Big City Small Talk


In the foreword to the as it is publication, Jonathan Watkins, Director of Ikon Gallery, describes the context within which Big City Small Talk was developed.

‘Occurring within a context of assertive urban regeneration, as it is, focuses on actual human experience. Artists here are concerned with the ‘soft city’, the fluid and impressionistic space between architectural exteriors. They are responding to the city ‘as it is’ for its inhabitants.’

The strategy developed for exploring Birmingham related to that of previous blanket projects. The purpose-built public ‘drop in’ studio in the gallery was the site for conversation, leading to the sharing, collection and dissemination of visitors’ ideas and opinions about the city. Residents and visitors alike revealed their aspirations for the city, their experiences of daily life and their visions for its future.


Gallery staff played an important role by establishing the connection between visitors and us, contributing to the work through dialogue. Visitors who chose not to engage in conversation established virtual conversations through email correspondence, while others left their responses on flyers.

Throughout, we maintained our roles as directors, mediators and editors, evidenced through our presence in the gallery and the daily selection of quotes, fabrics and colours. The blanket was devised to exude warmth, care and tactility in order to establish an interactive relationship between ourselves and visitors.

The blanket became a portrait of the city, used at the end of the project by those who contributed their thoughts during its production.


as it is


Supported by the Mondriaan Foundation, Amsterdam

Ikon Gallery, Birmingham, 2000


A text blanket reflecting visitors’ ideas and opinions about Birmingham developed in a purpose-built public drop-in studio


Part of ‘as it is’, a season of contemporary art situated inside Ikon Gallery and off-site, concerned with the nature of urban space -the ‘soft’ city and its infrastructures

BIG CITY SMALL TALK