At Brindleyplace in the heart of Birmingham, you can find the Ikon gallery and inside, currently, you can enjoy the hustle and bustle of a city peacefully through the lens of Beat Streuli, the acclaimed Swiss artist and photographer.
This exhibition further enhances the relationship between the Ikon gallery, funded by Arts Council England and Birmingham City Council, and Streuli. His recent work entitled ‘New Street’, from the summer of 2012, consumes the walls of the gallery. It represents the physical street in the heart of Birmingham, but also the street ‘which is always the same, but at the same time always new’. On a basic level Streuli’s photography, video and digital projections depict flashes of life in the city; however, his work also reflects the realities of the tough economy affecting cities across the world, and captures human nature in inconspicuous environments.
His work is awe inspiring, reflecting the natural cosmopolitan mix of inner cities which finds a perfect location in Birmingham’s global culture. The first floor of the gallery is overwhelmed by wall covering photography of captured moments in time; one woman waiting at a bus stop listening to music; two people exchanging money; and a family on the way to the shops. Streuli’s photography constantly inspires the viewer to want to know more and ask further questions such as, what is that women contemplating at that moment in time? This is what makes his art so sensitive and thought provoking. It is like an unfinished sentence.
Making your way to the second floor, you encounter the video and digital projections capturing natural moments in cities such as Sydney, Brussels, New York, São Paulo, Guangzhou and Cape Town. Streuli uses video to make his images as three-dimensional as possible, so the viewer can appreciate the depth of life that is going on around them. For me this did not enhance the photography I had seen, however one looped video of a bustling street inspired my inquisitive nature to ask, where were each of those people going in such a hurry?
What is particularly individual about his work is its simplicity. Streuli is inspired by natural human curiosity. You don’t feel watched in the hustle and bustle going on around you, but his telephoto lens can capture up close and personal images without his subjects knowledge. He works in an automatic way, not searching for the right moment to fit the story he wants to tell, but finding the beauty in the random, thoughtful lives of the ordinary person.
One particular photo really stood out to me. A woman is perfectly primed with perfect nails and hair, although has one button undone, and is being given money by a man on her left. I want to ask what is the money for, who is this man, what does the woman do? A main theme across Streuli’s photos is social discourse; there is a child with a water gun, two young boys eyeing each other up questionably. There is more to his work than the two-dimensional surface of his photographs. His work is a ‘mechanical reproduction of reality’ itself.
For anyone wishing for a few hours of intellectual stimulation inside a beautiful venue, Streuli’s exhibition is a must see. The exhibition finishes 3rd February 2013.