Afternoon Dust


Seecum Cheung — The Dutch Window

Seecum Cheung's The Dutch Window, large projection screen in front of a wall of orange curtains

Anyone who spends much time in the gallery of Birmingham visual arts space Grand Union inevitably falls in love with the windows that line the full length of two opposing walls, and many artists who exhibit there choose to make use of them in some way. Serendipitously, windows form a central theme and metaphor in British-born, Netherlands-based artist Seecum Cheung’s solo exhibition The Dutch Window, for which blinds and curtains have been installed to bathe the gallery in a soothing orange twilight.

Dance and opera in Digbeth

A few years ago I saw a ‘remix’ of a dance piece by Judson Dance Theater alumna Lucinda Childs at a festival in Amsterdam. The piece was titled ‘Radial Courses’, apparently because the choreographer felt she couldn’t get away with calling it ‘Running in Circles’ — which would’ve been a more accurate description of the dance itself. I was reminded of this piece when watching three members of Birmingham Dance Network performing in response to Donald Rodney’s Psalms, a work of art consisting of a powered wheelchair programmed to move autonomously in circles, spirals, and figures-of-eight, all while avoiding obstacles such as people.

Lickey Hills ( outside / inside )

Some recordings made in Lickey Hills Country Park, near Birmingham. Good headphones or speakers recommended.

Lickey Hills (outside)


Lickey Hills (boundary)

Spaghetti Junction

Another sound recording, this one made beneath Gravelly Hill Interchange, otherwise known as Spaghetti Junction. I was on a workshop led by Ian Rawes of the London Sound Survey, exploring the cavernous spaces where two rivers, three canals, and two trainlines intersect some twenty-five metres below a motorway junction.

Bull Ring markets

Here are some sounds recorded in Birmingham’s Bull Ring markets I posted to radio aporee:

Indoor Market

Rag Market

(Click on the red circle to start playback. Decent headphones or speakers recommended.)

radio aporee is a really great project run by Udo Noll. You can read more about the origins and philosophy of the project in my interview with Udo here.

Why listen to music?

It’s that feeling again, that nameless anxiety, the squeeze of the shoulders and tightness of the neck, the shallow breathing: shouldn’t I be doing something? Starting a campaign. Joining a political party. Writing erudite polemical rants for The Guardian. Almost anything other than what I’m doing now, in fact. Which is sitting on the sofa, listening to music.

Laura Oldfield Ford — Chthonic Reverb

The dérive was invented by the Letterist International in the 1950s, so it is said, though its roots go back much further, to Baudelaire’s notion of the flâneur and probably beyond. Pick an orientation, start walking; change direction on an impulse, an intuition, drawn by the name of a street, the shape of a traffic island, the forlornness of a tree. Be led by the city. This practice is central to Laura Oldfield Ford’s work as an artist, and the starting point of her new exhibition at Birmingham artist-run space Grand Union.

Reading notes: listening, openness, migration

Every Song Ever by Ben Ratliff

On holiday I read Every Song Ever: Twenty Ways to Listen to Music Now, by New York Times music critic Ben Ratliff. The author’s intention was to propose strategies for listening to and appreciating music in an era when vast amounts of it are available for free on the Internet, through legal streaming services services or illicit downloads. His starting assumption was that technological and economic shifts have produced corresponding changes in listening habits, requiring different approaches to the art if we are going to get the most out of it. I wandered glibly into the book, thinking it would be entertaining to read something by a professional, qualified music critic; I came away with a bit more than I’d bargained for.

Manon de Boer — Framed In An Open Window

“The present could be the past; it is the past.”1

The demolition of Birmingham Central Library

Listen to demolition vehicles rip into the old Birmingham Central Library, while a busker bugles merrily on.