Virtual time machine makes us back to the dawn of photography in Colmore BID!

Mike Mounfield
Projects Manager

In 1880 an article published in a local newspaper boldly claimed that “If Birmingham cannot claim to have originated photography, she is at least entitled the merit of having assisted at its birth.” This summer CBD is supporting two innovative exhibitions which explore key moments at the dawn of photography in Birmingham.

Internationally acclaimed artist, Mat Collishaw brings his pioneering virtual reality artwork Thresholds to Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery. Thresholds recreates one of the earliest exhibitions of photography in England in a fully immersive experience that will include sight, sound and touch. The exhibition, is a digital evocation of William Henry Fox Talbot’s display of Photogenic Drawings in 1839 presented at King Edward’s School, New Street in August 1839 as part of an extraordinary exhibition of ‘Manufactures, Inventions, Models and Philosophical Instruments’ which celebrated cutting edge technological innovation. Wearing VR headsets, visitors will be able to walk through a digital reconstruction of the room in which the 1839 exhibition took place and share the sense of the wonder, awe and disquiet experienced by their Victorian predecessors who seeing photographic transcriptions of the world for the very first time.

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In a companion and complimentary exhibition, A White House in Paradise Street, Jo Gane combines historical and contemporary techniques to present new work responding to historical claims that the Birmingham patent agent, George Shaw, made an image of a white house in paradise street in late August or early September 1839. These claims suggest the image – now lost – was the first photographic image made in Birmingham and potentially the first daguerreotype made in England. Gane extends the latent possibilities of this missing image by placing small ‘Time Machines’ around the city in locations relevant to key moments and events in the early history of photography in Birmingham. These devices resemble the historic Wolcott daguerreotype camera yet are powered by Raspberry Pi’s giving them the capability to live stream images that are not fixed photographically from within the camera. They mine the contemporary landscape to make visible the history of the city’s role as the midwife to the birth of photography in the early 19th Century. Gane has also made a series of new Daguerreotypes which render fragments of what may have been visible on Shaw’s original Daguerreotype plate into focus within this new digital landscape inspired by fragments of the past.

Jo Gane Time Machine

The two exhibitions will be accompanied by Developed in Birmingham, a programme of talks, workshops and activities in venues across the city centre made possible by funding from Arts Council England’s Grants for the Arts www.developedinbirmingham.com

Thresholds, Water Hall, Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery, 24th June – 4th August 2017. Thresholds is a ticketed event and details of how to get tickets will be available via the BMAG website. www.birminghammuseums.org.uk/bmag

A White House in Paradise Street, BOM (Birmingham Open Media), 1 Dudley Street Birmingham, B5 4EG Dudley Street, 17th June – 2nd September 2017. http://www.bom.org.uk/

Thresholds is supported by Colmore Business District, Birmingham City University, Birmingham Open Media, King Edward’s School, The Schools of King Edward’s, an Art Fund Jonathan Ruffer Curatorial Grant, Somerset House, and Photo London, in collaboration with Blain|Southern and the exhibition’s touring partners.

A White House in Paradise Street is supported by Colmore BID and has been made possible by funding from Arts Council England’s Grants for the Arts.

Tickets can be booked here.