We walk circuits and circuits around the city, looking for signs of a national park. It is -1 degrees C, the sun glares with no bite: a distant, angry planet.  We take 5-minute warmth breaks in the Belgrade Theatre toilets. We look out for signs of the natural, banging our hands together, seeing limestone cliffs in the scaly exteriors of student accommodations. We shake our heads, move on. We stop at the Tourist Information Office by the Cathedral, another warmth shelter. We flip through leaflets for car museums, hiding amongst real tourists, who ask questions like “Can you call us a hotel? £50 a night?” and “when is the train station?” Each time, they tear us off a map of the city from a big pad.

Wildness feels around the edges of the city, with hands. The concrete glitters like hardcore diamonds under the ice. We follow the river out of the back of Spon End. It ends in slush and thick mud and dead household objects, and disappears. Buddleia are suddenly everywhere, bobbing their heads above boarded off wastelands, sticking out the sides of pubs and car parks.




Slowly, a route emerges.



A natural history walking tour of Coventry.



Out of City Arcadia, round to the Belgrade Plaza wasteland, up in the glass lift to the top floor of the multi-storey carpark, which seems to float in cold cloud. This will be our hub, our visitor centre, panoramic outlook, nature wintered to brown all around the ring road. Across the plains to the north we can bring in deep time, somehow, we’re not quite sure how. Down again, round to the cathedral past some Old Red Sandstone, Lady Godiva’s news, the BBC, a noodle shop. Over and across the excavations, to the cathedral, then out again, across the big square, to Primark and the underground cavern, then round the back of KFC to the exposed metre of river. We pick our way through some construction work to its edge, flowing fast, healthily, through a brick culvert. A man drilling stops. “You didn’t know there was a river here, did you.”



CVNTRTN – How To Dream A City

A blog by Adam Steineradam s1

After watching me spend two weeks standing strips of plastic flooring into columns, photographing the shadow of a leaf and holding-up a tape-measure to numerous tall buildings, a friend asked me what my Artspace R&D project, CVNTRTN, is about.

I started with the a proposed method, capturing sound and making it physical – REIFICATION – turning something abstract, yet physical into a thing, that is, a concrete object or fixed idea.

When making posters to promote a series of poetry gigs in Coventry, called Fire & Dust, I found that I could corrupt basic images to become “fire pictures” blurred, dark and over-contrasted images, using the most basic picture editing software (I don’t know how to use Photoshop).

This idea was developed further and more literally, when a few months later I made a small zine of poetry and quite abstract shapes, resembling trees and figures forming indistinct wandering forests, jostling in a depth of field to find their place – painted in coffee – of course.
adam s2

As an experiment, I took one of the printed images and photocopied the same image over the top of it, this created a blurred, “burndt” ink effect, I then fed this print through the copier again, this time with a different image. Instead of radically altering the original image, the re-printing gave it natural depth, built on top of it new formulations of colour and shape were embedded, like a street scene you could see everything at once, a total “something else” stepped-out so nothing was altogether background, not entirely present or absent.


Applying this to the methodology of reification, I thought about “mis-using” the system and coupling it with replication, layering sound(s) into a single track, then converting this data into a 3D print file, collided with 2D images and producing a solid instantiation that might better represent the buildings and their whole environment than the actual buildings, going beneath the surface to reveal hidden layers and perhaps find new meaning in that.

For the past 20 years or so, modern art is preoccupied with concept, with an artist less-so an artisan, (this is not necessarily a bad thing, it is, at least, a sincere sign of the times) and there is also liberation in not knowing entirely what one is doing. I have simply applied concepts – most of them from Walter Benjamin – to what I had already attempted as a continued experiment – if art is anything, surely it should be an acid-test for new ways of seeing in the same old waters?

For me this can be bound up in concepts of language, learning/un-learning by way of the French, faire, which is a mixed-up word translating variously as “do” and/or “make”, bringing to mind the British phrase “to make-do” – to settle – which is actually more laissez faire. This has reflective implications of labour, post-manufacture/industrial culture, skill-loss fallout (which pushes people into pointless jobs in which they are designed to stack, shelve or serve) ending in commodification (of space and ideals) made manifest in structures – finishing-up in production as replication, re-making, creation in a vicious entropic loop of feedback.

A more contemporary way of saying it might be sampling, remixing and ultimately – the mash-up. One critical aspect of this is that as you edit and re-edit something compound it with detail, whether it be a painting, a poem or a digital image, it comes to creak under the weight of interference, from a blurring of pixels to cloaking recesses in gloom and losing accuracy in the process – creating or indemnifying RUIN – but this also feels like a form of concentration. Hence the extrapolation of “coventration” from the verb “coventrate”; reclaiming language from history and re-using to represent a mass-effect layering of structures and atmosphere distilled into a unique 3D-printed sculpture.

