International Open Submission Art Exhibition

Our fears proved unjustified; we were’t ransacked. There was something oddly cathartic about opening up your home for an exhibition to total strangers, particularly as your home is rented accommodation that had seen better days. The slide projector installation in the bathroom required the bathroom light permanently removed; this was for the work, but it also conveniently disguised the grottiness of the bathroom too. This may have been a piece of what is referred to as ‘curation’.

Advertised in the biennale newspaper, across the local area and through numerous art channels, the International Open Submission Art Exhibition was open to anyone. Over 30 people showed their artwork in an exhibition at our home in Balsall Heath. Whilst exhibitions in houses aren’t a particularly radical idea, our interest was less in the art, and more in what happens when you mix up different groups of people - our neighbours, local residents, people we had met through the project and an art audience. In a similar vein to the biennale talks programme, we tried with the International Open Submission Art Exhibition to get people into one another’s spaces.

We thought it would be interesting to open up our house to anyone, and we suspect some of our neighbours probably came in just to look at the house rather than the art. That said, the poster advertising FREE FOOD above the window may also have brought people in (the ‘David Sherry is in the House’ tagline also promoted many enquiries: who is this David Sherry?).
In the preceeding weeks, everything in the house was piled up into three rooms whilst the rest of the house/garden became an exhibition space. Over the course of the day and night about 150 people came. The evening featured performances by David Sherry (Painting Object and The History of Wrinkles in Art), a BAZ polytunnel bar in the back garden, the Biennale Balti served in the kitchen, henna tattoo’s (by ‘Tatty Chris’) and prizes awarded by a number of distinguished judges: Gavin Wade (Director of Eastside Projects), Sarah Shalgosky (Curator, Mead Gallery), Zoe Lippett (Curator, The New Art Gallery Walsall), Cheryl Jones (Director of Grand Union).

For us, the highlight of the night was a piece of work by local pensioner Brian Cleaver. He had spent four years building an enormous scale model of his sheltered housing complex from Bells whiskey box cardboard. We came across Brian during the consultation, via our local councillor, and we went to great lengths - hiring a van, roping in friends - to move his model from his sheltered housing complex into our house for the night. Brian won one of the four awards on offer - Zoe Lippett, curator at The New Art Gallery Walsall, awarding him The Zoe Lippett Award for Technical Tenacity.

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