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Blog: Coventry Biennial 2021 – October highlights

By Leigh Mencarini

Just arrived at Warwick – or just got back? Make sure you have Coventry Biennial 2021 in your upcoming plans.

The arts festival takes place every two years and the 2021 programme looks to be extra special, given Coventry’s City of Culture status.

Titled HYPER-POSSIBLE, the team behind it have curated a programme of events that follow six ‘hyper-paths’ relating to Coventry, contemporary artistic practice and global concerns. Follow them to delve into a range of socially, politically and critically engaged artistic practices across Coventry and Warwickshire.

The Biennial runs from Friday 8 October 2021 to Sunday 23 January 2022 and is packed with exhibitions, workshops, talks and tours. To get you started, here are five highlights for October.

1 – Listening to the Anthropocene

Image: Rie Nakajima, Cyclic (2018) at IKON Gallery Birmingham. Photo: Stuart Whipps

When? Opens Friday 8 October, runs until January 2022.

Where? Coventry Cathedral, Priory Street, CV1 5FJ.

What? An immersive sound and moving image experience featuring numerous works that explore the impact of human activity on the Earth. The term ‘anthropocene’ describes our present-day geological era, in which human activity is having a profound impact on the climate and environment. Artists include Lamin Fofana, AM Kanngieser, Rie Nakajima and Ben Rivers.

Why? Take a look if you’re interested in eco-acoustic practices, sound and the ecological crisis, land art and the natural world (see Year 1 core module HA1A1).


Image: Ako Akingbade, Street 66 film still (2018). Photo: Burrell Foley Fischer

When? Opens Tuesday 12 October, runs until January 2022.

Where? The Hyper-Lab, above HMV Empire Coventry, Hertford Street, CV1 1LF.

What? A group exhibition that sees artists explore our relationships with the places in which we live, work and play. Other works touch on Coventry’s relationship to House music, as well as the history and future of the venue itself.

Why? One of the exhibiting artists, Ayo Akingbade, will be giving a talk for Warwick History of Art on November 3. This is a great opportunity to become familiar with her work.

Please note: Access via several flights of stairs. All exhibitions will be online at Culture Coventry from mid-October. 

3 – Phoenix City 2021 & Things Fall Apart

Image: Duncan Whitley, Phoenix City 2021, production still (2020)

When? Thursday 14 October, 6.30pm.

Where? The Box @ FarGo Village, Far Gosford Street, CV1 5ED.

What? A special screening event in which Duncan Whitley’s new commission explores the relationship Coventry has with the symbolic significance of the phoenix – that which rises from the flames. Phoenix City 2021 looks at Coventry’s past and future, while Things Fall Apart (2013-14) deals with the issues of community identity that arose when Coventry City Football Club were uprooted from their stadium to Northampton.

Why? An excellent opportunity to learn more about Coventry itself – plus Whitley will also be performing a live spatial sound mix of soundtracks of the two works.

4 – We Bear project, Faye Claridge and inmates from the UK and US

Image: We Bear artwork by Theo Moss, Macomb Correctional Facility, US

When? Friday 8 October 2021 to Sunday 6 February 2022 (plus, Claridge will be joined by Dr Anastasia Chamberlen, Associate Professor of Sociology at the University of Warwick, for an 'in conversation' event on 3 November).

Where? Part of the HYPER-POSSIBLE exhibition at Herbert Art Gallery & Museum, Coventry CV1 5QP.

What? We Bear shows artworks produced by 31 prisoners from the UK and US during the lockdown period, and based on the Warwickshire symbol of the chained bear. The project blends prisoners’ lived experiences with history and iconography to present what Claridge describes as ideas about “pain, power, hope and redemption across centuries and continents”.

Why? A powerful and thought-provoking exhibition for anyone interested in the role of artistic expression in the experience of societal punishment.

5 – Art Can Be Rubbish Too, Rob Hamp

Image: Rob Hamp

When? Opens Wednesday 13 October 2021, runs until Sunday 23 January 2022.

Where? HYPER-POSSIBLE at Proof, The Old Grammar School, Hales Street, CV1 1HP.

What? Hamp spent the summer with an army of volunteers sourcing art materials from UK beaches. Following a series of sorting and sifting sessions, the once-discarded items were transformed into temporary micro-artworks, with the final piece exhibited at the Old Grammar School.

Why? This project aimed to encourage recycling and think about our own relationship with waste. Worth a look if you’re interested in ‘found object’ or ‘trash art’ concepts, as well as artists Eileen Agar and Marina DeBris.

Find out more