The intent behind the CVNTRTN project; that even in an age of mass saturation there is there is so much that goes un-noticed, ignored or under-valued; to take it all in at once, as a complete system is mind and eye-boggling, sensory overload, to take it purely on face value, piece by piece was to miss the bigger picture. I want to show the ghosts hidden beside/inside, without and within the physical.

Benjamin’s ideas matter, when it comes to gentrification or re-modelling of environments, especially when public / private space is blurred – nowhere is this more pertinent than when architecture meets commerce, the shopping arcade with a private security force.  Admittedly, the idea is a little mad, paranoiac even. The idea of glass as reflector or transparent opportunity (shallow/hollow insight), phallicised towers of power and industry
( ) and the “management” of spaces for the public to move through, live, work and play. But what about control? Protesting, graffiti (public art?) or the non-generic response leaving its impression. Much of this is by-passed, or simply passes by; therefore, I thought a recording of poems, on location, might act as a method preservation, using the acoustics of the space, to capture the essence of the place, and gather standard “ambient” noise that often goes unheard, un-recorded or ignored.

If you take the term “arcade” back to method, capturing sound and making it physical – REIFICATION – turning something abstract, yet physical into a thing, that is, a concrete object or fixed idea.

When making posters to promote a series of poetry gigs in Coventry, called Fire & Dust, I found that I could corrupt basic images to become “fire pictures” blurred, dark and over-contrasted images, using the most basic picture editing software (I don’t After watching me spend two weeks standing strips of plastic flooring into columns, photographing the shadow of a leaf and holding-up a tape-measure to numerous tall buildings, a friend asked me what my Artspace R&D project, CVNTRTN, is about.

I started with the a proposed know how to use Photoshop).

its roots, you arrive back at the latin “arcadia” for a utopic harmony with nature – perhaps, paradoxically, CVNTRTN might yield (an imagined) return to some kind of authenticity?


Small.Scale.City.Skirt – The latest from Julia O’Connell

I’m one of the artists carrying out some early R & D work as part of the City Arcadia project.

I live and work in Coventry.  My visual arts practice is textile based using both hand and machine stitch. I am interested in people, the commonality of personal stories, family and work life routines. My work gives a platform to the everyday ephemera that marks our presence.

I think about the unexpected ‘gifts’ my city gives to me, such as the scratch marks of paint on a builder’s skip, the biro scrawl of a hand written card in a shop window, the roaring repetition of green and gold train wagons tracking over my head on the purple brick Arches bridge and the pop of bright sunshine as I emerge from the Spon Street subway walking into the city centre, and much more.

This is the hidden life of a functioning, working, living city.

How do the small scale, the micro and or the seemingly insignificant everyday textures, sounds and surfaces of the city inform my work? How can I give prominence to their importance and place in the city?

My proposal is to create a Small.Scale.City.Skirt for Coventry; there are initially 2 development stages.

  1. The creation of a unique Coventry fabric digitally printed and hand embellished featuring a collection of images of surfaces and textures of the city.
  2. The fabric will be the base material to produce the first ever Small.Scale.City.Skirt that reveals and embeds the everyday ephemera particular to me in Coventry.

During this R & D period, I have been inspired by a talk given by Alan Griffiths. He was a young architect involved with some of the early rebuilding work in Coventry under Donald Gibson and Arthur Ling.  When Alan gave a talk to the Coventry Society, he recalls the post-war draughts men & women wearing a ‘uniform’ as they worked in the design offices each day. The ‘overall’ coat jackets were creamy white, protecting their own clothes underneath from pencil and watercolour inks as they designed and drew the city’s new buildings.

This knowledge coincided with my visit to the Sonia Delaunay exhibition at Tate Modern and viewing her ‘Simultaneous’ patchwork dress created from painted sketches after watching dancers at jazz and tango clubs in Paris. The dress “…focuses on surface pattern created through assemblage, and the contrast of intense colours placed in juxtaposition creates a sense of simultaneous motion alluding to the dancers at the Bal Bullier.” (Sonia Delaunay – TATE Publications 2015)


Delaunay’s literal and living art was a provocation to me about my ‘non-uniform’ as I live and work in Coventry.


It is interesting to note that Delaunay was later photographed wearing a re-purposed patched male ‘worker’ coat similar to the overalls previously mentioned. In addition, Delaunay wearing the coat was seen as a provocative gender statement and at the time would have been viewed as militant feminism.

The Small. Scale. City Skirt is not gender specific.

