Two phrases spring to mind when you step through the narrow entrance of a sky blue door leading to the cavernous space deep inside one of Birmingham’s lasting Victorian monuments to the city’s ingenuity.

One is that if you want a good job doing, do it yourself and the other is time is of the essence.

This weekend, a railway arch beneath the line into Moor Street station will host a series of art works by second year Fine Art students at the Margaret Street School of Art.

Even though they are under the umbrella of the Birmingham Institute of Art and Design and its parent, Birmingham City University, the students exhibiting have already realised that in order to progress in their chosen field they need to practice making mistakes.

Finding out what it takes to put on a show, to hire a projector (a quote of £400 for four days sounds ridiculous in the age of eBay) and to generally stand up to be counted.

There’s laudable ambition, too.

The show’s creative director Antonio Fernandez said: “I did an HND at the University of Glasgow in a city perceived to be second only to London for art.

“I think it’s overrated, so we want to help Birmingham to become number two.”

“Why not number one?” says Fred Hubble, another curator whose own work will be called On the Matter of Mountains Melting and Falling into the Sea.

The pair agree. Why not number one?

The exhibition will be in a space leased from Network Rail by a not-for-profit group.

Like rock band Paradise Circus, who use a similar lock-up near to the Jewellery Quarter, it seems like an exciting den-like facility in which to experiment.

 

Over in the corner, 6ft 2in dancer Rebecca Homer is attaching black and white digital self-portraits to the wall.

“My work is all about restricting the body and playing with dance movements,” she says.

In a nearby alcove, the group’s social media activist David Poole has set up a fractured window frame piece, using a projector to send images through it.

“It’s called Sculptural Screen and uses some Buster Keaton films,” he says. “It’s all about breaking down the narrative to see whether you can make something funny, serious or tragic.”

The most unsettling exhibit is set to be Lost Youth by 27-year-old Nikki Whittingham.

“I’ve never done anything this personal before,” she says.

“It includes the only 30 known photographs of me as a child up to the age of four or five.

“I can’t remember any of them being taken. I only remember the times when photographs were not taken.”

Her father left the original Gulf War with post traumatic stress and she says her childhood was ‘‘turbulent’’.

“I haven’t seen him for some years since my grandfather’s funeral,” says Nikki.

Her idea is to try to interpret The Mirror Stage, a concept by French psychoanalyst Jacques Lacan.

“It’s all about how what happens in your childhood sets you up for life all the way into adulthood,’’ she says. “I had counselling and it didn’t really help compared with exploring my childhood through my art.”

* The Passage Contemporary Art Exhibition is at The Arches Project, Adderley Street, Digbeth, from May 23-28, open 1.30pm-7.30pm. Details: www.thearchesproject.org or 0121 772 0852.