Birds Nest to Brum - from rapid change to rapid change

Birmingham is the first city in the world outside Beijing to host a groundbreaking contemporary art and architecture exhibition 'Beijing Map Games' and is the only UK city to host the exhibition. The exhibition opens Saturday 18th October and runs until January 4th 2009 in the Gas Hall of Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery.

The exhibition covers Chinese and international artists and architects explorations of the changes and past, present and future of Beijing. Rosario Scarpato, one of the Italian curators of the exhibition explains that:

'The subtitle of the exhibition is Dynamics Of Change In Beijing. We didn't want to merely look at the external changes in the buildings and streets, but also explore how those changes impact on people physically and psychologically'
A tale of new cities.

It is fitting that Birmingham is the second venue for the exhibition after Beijing with Birmingham sharing the experience of sweeping redevelopment. The wholesale redevelopment of Birmingham in the 1960s has many similarities with the large-scale demolition and rebuilding that the Chinese capital has seen recently.

'This kind of rapid change does make a city's landscape completely different, and that can be both exciting and alienating for people'.

Chen Shaoxiong’s oil painting of the Bird’s Nest stadium in Beijing. Reproduced from

The exhibition appropriately enables the viewer to engage in rethinking the identity of Beijing and Birmingham itself, questioning the interference between private and public space, self and architectural language and its icons.

An interesting aspect is the acute observation of the city space when it stages itself as a theatrical setting and reveals the surreal aspects of existence. A deserted space with a floor covered with concrete also defines Yin Xiuzhen’s “Map”. This ‘map’ made of void and cement conveys a universal feeling of desolation associated not only with Beijing but also with all other urban wastelands scattered over the planet.

This participation is part of some of the artists work, inviting the viewer to participate in the game and interact with the work.

Sat Oct 18 to Jan 4, Gas Hall, Birmingham Museums & Art Gallery, Chamberlain Square, Birmingham. Mon to Thu and Sat 10am to 5pm; Fri 10.30am to 5pm; Sun 12.30pm to 5pm, free. Tel: 0121 303 2834.

After the exhibition has finished in Birmingham it will tour to the Terni Centre for Contemporary Art opificio Siri (CAoS, Italy) in February 2009.


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