This week saw the opening of an historically creatively important photographic exhibition at the IKON Gallery in Birmingham. It was the showing of photographs taken by Janet Mendelsohn when she was a student at the ground breaking Centre for Contemporary Cultural Studies at Birmingham University from 1967-69.
Enrolled as a student at the newly-established Centre for Contemporary Cultural Studies (CCCS), Mendelsohn was encouraged by Stuart Hall and Richard Hoggart – then deputy and director of CCCS – to explore ways in which photography could be used in field research. The resulting archive of 3,000 photographs and interviews are now held at the Cadbury Research Library, University of Birmingham. Mendelsohn’s photographs document a working class district in flux. The area was about to undergo a relentless process of slum clearance and Balsall Heath would soon become unrecognisable with many of its streets, including the infamous Varna Road, ceasing to exist. Busy outdoor scenes are interspersed with others inside pubs, cafés and living rooms whilst portraits of individuals, usually contemplative if not melancholic, are counterbalanced by a strong emphasis on family and gatherings of friends, making do and getting by.
The exhibition is organised in collaboration with University of Birmingham and Queen’s University Belfast. Supported by the Arts & Humanities Research Council, Exterion Media,The Photography Show, Flatpack Projects, Library of Birmingham and Ort Gallery
A fully illustrated catalogue accompanies the exhibition including texts by Kieran Connell, Queen’s University Belfast; Matthew Hilton, University of Birmingham; and Val Williams, curator and author, plus Mendelsohn’s interviews with Kathleen and other residents of Balsall Heath. Visit Ikon’s online shop for the full range of Ikon’s catalogues and limited editions.
The exhibition inspired a Symposium on Saturday at the Birmingham REP.
The exhibition is complimented by Dinh Q. Lê’s moving show.
27 January — 3 April 2016
Ikon, in collaboration with Artangel, presents The Colony (2016), a major new commission of video work by acclaimed Vietnamese artist Dinh Q. Lê.