As the sun set over the roof of The University of Birmingham’s Arts building, the night lit up. A projector on the top floor shone a vibrant array of colour and movement onto the red-brick wall of the Watson building opposite. Eyes from around campus were drawn to the large screen, not unlike an outdoor cinema – albeit sans seats.
‘Illuminate’ was staged as part of the University’s 2013 Arts and Science Festival by a collaboration of filmmakers, architects and artists. The screening looped a 45-minute sequence of short films, animations and projected images of works from the Barber Institute collection. Despite the cold wind a committed scattering of people observed the repertoire, and a number of interested remarks were given by passers-by.
There was a quirky mix of artwork ranging from sketched graphics and plasticine animations to snippets of some of the films to be shown during the 2013 Flatpack film festival. Among the paintings displayed from the Barber Institute collection was Derain’s ‘A portrait of Bartolomeo Savona’, which lit up magnificently, if only briefly, on the large screen. One of the artists present said that the red-brick wall of the Watson building leant itself well as a backdrop to the projections and added a certain texture to the images, which was attractive and interesting.
Another exhibit displayed was the proposed design for the University’s new library, due to be constructed by 2015, from Associated Architects, Arup, Couch Perry Wilkes, and Sweet Group. With an extensive glass facade interspersed with grey brick columns, the building’s aim is to provide a bright and atmospheric environment in which students can work. The design will also claim to reduce the structure’s energy consumption by up to 50%, helping the university to reach its CO2 targets by 2020. However to more ‘olde-worlde’ inclined students such as myself, who were drawn to the UoB’s rustic red-brick architecture, the new look in the centre of campus may seem like a slight affront to the listed, historic appearance of its neighbours. Needless to say, it remains a CGI prototype for now.
Being no artist, nor professor of film, many of the displays were alien to me. Regardless of this, the night was a pleasant chance to watch people’s work exhibited publicly and generously. The atmosphere was friendly and warm and spoke of exciting things to come in both Flatpack film festival and the University’s modernisation of the main library. If ‘Illuminate’ happens again, I heartily recommend taking a look at what the local community has to offer in character, charm and cultural diversity.