With a two foot wide path around the outside of a huge six foot high concrete dais dominating the main gallery space of the Heath Mill Lane building, it’s easy to be intimidated by M6, the Mike Nelson commission, at first experience.
But both fragility and strength are represented by the myriad of assorted tyres – some still whole but with treads wholly worn, others torn and shredded right down to expose braiding and individual fibres.
The description of ‘discarded, utilitarian objects…collected as if they were trophies of an ignored parallel world – a dark, abject monument’ perhaps offers a brief insight into Nelson’s approach to art – previous works have included William Burroughs-inspired pieces, an attempt at recreating Babylon in Shoreditch and a claustrophobic construction of rooms entitled The Coral Reef.
With M6, the two-time Turner Prize nominee and Britain’s representative at the 54th Venice Biennale in 2011 presents obvious connections between the work and Birmingham’s love affair with motors, the city’s history of automotive industry and the conspicuous concrete raised road that splices North from South and makes up part of the ‘backbone of Britain’ motorway network.
That the tyres were reportedly sourced from a gigantic storage area (is there a lost property office for general highway detritus?) close to the M6, brings more colour to the otherwise stark black and white work on display.
It’s an artwork to consume and digest in person for sure, along with Rachel Lowe’s mesmerising and discomfort-inducing Revolving Woman, running in another space at Eastside Projects, one of Birmingham’s foremost artist-run exhibition spaces. Go see.
Until 9 March
Words: Lyle Bignon