Artist Stuart Whipps’ new exhibition Why Contribute to the Spread of Ugliness?, showing at the Ikon Gallery, is a photographic and video exploration of the changing nature of cultural value and it’s impending loss.
The bulk of the show centres around the work of prominent Birmingham architect John Madin. Born in 1925, Madin was prolific for more than 30 years within Birmingham, changing its landscape.
For Whipps’ exhibit he examines 487 boxes of archived paperwork from Madin’s architectural practices housed in Birmingham Central Library, one of only a few of Madin’s buildings still standing in Birmingham and which is scheduled for demolition in 2013, to explore his impact on the architectural scene in bygone years.
Through a multi-screen slide projection, Whipps combines the prominent three strands of subject matter to create a poignant reflection of Madin’s work. The focus of the show surrounds the archival boxes, their contents (printed materials relating to Madin’s projects and the construction industry between the 1950s and 1970s) and the buildings to which they refer.
The timing of the show coincides with an ongoing campaign by the 20th Century Society to re-classify some of Madin’s buildings as listed in order to preserve the history they represent (particularly the Birmingham Central Library) and retain, what is considered by some, as some of the best examples of post-war brutalist architecture in Britain.
Madin extensively researched American library architecture when planning the Birmingham Central Library design which led Whipps to retrace Madin’s footsteps to better understand the man himself. Having returned to Birmingham with a wider understanding, Whipps is able to present this powerful celebration of the influential architect whilst highlighting Birmingham’s inability or unwillingness to preserve a vital part of its heritage.
Until 5th February 2012
Words: Lee Hall
Image: Birmingham Chamber of Commerce, 001 (2011). Stuart Whipps. Medium Format Slide.