The first prototype skirt will be created from my own image collection but further iterations could be ‘bespoke’ in terms of gathering and featuring a wearer’s contributions of images particular to them in Coventry such as place, pattern and textures.

As my R & D has progressed I considered places in Coventry that could inform the surface content of the skirt. By chance I stumbled upon a piece of fabric printed by Fothergays, the pattern was created by Robert Barratt, in response to the competition to design the new cathedral in Coventry in the 1950s. The fabric ‘Coventry Splendour’ was inspired by the fragments of stain glass in the windows of the old cathedral ruins that remained after the blitz.

Today I have just selected some of my images for digital printing and I’m really looking forward to having them returned – printed on to cotton cloth and ready to sample some stitches!

Julia O’Connell


07799 292957

An update from Ryan Hughes

Office for Art, Design and Technology’s Post-Modern Plant Life

Office for Art, Design and Technology is an artist-led initiative founded by Ryan Hughes which has been facilitated by City Arcadia through a R&D Commission. Office for Art, Design and Technology has now started delivering public activities, the first of which was Post-Modern Plant Life: An Artist Lab and Events Programme (AKA #PoMoPLLab2) which was generously funded by Warwick District Council.

#PoMoPLLab2 took place from the 18th to the 24th of April in a Botanical Gardens in Leamington Spa and was the first occasion on which Office for Art, Design and Technology’s Professional Development Cohort came together to make and present new works and receive mentoring. The group is diverse and is made up of young, emerging artists and students from London, Belfast and across the West Midlands. Between them this group work with wet process photography, computer code, performance, video, sound and sculpture and their range of responses to the unique setting of the gardens was stunning; Emily Roderick presented microscopic views of foliage during a performance which used modified hardware, specially written software and an improvised exploration of the usually off-limits areas of the gardens. Tony McClure used lighting and wax to fill negative spaces beneath rocks and Imogen Frost produced a series of photograms of plants in a makeshift darkroom she constructed in a cupboard.

There were many other highlights from this week long artist lab, but perhaps most engaging was a participatory workshop delivered by Glasgow based Jake Watts. This workshop used the principles of seed bombing to consider the effects global, networked technologies are having on the earth. This resulted in the mapping of bird faeces and the physical and metaphorical growth of both plants and change in the town.
Office for Art, Design and Technology’s Professional Development Cohort will be completing and presenting similar activities through 2016, 2017 and into 2018.

For more information:
Follow: @Art_Design_Tech
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Become an exhibitor in the City Arcadia shop front gallery

The shop front gallery at City Arcadia, 32 City Arcade will be officially launched at the City Arcadia Festival in June 2016.  While we are developing the process for programming and managing the space, we are keen to ensure it is active and vibrant.  We would like to invite artists and curators to submit proposals for any exhibitions or activities they would like to hold in the space between now and 10th June.   Proposals will be considered and chosen by a working group including an Artspace trustee and invited artists and/or curators.  Each proposal should be no more than one side of A4 and should include images as well as times when the gallery would be open to the public.  For non profit making events a donation towards the cost of bills is requested. A 20% commission will be taken from profit making events such as ticketed performances or print auctions.  Please submit proposals to as soon as possible.

The Pod’s Scratch the Surface Mental Health Arts Festival

We’re really looking forward to Monday when The Pod’s Scratch the Surface Mental Health Arts Festival begins – City Arcadia is just so pleased to be able to support the event by hosting the EndsllBegins exhibition, including work by Stuart Semple and 18 Coventry artists at our pop up gallery in City Arcade.  We hope many of our friends will be able to come along to see it when it opens on 17th March…

The airwaves are back on!

Artspace would like to apologise to Visualising the City / City Arcadia followers and participants who have missed seeing regular news and updates from the project. BUT! After a month of review and re-evaluation, we are delighted to announce that we are back in business. We are really excited to be working with four artists on the development and presentation of their commissions this summer – Lauren Heywood and Rob Hamp from Coventry, Amelia Crouch from Leeds and Spencer Graham from Northamptonshire. Check out their information and pages on this site to find out more about their projects. We are also planning a surprise treat for the summer holidays…more on that later!

In addition to the commissions we are working with a exciting group of artists, some home grown in Coventry to complete the research and development phase of seven projects that will provide the basis for a future programme of work for Coventry.

Michael Mayhew completed his contract and left Artspace at the end of January, while Laura Elliot left us to take up maternity leave in November 2015. We would like to thank Michael and Laura for all their hard work and inspirational ideas on the City Arcadia project. Artspace Interim Director Mindy Chillery is overseeing the delivery of the final phase of the work with the support of Artspace Trustee Nicola Richardson of Vortex Creates.

Much more news to come ….watch this space…