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CULTURE: Georgiou's Midlandscape; Digital artist Darryl Georgiou is helping to put the West Midlands at the forefront of innovative public art, writes.

Byline: Terry Grimley

When Monica Ali's Bookershortlisted novel Brick Lane was published in America in June, the redesigned cover showed mannequins in a sari shop on Birmingham's Soho Road, rather than the London street.

It was one of a number of interesting commissions which made 2004 a highly successful year for versatile Birmingham artist and designer Darryl Georgiou. Several other book covers included one for the French edition of a John Grisham thriller.

A larger Georgiou project was a design for a collapsible outdoor projection system as part of an entry by noted architects Patel Taylor in a competition to revamp Nottingham's Market Square. Though ultimately unsuccessful, the proposal made the final three of more than 100 entries and was the runaway popular choice in a BBC poll, collecting 31 per cent of votes.

In Finland Georgiou demonstrated the Fog project - an ethereal vapour screen on to which images can be projected - which he is developing at Coventry University, where he leads an MA course in digital media.

He is also a consultant for two major cultural developments in the West Midlands - The Public in West Bromwich and the redevelopment of MAC. He first worked with MAC's architects, Branson Coates, on their ill-fated National Centre for Popular Music in Sheffield, where his light installations have survived the building's takeover by Hallam University.

Raised in Handsworth and a dedicated Aston Villa fan, Georgiou was somewhat embarrassed to find himself part of Newcastle's rival bid for European Capital of Culture a couple of years ago. For a time it seemed that Georgiou, whose past clients have ranged from Marie Claire to the British Army, was finding work anywhere but in his native city.

But he says: 'A lot of my focus over the last year has been around the Midlands, and I want to be as positive as I can.

'I want my students to think there's a career for them here rather than in New York, Austria - where we go to the Ars Electronica festival - or London. I don't want there to be a drain brain and I think there has been in the past.

'One thing I've found is that you can be based in the West Midlands. I can't be too Birmingham-centric because my work is in Coventry, but I see Birmingham, Coventry, West Bromwich as a conurbation like Los Angeles: it's much stronger when you think about it as a region. Within a 20-mile radius you have incredible riches and I think sometimes we forget that.

'I can say this categorically, having worked in every major European and UK city in the last nine years. But we're not very good at telling people we're good, not very good at projecting or getting our success out there.'

With Birmingham International Airport supplemented by Coventry's budget flights the West Midlands is more closely integrated than ever with Europe. At Coventry Giorgiou has organised exchanges with sister cities including Dresden, Ostrava and St Petersburg, and he says he would like to extend them to Birmingham.

'Once you've done one thing in a country your name gets around and it's very easy to pull other things off. And when you're talking to people in Dresden and St Petersburg they can't wait to get over here.' Georgiou lives in Kings Heath with his partner Laura and nine year-old son Joe. Since Joe was born he has been running a project called Decade, collecting ten seconds of video footage each day. The only day he has missed so far is the day his father died.

All this footage will eventually form an interactive epic.

'The reason why people will be interested in Decade is it's what happens to all of us. It's a very simple project, but its implications are quite complex. You will be able to watch ten years in a few seconds or a few minutes. You will be able to search for themes such as journeys or grey days.'

Georgiou defines his central interest as 'interactivity and public art in the context of architecture.'

He adds: 'It's about making buildings feel comfortable, whether through art, information or communication. I'm all for next-generation architecture, but it can be quite challenging.'

The Fog project is something he would like to make work in a public space.

'The more beautiful and ephemeral something is, the more likely it is that it won't last for a long time. I'm not sure how long this could last. What would be really beautiful would be to think of being somewhere on a still summer's night, surrounded by vapour and having projections from the outside: it would be like being behind a waterfall.'

CAPTION(S):

The Brick Lane cover; Darryl Georgiou demonstrates his Fog project at the Museum of Vapriikki, Tampere, Finland; The shortlised Patel Taylor proposal for Nottingham's Market Square, featuring Georgiou's projection design
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:The Birmingham Post (England)
Date:Jan 6, 2005
Words:807
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