Dead Space?

Looking through Birmingham – Pete Ashton, until 17 June
Regeneration X – Matt Watkins, 23 June – 29 July
Central Library, Birmingham

Pete Ashton is the second artist to challenge the notion of Dead Space? at Birmingham’s terminal Central Library, set to be demolished in the near future. Pete’s efforts will follow in the footsteps of Lucy McLauchlan, who adorned the walls with her trademark bird pictorials depicting how the jungle of disused and forgotten buildings that blight Birmingham can give ‘life to nature’, and now Pete has taken on the challenge of using the library window to redefine what is dead space, incorporating Lucy’s offerings in the process.

For his part of the installation, Pete has created a series of slow animations made of sequential photographs taken through a home-made lens rescued from a vintage camera, a process called ‘Through the Viewfinder’. To complete the recycled theme, the images are being shown on salvaged CRT monitors and Macs that have been converted into peep-show machines, through the deft use of gaffer tape and cardboard. The core subject matter of much of Pete’s work is that of ‘unnoticed Birmingham’, and with this installation he invites passers-by to observe through the glass and unique viewers Birmingham’s pedestrian flow in a nostalgic and intimate perspective.

Completing the trio of artists seeking to redefine the constraints of Dead Space? will be Matt Watkins, who will draw upon his vast animation and graphic experience to transform the final stage of this unique space. Matt will create a collage of characters trapped in a state of change in an attempt to reflect Birmingham’s difficult transition from its industrial heritage to its current state where, like a newborn foal trying to find its legs, it attempts to re-invent itself in the modern era where the legacies of the past, misguidedly clung onto for too long, can serve as the noose of tomorrow.

Lee Hall

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