Subscribe: Subscribe to me on YouTube

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Back in those heady days of September when I was happy to walk around in public with a ridiculous moustache, I strapped on a man-bag, picked up my mother and went to the Phoenix Gallery to put my arm around a totem pole. I'm not entirely sure why. But five weeks later, having cast aside the facial hair and the mother (but not the man-bag), I went back there yesterday afternoon for 'Open Phoenix', their annual weekend of free art and general weirdness.

Bird BrainWhen my Mum and I were there last month, we encountered Jim Sanders in his bare feet walking between the toilets and a small room on the ground floor where he was busy painting a mural to go on the outside of the building. Well I'm pleased to say he's now finished it. And it appears to be a picture of me with a bird on my head. Jim obviously took a lot of inspiration from the way I said "Hi" outside the men's toilets.

The picture's described on the gallery website as "a giant 7 square metre painting", thus proving that artists don't understand maths. It's actually a 49 square metre painting. But if you look closely, you'll see that it features this signature:

Just call me Jm.It's possible that Jim can't spell his own name, or that his initials are JM, but personally I think the missing 'i' is a social comment on cultural blindness.

The other development since my last visit is that Jim's managed to sell one of his totems (possibly to a pole dancer) for £2,000. All those hours spent trying to find enough bottle tops to cover an eight-foot piece of driftwood was clearly time well spent.

Anyhoo, my main reason for going was to take part in 'The Big Draw', an effort by Martin Symons to create a giant collaborative felt-tip medley with the help of members of the public. Unfortunately, having donned my smoking jacket and entered the drawing room, it soon became clear that most of those taking part were about six years old, and all of them could draw better than me, so I just stood at the back and felt inadequate.

But to cheer myself up I decided to do the open studios tour. The Phoenix, it turns out, is like an office block for artists, and you can spend hours climbing the stairs and wandering the corridors, poking your head into room after room and watching the artisans at work. Although if you do it on any other weekend of the year, you're liable to be arrested for trespass.

Melody MakerThere was also the chance to view a collection of short films curated by Victoria Melody. That's her on the right with the big gun. They included 'Breakfast', a three-minute exploration of how to make toast with power tools, and 'Deep Fried Vitamin', in which the artists persuaded the owner of a kebab shop in Birmingham to batter a vitamin for them. Personally I preferred 'Stone', a two-minute short by Roz Cran, who likes to dress up as a rabbit and interview pigs. As she says on her website, "Am I leopard? Am I lettuce? Am I bucket?". I think they're rhetorical questions.

It was all quite enjoyable, though naturally I didn't understand a word of it. I did, however, like the little café they'd set up on the first floor. I was just outside the door at 3:30pm when there was an almighty crash as one of their trestle tables collapsed under the weight of a victoria sponge, sending cake across the floor in every direction except mine. I thought at first it was some kind of audio-visual art installation, and was tempted to start taking photos, but judging by the looks I received, I think maybe it was just a tragic accident. I knew it was a mistake to start clapping.