Curzon Street GPS traces at Re:Call

The 3 composite GPS ‘fingerprints’ I have so far made from repeatedly walking around one of Birmingham’s ‘Eastside’ regeneration areas (the smaller, AWM one) have recently been exhibited as part of Re:Call at Bournville School for the Visual Arts.

Qualitative and Quantitative Data, 2011a (After the multistorey car park had been built, but before the roads had been closed.)

Re:Call is a rolling exhibition of work by graduates from the BA and Foundation courses that have been based at the site.

Re:Call in turn is part of ‘Art has left the building‘, a multi-strand project curated by Amanda Grist to commemorate and celebrate Bournville School of Art in the lead-up to its closure in July 2013.

Whilst the Re:Call exhibitions have mostly been aimed towards the Bournville community, on Wednesday March 20th there will be a public closing party at Ruskin Hall – all are welcome to attend.

3 – 6:20pm, Ruskin Hall, Bournville Centre for the Visual Arts [map]

The event also doubles as part of the fundraising activities for this year’s graduating students – this means there will be drinks and cake available to buy!

For future reference

Each time I do one of my circuits of one of the Eastsides, I think to myself I should really make a return visit with a camera and properly document the area.

Then I think to myself: I am documenting the area.

Then I think to myself: yes, but some photos would be nice.

Then I think to myself: it’s too much for one person to do; too much for one person to take responsibility for.

Then I think to myself: but if I don’t do it, nobody else will.

Then I think to myself: you’re not going to get paid for it and you can’t afford the time.

ad infinitum

This evening I went to suss out what’s happening with all the recent road closures and I ended up taking some snaps.

Right now they look like a batch of slightly dull images of a non-landscape.

In ten years’ time they’ll be a crutch for our fading memories of what it was like when Curzon Street was here. (Assuming the plans to re-route Curzon Street alongside the railway lines are still going ahead.)

Panorama along Curzon Street showing its original location (click for full size).

Panoramic view from the canal bridge opposite the Lock Keeper's Cottage (click for full size).

I remember when all this was fields. Kinda. View from near the junction of Fazeley Street and New Canal Street (click for full size).

Recursive loops

Current view of Millennium Point forecourt and Curzon Street. According to the ginormo balloon thing in the atrium, MP is now 10 years old, so that's an impressive collection of scars on the carpark already. Looks like road closures in the lead up to carpark becoming City Park start next week.

Other kings said I was daft to build a castle on a swamp, but I built it all the same, just to show ’em! It sank into the swamp, so I built a second one. That sank into the swamp. So I built a third one. That burned down, fell over, and then it sank into the swamp. But the fourth one stayed up! And that’s what you’re going to get, lad – the strongest castle in these isles…

19,264 seconds of qualitative and quantitative data (Curzon Street, 2010)

What started as an exploration into my relationship as an artist to a proposed cultural quarter has expanded to also include a significant amount of sustained investigation into witnessing and documenting the change in that urban landscape.

Last year my focus was on the perimeter of Birmingham City Council’s regeneration area. Since walking and gathering the GPS data for Uncertain Eastside and organising the Walk and Talk event (in which we gathered lots of visual and anecdotal data) I’ve been increasingly aware of buildings going up and coming down in the area around Curzon Street and Millennium Point.

The Google Earth view of the area (with imagery that seems to be from 2007) is already drastically out of date, but it gives a rough idea about the range of contrasting terrain there now.

As well as spending hours walking all the streets in the zone I’ve selected, concentrating on paying attention to the details of the spaces, I’ve been collecting and processing GPS data to use as a measure of how developed the streets are. I will repeat this over the years to come as a way of logging the changes taking place on both macro and micro scales.

Google Earth view of the area I've been investigating

Google Earth view of the area I've been investigating

At the bottom left of the image above there is a relatively green area: old factory plots that have now turned to grassy wastelands and the park on the corner at the top of Fazeley Street.

Bartholomew Street, now closed to traffic and without any buildings around it. The bottom right corner shows where my path passes under the railway arches at the corner of Fazeley and New Canal Streets

Bartholomew Street, now closed to traffic and without any buildings around it. The bottom right corner shows where my path passes under the railway arches at the corner of Fazeley and New Canal Streets

Here the GPS data is fairly consistent. Water-heavy buddleia bushes overhanging the pavements on closed roads induce a few wobbles and railway viaducts cause momentary loss of signal, but on the whole the open terrain doesn’t interfere much with calculations of position.

Contrast this with the data gathered from around the various Further and Higher Education buildings on and around Fox Street and Grosvenor Street.

Tall buildings closely packed together reflect and block the satellite signal, causing the GPS calculations for position to be very inaccurate.

Tall buildings closely packed together reflect and block the satellite signal, causing the GPS calculations for position to be very inaccurate.

At one point one of the GPS devices calculated I simultaneously had one hand next to the halls of residence and the other on Digbeth high street opposite the coach station! (About 800 metres away.)

If even a small proportion of any of the various plans for Eastside are realised we look set to get more lines like this in the future.

I’ve come to refer to those two areas respectively as the Green Zone and the Learning Zone. The third zone in the area is the Rubble Zone – the plots between Millennium Point and the ring road that have been razed with the exception of 3 buildings: Belmont Row Co-op works, the lock keeper’s cottage and the Moby Dick’s pub.

From left to right: Cardigan Street, Gopsal Street, Penn Street and a tiny piece of Belmont Row. Currently mostly rubble.

From left to right: Cardigan Street, Gopsal Street, Penn Street and a tiny piece of Belmont Row. Currently mostly rubble.

The presence of all three of these buildings can be seen to affect the GPS traces. The image above hints at Moby Dick’s on Gopsal Street. For now the lines are uniformly short, but stand by for Eastside Locks. [link to pdf of proposed developments]

So there we have it: a snapshot of a part of Birmingham before it changes beyond recognition. Quantitative data gathered over several hours of walking a set pattern of streets whilst paying attention to the details, the changes and the people – I’ll tell you about it on a walk or in a pub sometime. Qualitative data in the form of 19, 264 lines that speak volumes if you know how to listen – probably a limited edition print coming soon.

19,264 seconds of qualitative and quantitative data (Curzon Street, 2010)

19,264 seconds of qualitative and quantitative data (Curzon Street, 2010)

Curby opportunity

Having grown up in an area slightly lacking in the way of side streets, when Mark used a description of Curby as a teaching aid I was pretty much baffled. What was this strange game?

Having come across Curby/Kerby/Kirby a few times since then, I’m now prepared to concede that it is an actual real life childhood past time.

In fact, I quite fancy trying it.

Banbury Street

Banbury Street

Bartholomew Street

Bartholomew Street

For the last three days I’ve been walking around the grid of streets around the Curzon Street area collecting data for a new piece of work. This walk took me along Banbury and Bartholomew Streets (pictured above).

As you can see, both are currently closed to traffic.

As I was walking past yesterday morning, a crane was lifting yet more of the concrete blocks into position at the lower end of Banbury Street. I’ve no idea what the plans are for these two roads or the grassland next to them, but I’ve felt a fondness for them since w i d e o p e n s p a c e [video] and would like to gather people there at least one more time before the diggers move in and we lose this little oasis.

Would anyone care to join me for a game of Curby?

The rain eased.

Google Earth view of the first 3 circuits of the area around Curzon Street

Google Earth view of the first 3 circuits of the area around Curzon Street

Poised. Waiting for the rain to ease.

route

blast redux

If only I could describe to you what it smelled like.



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