Futurology: The Black Country 2024 is a project by Andy Hewitt and Mel Jordan in which artists and young people team up to examine the current social, economic and political conditions in the Black Country in order to imagine their future.

When we think about the future, we are faced with the present; our future being in many ways dependent upon the actions and decisions we make today. Futurology examines the social, economic and political conditions of the region and how these might influence the future of young people who live here.The project sub-title, points toward a future only twenty years from now, when the young people involved in the project will be adults, perhaps with school age children of their own. The project seeks to question the systems and conditions that affect young people, and in fact, all of us, by exploring issues of citizenship and authority, work and progress, and property and ownership.

In the gallery are new projects by artists Barby Asante, Dave Beech, Nick Crowe & Ian Rawlinson, Simon Poulter and Becky Shaw. The six artists all demonstrate a range of approaches to working in the public realm, and are highly regarded within current UK art practice. For this project the artists were teamed up with pupils from five Creative Partnership schools in the Black Country.

Castle School, Walsall
Tividale High School & Community College, Sandwell
The Kings Church of England School, Wolverhampton
Deansfield High School, Wolverhampton
George Salter High School, Sandwell

All the artists in the project have an ideas-led, rather than a craft approach to practice, selecting whatever media is appropriate in order to develop their idea. In their practices they employ a wide range of working methods when responding to a context. For Futurology, each artist directs the method by which young people participate within a project, this transaction being an intrinsic part of their approach to the project contexts. The artist leads the project but demonstrates their solidarity for the young people by attempting to engage with the issues that directly affect them.

It can be difficult to transfer this type of art project to the gallery, the body of thoughts, actions and issues revealed through the process of engagement are complex and are not easily revealed using the conventions of a gallery. The gallery for some artists is not always a desirable place for this work to conclude. The project is an opportunity to view these diverse projects at The New Art Gallery  Walsall and to discuss the sometimes awkward relationship of this practice to the gallery space.

In order to present the project contexts to the artists we held a two-day ‘meeting/event’. Speakers were invited to the gallery to present information about the Black Country, West Midlands Regeneration, Planning and Redevelopment, Education, ideas of Utopias & Futures, Young peoples habits and The Cultural Economy. This method of ‘introducing’ the artists to the Futurology contexts, allowed a space for the artists to meet each other, and for them to discuss the issues directly with invited speakers and with teachers from Creative Partnership schools. Artists then developed a project proposal that reflected their own interests alongside that of the project contexts.

Review by Martin Vincent (download pdf, 40 kb)

Review by Jonathan Trayner (download pdf, 38 kb)

Biographies and thanks

Press images