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It might be nothing, but it could be something

12 March to 29 May 2021

Using Birmingham as a case study for broader developments and issues in urban planning, counter-terrorism and security this project considers how research can both inform and benefit from artistic exploration and seeks to encourage critical conversations about counter-terrorism measures by exposing and challenging prevailing assumptions about what – if anything – can make us feel more secure in urban spaces.

The exhibition presents diverse research produced by artists as part of (In)security – a collaboration between academics, led by Doctor Katharina Karcher, from the Humanities, Engineering and Social Sciences at the University of Birmingham and a group of five artists based across the UK. The artists responded to an open call and were commissioned to research and develop new work. Originally it was imagined the project would be presented in the public realm, but as the challenges of 2020 revealed themselves, the artists have instead developed works for the gallery and online.

The exhibition will open in the gallery on 19 May. Book your visit HERE

Watch a recording of the In Conversation event with artists and academics involved in the project HERE

You can also watch and listen to works in the exhibition online on Stream.

ALEJANDRO ACÍN (b.1984, Spain. Lives and works in Bristol) has developed the visual essay and installation Duty or Freedom, which explores the malleability of the Terrorist definition in the UK legislation as something vague, broad and widely criticized by experts, courts and academics. Using text, sculptural objects, photography and video, Acin highlights the blindspots of what can be considered a terrorist suspect, the work juxtaposes a case of State Terrorism in the UK (The Iraq War) which hasn’t been accounted for, with current counter-terrorist measures like the ‘Stop and Search’ programme which has been widely criticised for its racial bias..

FAISAL HUSSAIN (b.1977, Birmingham. Lives and works in Birmingham) has produced a series of sculptural works incorporating, isolating and re-presenting academic reports, which analyse the PREVENT/CHANNEL de-radicalisation processes. Stop colonizing our futures, the illuminated sign installed on the front of Eastside Projects, builds on 8 years of working in the context of the public urban space; disrupting the everyday and questioning perceived threats. The set of illuminated bollards which guide your route through the exhibition space are representative of the reordering of cities for ‘protection’; repositioning and reconceptualising their purpose and function. The text chosen evokes emotive responses and questions the terminology and often racialized nature of the legislation.

REBECCA HUXLEY (b.1983, Stoke-on-Trent. Lives and works in London) has expanded her ongoing practice-based research into light and dark, creating a live research website (gt.lightdark.spacewhich explores how our understanding of darkness, and its relation to safety, is compiled from our social, cultural, geographical and historical experience. Her work examines what kind of knowledge these experiences produce, by experimenting with an adapted methodology for ‘ground-truthing’ during Covid-19, which combines data analysis, image processing, storytelling, archival practices and field studies. 

TAMARA KAMETANI (b.1988, Slovakia. Lives and works in London) has created a new video work informed by Project Champion, a secretive surveillance operation that took place in Birmingham in 2010 when over 200 CCTV and ANPR (Automatic number plate recognition) cameras were installed in two predominantly Muslim areas of Birmingham. Paid for by central government’s counter terrorism fund and presented as an endeavor aimed at combating crime and improving the safety of the area, the project’s actual purpose was not disclosed to the local council and was subsequently met with severe backlash from the community. Titled Failed MonumentsKametani’s work reflects on the language and the peculiar methods used in the aftermath of this surveillance crisis, employed in the effort to undo the damage and regain the trust of the community.

CHLOE SAMI (b.1991, Lambeth. Lives and works in Winchester) interviewed a group of women living in Birmingham about their feelings around personal safety and terrorism in the city as part of her (In)security research residency, with a goal of understanding their personal perspectives. Through the  interviews it became evident that, for the majority of the interviewees, terrorism was much less of a concern than the perceived threat from men in their day-to day experience of walking around the city and their local area. A trained opera singer, Sami used four of the interviews to create an operatic score, setting fragments of each of the women’s interviews to music.

More information on the wider University of Birmingham research project can be found here.

This project has received funding from the European Research Council (ERC) under the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme (grant agreement No. 851329 UrbTerr).

Virtual Tour