Birmingham, West Midlands, UK

Self Portrait/s hosted by HFWAS

If you were wondering through Birmingham city centre on October 15th you may have been lucky enough to witness some public performance art. Not enough performance art is available out there in the public for everyone to enjoy but the Birmingham based live art collective 'Home For Waifs and Strays' are working hard to make performance art more available for all. Founders Kate Spence (who I have raved about before) and Aleks Wojtulewicz are no strangers to the performance art scene and have been pushing it's boundaries for some time now. They work very hard to create links for artists and keep art going.  To check out their latest events keep an eye on the website. 

HFWAS teamed together with Thomas John Bacon to put on a production that invited audiences to interact with a performance that explores the use of body as a subject and an object. This was all done through a very simple action. An open call was made to the public artist or not to come and be a part. The beauty of such a simple but expressive piece is that anyone could be a part of 'Self Portrait/s'.

This is not the first time this has been performed but HFWAS wanted to support the artist to bring his work to the public on a bigger scale. Adapted a little from the original to make more inclusive for all. HFWAS managed to swing an awesome space at Birmingham Cathedral (that's pigeon park to the Brummys among us). A great place to really get seen as many commute through this area every day.

The interesting part about this piece for me is it was interactive on two levels. There were several people
who were not in the actual piece but knew exactly what would be going on. All there for different reasons be it to steward or film but we got to see a very different side to the work than the general public I was really excited about this when Kate told me about it leading up and managed to swing it so that I could be in town with the excuse of taking a German exchange student to the new library to do some filming. I deliberately didn't tell Jana much of what would be going on so I would be able to get an honest reaction from her also. So when the time came I eagerly waited with others to see how Birmingham City Centre would take to this.

Several participants slowly filtered into the area. I had been told to look out for people dressed in black and white carry some luggage. One by one they dotted themselves around the outside of the cathedral all a good distance from each other so they would first be spotted on their own. Once everyone was in position the first person a young man in Dr Martin boots started to open his luggage. What was inside? A huge spiel of ribbon. Carefully looking straight ahead in silence he began to wrap the ribbon around his face. In another part of the square a girl started to open her case and start mummifying her face with the never ending black ribbon.

For me one of the most interesting parts of the performance was the public's reactions to what was happening. Some people laughed and took photos, some out right refused to acknowledge that something was happening in front of them and one even ran over to the police to tell them that people had gone crazy. I found it insightful that the reactions towards the participants differed for some of the people. In all i think Birmingham took to it very well and I hope a few people went away interested in seeing what art Birmingham has to offer or even better getting involved!

These lovely pictures were provided by Ray Spence.


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