a recent history of bold experimentation with new architectural forms and ways of city-living, from the industrial revolution and Bournville model village through to the pre-cast concrete and clean geometry of the post-war era, now giving way to the fluid architecture of the post-modern. As the old has made way for the new, the city fabric itself has become an archive bearing the permanent memory traces of its previous incarnations.
Aideen will invite residents and communities around the city to discuss and feed into her research, whilst producing works in response to her findings. She will also have a research assistant, Geoff Bateson, on site every Friday who will be able to talk to visitors about the project’s progress.
At the end of the exhibition period, we have invited Honor Gavin, a writer, musician and academic from Birmingham (b.1984), to discuss Aideen’s research in relation to her own projects. Honor will also perform some of her music that has been directly inspired by Birmingham’s architecture.
Im Bau will result in an essay and small publication produced by Aideen in collaboration with Grand Union later in 2015.
All are welcome to see and use Aideen’s research, and contribute to the project in a variety of ways. If you are interested or have a proposal, please do contact us.
Aideen Doran studied at the University of Ulster and the Glasgow School of Art, and lives and works in Glasgow. Her practice centres on a rigorous process of research, through which she investigates contentious historical and political questions- generating artistic responses to archival documents, images and impressions that she encounters, collects and orders. Working primarily in moving image media and installation, her works vary in form but share a will to interrogate the image, to question its authenticity and authority through processes of mediation.
She is currently completing a practice based PhD in Fine Art at Northumbria University, researching the possible values of artistic production in an information economy. Her work has been supported by the Arts Council of Northern Ireland and the British Council. Recent exhibitions include After Hours at Platform Arts, Belfast (2015) and Glasgow Project Room (2014), Eastend Transmissions, The Pipe Factory, Glasgow (2014), Looking for Work at Regina Rex, New York (2014) and Momentous Times at the CCA Derry-Londonderry (2013).
Im Bau is her first significant solo project in a UK gallery.
Geoff Bateson is a writer and researcher with a particular interest in cities, identities understandings and evidence. He acts as professional mentor to a number of leaders/managers who have a public service remit. In the Queen’s Birthday Honours list for 2005 he was awarded an MBE for services to literacy and numeracy developments. In 2014 he was invited to be a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts, Manufacture and Commerce.
Laura Oldfield Ford will be artist in residence at Grand Union 13 April – 22 May 2015. Laura is concerned with issues surrounding contested space, landscape, architecture and memory. She is interested in a reworking of the ‘dérive’ or drift, a subjective process of mapping territory along the lines of social antagonism. The work is multidisciplinary and draws on her experiences as political activist and involvement in subcultural scenes, particularly protest movements. She will be exploring and researching Digbeth during her residency in preparation for an exhibition at Grand Union in 2016.
Honor Gavin is a writer, musician, academic and founding member of the whenwebuildagain.org collective. She has written widely on subjects including Samuel Beckett, Buster Keaton, and Brutalism, and has been a contributor to zines such as The Modernist and All That is Common. After a period in Berlin, she currently teaches literature and film at the University of Sussex, and plays piano and guitar in a band called Textual.