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3 December 2011

Grand Union, Birmingham

www.grand-union.org.uk

Open File’s third event at Grand Union took the form of a weekend walk from the gallery on the bank of the River Rea, along the Grand Union canal to St Philip’s Cathedral in the centre of Birmingham.

At 2.30pm we set off from Grand Union for a walk in and around ‘Old Birmingham’ with artists Dallas Simpson and Matt Westbrook. The walk lasted for around 2 hours.

“Old Birmingham is an examination of Birmingham as a city in a state of perpetual ‘progressive’ redesign, with reference to Robert Smithson’s notion of Site and Non-Site.

St.Philip’s Cathedral (completed in 1725) was built on one of the highest points in the area and would dominate the expanding industrial Birmingham skyline for years to come. Now no longer clearly visible, the walk will ascend the incline by following the gradual slope of the Grand Union and Digbeth Branch canals that encircle the eastern side of the city.

With the route travelling through the Gun, Jewellery and the recently mooted Museum Quarter, glimpses of the cathedral will be sought and used to frame discussions on the area’s recent and historical past.”

— Matt Westbrook, December 2011

An accompanying visual essay helped guide conversation about the future use of the area, whilst Dallas Simpson’s binaural recording captured a mixture of discussion and incidental ambient sound for inclusion in the Open File archive.


Binaural recording of Matt Westbrook’s talk, by Dallas Simpson. Headphones are essential for listening.

Both artists provided content for our Grand Union publication.