I don’t believe Birmingham exists.

by Nigel Watson
‘I don’t believe Birmingham exists’ Adrian Bishop Photo Credit Mat Martin

‘I don’t believe Birmingham exists’ Adrian Bishop at Studio 102 Bretonside.
Photo credit Mat Martin

We all know Birmingham exists, it is on the map of England and many of us have visited it or lived there, or at least know people who (say) they live there. It is relatively easy to accept and believe that Birmingham is a real place because we can test it with our senses and it conforms to everyone else’s concept of reality too.

By setting this simple question about the nature of existence, artist Adrián Bishop’s exhibition as part of the Plymouth Art Weekender 2017 at the 102 Studio, on Vauxhall Street goes on to explore this theme in a series of fifteen artworks.

His bold, colourful and vivid pictures scream out increasingly incredible captions like ‘I Believe There are Whales Living on the Moon’ and ‘I Believe NASA is Running a Child Slave Colony on Mars’. With accompanying images that are cartoon-like and monstrous, reflecting the chaotic and disturbing nature of such ideas.

They present child-like visions of our existence that burble from our unconscious and rampage over accepted facts and scientific evidence. They underline the point that we are not logical entities who soberly weigh-up and investigate every nuance of our existence. Who has the time for that? In all areas of our lives we have to accept the pronouncements and abilities of experts.

Adrian Bishop 'I don't believe Birmingham exists' Studio 102 Plymouth Art Weekender 2017

Adrian Bishop ‘I don’t believe Birmingham exists’ Studio 102 Plymouth Art Weekender 2017 Photo credit Mat Martin

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Adrian Bishop ‘I don’t believe Birmingham exists’ Plymouth Art Weekender 2017

In the past, we were more inclined to believe that religion and/or science would provide us with all the answers. Ridiculous beliefs that stones fall from the skies (meteorites), or that the Earth orbits the Sun have been accepted (eventually) by science through the collection of evidence. However, there are plenty of areas of ambiguity and interpretation that allow people to support what the mainstream believe to be ridiculous ideas. This can range from believing that the Earth is flat or that alien abductions are really carried out by extraterrestrial beings in the middle of the night.

Surrounded by these wild ideas, Adrián enthusiastically debates the issues raised by these ‘fake’ beliefs and why they take a hold on us. He thinks we should try to understand them, even if we think they are improbable and are simply the utterances of the tabloid press and uneducated people who spread these concepts like wildfire online.

In the case of space exploration, people believe NASA is covering up evidence of the existence of aliens (whether they be microscopic creatures or super-intelligent beings who love building flying saucers). Yet, as Adrián points out the contradiction is that NASA would love to find some grain of evidence for this in order to raise funding for massive new space projects. Beliefs, like the much derided idea that rockets can be blasted into space or that we can build heavier-than-air aircraft, can lead to great strides in progress that can go beyond our wildest dreams.

Ultimately, for good or bad we live in an age of fake news and ridiculous ideas, perhaps Birmingham doesn’t exist? Who can say, when our grasp on reality is as flimsy as a feather in the wind that can take us to the very fringes of our imagination.

The show is open until 8 October 2017 at Studio 102, Vauxhall Street, Bretonside. Website here

Adrian Bishop, I don't believe Birmingham exists. Studio 102 Plymouth Art Weekender

Adrian Bishop, I don’t believe Birmingham exists. Studio 102 Plymouth Art Weekender Photo credit Mat Martin