Cunning plots and dynamic duos as Allotment and Playmakers projects entertain the Mac

By Ben Miller | 30 August 2012
A photo of a group of people looking at a wall covered in paper in a contemporary gallery
Allotment takes ten plots to the Arena Gallery© Charlie Levine
Installation Previews: Allotment; The Playmakers, Mac Birmingham, Birmingham, until September 9 2012

Plots are afoot at the mac – ten of them, in total, have opened in the central Arena Gallery, tending to the floor during a series of cycles adding new incumbents ever week, from children’s art project Moonbeams and works by mac staff to fresh ideas by students of university Curating courses.

The final two have just arrived: Helen Foot is a textile designer, curator, Royal College of Arts graduate and design company owner from Shropshire, and her plot, naturally, incorporates colour, contemporary style, comedy and a keen eye for detail.

A photo of a series of life-sized marionettes inside a gallery including a man and a swan
Puppets of John English and Mollie Randle, who founded the mac in 1962, have been made by The Playmakers© Anthea Bevan
Dialogue, in Plot 10, is a decidedly more Gallic stomping ground. Artists from Bordeaux have spent four years exchanging ideas with a group of their peers from the West Midlands, their two-way conversation reflected in the name of their patch.

Their inclusion is notable for its exoticism amid a distinctly Brummie complex, with eight of the plots assigned to Birmingham-based occupants. They include Trove, whose tailor-made cabinets are full of curious objects, and Dan Auluk, who makes continuous line drawings while blindfolded, basing them on his daily walk to the space.

If Allotment has a revolving feel, The Playmakers have been more of a constant at mac this summer.

Tokyo-based husband and wife Chishino Kurumada and Takashi Tsuchiya – known as Kosuge1-16 – have been appointed artists-in-residence, with a specific remit to celebrate the venue’s 50th anniversary.

The playful duo are accompanied by their two young children, using new materials, experiencing life in the city, meeting local people and building on their own practice, which is often concerned with large-scale sculptures inspired by pockets of communities.

Kosuge is an old part of a Japanese suburb enamoured with “give and take” relationships, also known as mochitsu motaretsu.

The pair say their own symbiosis has made their lives “richer and more delightful”, forging a desire to express that joy through their art. And their colourful artworks here are dedicated to another couple, John English and Mollie Randle, who founded mac back in 1962.

Life-size marionettes, slides and bridges sit beneath animals and birds hovering in the sky, with visitors positively encouraged to participate in mutually beneficial "compulsory situations".

Intended as a microcosm of the city, this also seems like a testimony to the potential perks of vow-taking.

  • Open 12pm-8pm (11am-4pm Sunday, closed Monday). Admission free. Follow Allotment on Tumblr and Twitter.

More pictures:

A photo of a group of people standing inside a dimly lit contemporary art gallery
Dan Auluk's blindfolded line drawing© Charlie Levine
A photo of a group of children and people pulling strings on marionettes inside a gallery
The Playmakers aim to create a magical environment with no rules© Anthea Bevan
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