Nottingham Contemporary – What is it?
Last week, we sent our marketing team to Nottingham Contemporary, which has been described in the past as “the most inspiring gallery in the UK” by The Guardian. Nottingham Contemporary opened its doors in 2009 and has welcomed two million people and presented over fifty exhibitions. The gallery has since become renowned for its learning programmes and innovative research as well as the building in which is resides being acknowledged as an architectural inspiration.
From the remnants of the Angel Row Gallery, which hosted 200+ exhibitions over sixteen years, Nottingham Contemporary was born. The iconic purpose-built venue was championed by the likes of Arts Council England, Nottingham City Council and other government funded departments.
What is on?
Meriem Bennani: Life on the CAPS
“Nottingham Contemporary presents Life on the CAPS, the New York-based Moroccan artist Meriem Bennani’s largest solo exhibition in the UK. Bennani’s acclaimed eight-channel video installation Party on the CAPS (2018–19) will be shown for the first time in the UK, alongside its newly commissioned sequel, Bennani’s most ambitious film to date.
Bennani’s films follow the inhabitants of a fictional island in the middle of the Atlantic. Over three generations, what started as an internment camp on the island of the CAPS has developed into a bustling, geographically-isolated megalopolis where refugees and immigrants – who ‘illegally’ teleport across oceans and borders – are held by the state. The sequel – a collaboration with musician and producer Fatima Al Qadiri – continues Bennani’s exploration of displacement and biotechnology. Themes of privacy, protest and public gathering emerge through playful animation, with Bennani offering joy and humour as forms of resistance.” – Nottingham Contemporary: Meriem Bennani.
What we thought
Although “sci-fi” based, it was interesting to see a concept of displacement based on the future, which is so easily transferrable to current times. With immigration and border patrol being at the forefront of the media in recent times, although the exhibition was created three years ago the statement is deafeningly apparent. Displacement of peoples from different cultures being left by the wayside is all too common and showing this from a futuristic perspective was nothing short of brilliant, with raw depictions of what living conditions could be like and the isolation from the rest of the world being paramount in both films really rang true of some areas of the current state of the world.
Both videos provided a raw and emotional journey and were insightful in many ways. Although the exhibition is no longer on display, we would highly recommend that anyone interested, review the exhibition when it becomes available in the “Record” section of Nottingham Contemporary’s website.
Assemble + Schools of Tomorrow: The Place We Imagine
“In 1968, the legendary Italian-Brazilian architect Lina Bo Bardi drew a fantastical playground. This colourful drawing imagines a series of vast structures in front of Museum of Art, São Paulo (MASP), which she had recently designed. They loom over the museum – as though imagined by children, rather than an architect. This was important for Bo Bardi, who wrote: “the young will be the protagonists in the life of the museum through design, music and theatre”.
This utopian play-space was, however, never built. Today, the unrealised design prompts the question: how might we reimagine galleries, play and education?
More than three years in the making, in summer 2022 Nottingham Contemporary will collaborate with the design collective Assemble to bring Bo Bardi’s vision to life. Inspired by the architect’s now-famous drawing, this ambitious project will realise a series of large-scale play sculptures, one of which was developed in dialogue with children from three local schools.
At each school Assemble worked closely with a resident artist and children over time to explore themes around play. Children’s actions, ideas and responses were at the heart of this conversation; Assemble have created a design for and by the city’s children. So, let’s go and play.
Assemble is a multi-disciplinary collective working across architecture, design and art. Founded in 2010, Assemble has developed a co-operative working method that enables built, social and research-based work at a variety of scales – both making things and making things happen. In 2015, they won the Turner Prize, the first architects to do so.
Lina Bo Bardi (1914–92) was a prolific Italian-born Brazilian modernist architect. She devoted herself to promoting the social and cultural potential of architecture and design. While studying under radical Italian architects, she quickly became intrigued with Brazilian vernacular design and how it could influence a modern Brazilian architecture.
Schools of Tomorrow is a 4-year learning and research programme funded by the Paul Hamlyn Foundation, which places artists in residence at eight local schools. Together, artists Gillian Brent, Laura Eldret, Peter Rumney, Sian W Taylor and Charlotte Tupper, alongside teachers, develop approaches to supporting creativity in and beyond the classroom through a process of action-led enquiry. Assemble linked with three of our partner schools to develop a play structure.” – Nottingham Contemporary - Assemble + Schools of Tomorrow: The Place We Imagine
What we thought
This exhibition at Nottingham Contemporary was exactly what you would expect from the description provided, with a simple child-like elegance on a grander scale the various installations varied from interactive and immersive experiences whereby you were encouraged to play on the big steps and the slide which had the feel of a playground that dated back to the 1990’s. The videos of children learning, exploring and playing together were realty inspirational and showed the raw emotion of how children react once given the freedom the express their own creativity.
The childlike messages on the walls such as “It’s not exact, experiment, explore” and The alphabet written in a childlike wonder. Gave the playground feel intended by the artist and the option to leave a hand-written note using colourful felt tip pens on sticky notes to post on the wall were a real homage to that of a junior school playground, complimenting the aforementioned wall art.
This was definitely an experience that could be enjoyed by all of the family and as with the above exhibition we recommend you keep your eye on the “Record” section of Nottingham Contemporary’s website for how everything was executed.
It is easy to see why Nottingham Contemporary is hailed as a beacon of inspiration, as the exhibitions provided were extremely juxtaposed but seemed to fit together perfectly. It is apparent that the curation is cleverly thought out and presented in a way that can shock and entice the mind whilst making you thirsty for more. If you’ve not been, you’re missing out for sure new exhibitions will be launching this week and we cannot wait to have a peek behind the creative curtain.
If you’re visiting Nottingham and need somewhere to stay, Mercure Nottingham City Centre is less than a five minute walk from Nottingham Contemporary and has a lovely selection of rooms and customisable amenities to choose from so you are able to curate your stay with us however suits you best.Book Now