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Culture: From humble abode to show home; Terry Grimley reports on a row of derelict houses that have become the setting for a powerful exhibition.

Byline: Terry Grimley

Following the exhibition Alchemy, staged in his own Handsworth house last summer, builder Dave Pollard and the Sozo Collective have attempted something a little more ambitious.

In Intervention, 60 artists, mainly local, are showing in a row of four Victorian houses awaiting imminent demolition. As Dave's catalogue introduction seems to acknowledge, some of the work on display is more so-so than Sozo, perhaps an inevitable consequence of an open-door policy.

It's a tricky one, because there is no doubt that one of the most interesting things about these two exhibitions is their positive impact on the local community.

This explains the enthusiastic support of the Midlands Area Housing Association, which owns the houses.

Would setting the artistic threshold higher necessarily be elitist? And would it undermine the sense of community spirit?

Those are issues, maybe, for future projects. But this one is definitely worth seeing, firstly for the general buzz it generates and secondly because the best individual exhibits are very good.

The star of the show is Pauline Bailey's Dark Matter, not so much a reconstruction as an evocation of the interior of a slave ship, rising gloomily through three storeys to a distant skylight through a forest of chains, fragments of steps, a mast-like pole and canvas. A soundtrack provides the moaning of the wind and, perhaps, the cargo.

It's both powerful and incongruous, and like Dave Pollard's own contribution, a waterfall dropping from top to bottom floor, its impact is all the greater because of its radical treatment of a formerly domestic environment. I also like the way, in Delanea Morrison's installation, a conventional English room 'morphs' into an mud hut.

For sheer style, you can't beat Herbert Walters' installation - a pure white room full of mainly black objects apparently just sent flying (I love the suspended desk lamp with the white flex snaking up from the power point to meet it in mid-air).

In even more more playful mode, Hunt Emerson's observatory is good fun. A small room has been painted all over with scenes from space, complete with abandoned supermarket trolley, dog-in-space and little green man (I'm imagining the colour - this is all in crisp black and white) in a flying saucer. Various telescopes are suspended in the room, including one which gives an actual view of the sky. The effect is like walking into Emerson's cartoon world - childlike and magical.

In Michelle Bint's Phobic Experience the viewer is invited to enter a small cupboard and view snowy interference on a television screen while listening to irritating electronic music. I did not notice the hot sweats or palpitations promised to those of a nervous disposition, but I did get a crick in my neck as the viewer is set a little low for anyone over six feet.

Other interesting exhibits include Ernie Hudson's paintings and inkjet prints, Alisha Miller's transformation of a rectangular room into a gaudy, wavy corridor and Julian Bull and Rob Brough's junkyard television set.

Jane White's photographs of Westminster Road record some of the architectural details which will be swept away with these houses next month. But one of the most poignant things I came across was a double-glazed skylight in one of the top floor rooms - evidence that someone was lavishing love and care on this home not so long ago.

Intervention continues until February 21, Mon-Fri 2pm-8pm, Sat, Sun 12 noon-8pm). A performance stage in the gardens is being launched on Friday evening. Admission free but donations are welcome.


Julian Bull's video installation 40 winks forms part of the Intervention exhibition
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:The Birmingham Post (England)
Date:Feb 7, 2002
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