Artist Chris Poolman tells Lorne Jackson about the unorthodox inspiration behind his latest project.
It’s hard to believe that there can be many cutting edge artists sofa-slumping at home, dinner on lap, glazed-eyed over the goggle box.
Most creative types probably don’t even own a television set.
Unless it happens to be one purchased solely for the purpose of being adapted into a witty art installation.
A TV, after all, merely clogs up the studio, diverting the busy artist from more profound ponderings.
However, Chris Poolman – one half of Birmingham art duo, BAZ – not only has access to a TV. He watches it, too.
And that doesn’t just mean tuning into intellectually stimulating and spiritually uplifting documentaries about Marcel Duchamp on BBC 4.
Poolman enjoys Take Me Out, the schlocky ITV dating show.
For all those Birmingham Post readers who have avoided this televisual treat – and why wouldn’t you? – imagine something along the lines of Cilla Black’s Blind Date.
Minus the gravitas.
Hosted by Paddy (cheesy as a chomp of Cheddar) McGuinness, Take Me Out is a dire dating show, populated by desperate damsels and moronic men.
“That’s certainly a fair enough description of what the show’s about,” grins Poolman. “Though I’m not embarrassed to admit that I really do enjoy it.”
Not only is he a fan.
The trashy show has inspired him, and his BAZ partner, Matt Westbrook, to create a new piece of work.
Titled Curate Me Out, it’s an artistic twist on the dating concept, and will be presented as part of The Event visual art festival, taking place in Digbeth later this month.
Does this mean Poolman and Westbrook are playing cupid?
In a way.
“We will be trying to set up new and interesting relationships, though not really the kind you get on Take Me Out, or Blind Date, for that matter,” says Poolman.
“Instead, what we’re hoping to do is build lasting and fruitful relationships between artists and curators. Though we’ll be doing it using a jokey format.
“We’ll have a compere for the evening, and three artists will be hidden behind a screen. On the other side of the screen will be curators. Then we’ll have three rounds, with the curators able to ask the artists different questions.
“Those questions will focus on various different creative scenarios, and how the artist would react to each situation.
“Hopefully, by the end of the evening, there will be quite a few curators in new working relationships with artists.
“It’s our way of encouraging people to come together and find new ways of inspiring each other.”
Curate Me Out takes place at Digbeth’s Lamp Tavern on October 29, and is one of three events BAZ are exhibiting at The Event festival.
Each work focuses on love, in its many forms.
Another projects is titled Mills & Koons. (The name is a combination of Mills & Boon, publisher of romantic fiction, and Jeff Koons, infamous American artist and king of kitsch.)
It involves BAZ self-publishing a saucy book, loaded with gossip connected to the Birmingham art world.
“We’re going to produce about 300 copies, which will be freely available in the White Swap pub in Digbeth,” says Poolman.
Won’t local artists be outraged if they are included in this racy tome?
“The book just about steers clear of being libelous,” chuckles Poolman. “Honestly, it’s really not that bad. What we’ve done is kind of mythologised the art world of Birmingham.
“In some ways its quite an insular sort of book, though that’s part of the joke of it.
“Hopefully there are things in it that people will still find funny, even if they aren’t part of the local art crowd. We’re also trying to make it interesting and understandable for people coming from outside of the art bubble.”
The final project BAZ have devised for the festival is Love in the Snug, also at The White Swan.
This involves Poolman and Westbrook offering relationship advice from their base in the pub’s snug. The snug, meanwhile, will be fitted out with a lover’s library and other love-related items.
Once again, the concept has a distinctive spin.
“We’re going to be giving advice to artists who are in relationships with other artists,” explains Poolman, who is himself seeing a fellow Birmingham artist.
He admits this is the norm within the local creative community. But is it advisable for artists to date each other?
“I think it probably helps,” says Poolman. “When you go out with someone who isn’t an artist, it can be quite hard for them. You’ll be getting caught up in the whole scene, and they might feel excluded from your life. I suppose everyone is caught up in their own special-interest world, to some extent or another. In the best-case scenario, you could say that an artist couple have a passion for their work and each other.”
* BAZ’s shows at The Event will be taking place from October 21–30. For more information on The Event go to www.the_event.org
Event takes place every two years
The Event, which runs from Oct 21–30, is organised by Birmingham Contemporary Art Forum and takes place every two years across a range of galleries, artist-led spaces and venues in Digbeth.
Amongst the contributing artists are Sian Tonkin and Kaye Winwood, who call themselves Companis, and will be presenting Guerrilla Gastronomy. In this work, the duo will tempt visitors to Coventry Street’s Eastside Cafe, where they will present a ‘selection of secret meals’.
Other artists exhibiting include Ben Rowe, who has re-recreated machines and props from 1980s sci-fi movies, including the ‘flux-capacitor’ from Back To The Future, and gadgets from Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure.
Meanwhile, Jamie Jackson will be projecting the story of the first train travellers from Birmingham to London onto the exterior of the historic Curzon Street Station.
* For more information about these and other works www.the–event.org